MLS Stadium in Midtown at SLU Enters the Conversation

MLS stadium_Cannon Design

It seems, feels, appears that St. Louis is going to be a Major League Soccer city. The “when” still isn’t exactly clear, but we’re likely looking at another four years or so. The “where” is much less clear.

Though the league has public stated, and privately shared, its preference for a “downtown” stadium as opposed to a suburban location, it’s unclear if and how much wiggle room there is on location. Would a South City stadium at the site of underutilized and empty light industrial buildings along Gustine Avenue appeal to the league (and neighbors)?

It almost goes without saying at this point, that the best guess location is immediately west of Union Station. MoDOT is set to enter into an agreement with the St. Louis Development Corporation to sell land that would be vacated by the rebuilding of the 22nd Street interchange. With the reconfiguration, a stadium could easily fit, and add to the density of venues on the south side of downtown. But other locations are possible.

How about the vacant site at Grand Boulevard and Chouteau Avenue in the city’s Midtown neighborhood? The site is along major transportation routes, including the 70 Grand bus running south into the heart of the region’s soccer fan base, MetroLink, and between I-64 and I-44. Images released by Foundry St. Louis show “hlk STADIUM” rendered by Cannon Design.

MLS stadium_Cannon DesignMLS stadium_Cannon Design

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote last week that Saint Louis University President Fred Pestello has been in contact with Foundry St. Louis, one of the aspiring ownership groups in St. Louis. Pestello told the Post-Dispatch, “We’d be very interested in looking at what that would mean as well as what it would bring to the surrounding area.”

Foundry St. Louis came to our attention when it called for an open process by the league to select a St. Louis ownership group. According to the Post-Dispatch, Foundry has enlisted the support of Rick Lehman, a past team doctor for the St. Louis Blues and a part-owner of the Florida Panthers in the National Hockey League, among others.

The MLS2STL group in St. Louis is the league and city-endorsed leadership group aimed at identifying an ownership group for an expansion franchise. However, many assume that ownership will come from members of that group. In this climate, Foundry St. Louis is viewed somewhat as an insurgent effort.

But the vision and location of the stadium in Midtown is intriguing for several reasons. First, there is ample vacant land available. The site on the northwest corner of Grand and Chouteau has been landbanked by SLU and Cortex. New university leadership appears a little more urban-minded than in the past and there may be a desire to develop some of these large parcels.

The site is at the center of what’s expected to be 395-acres of blighted land, with a redevelopment corporation affiliated with SLU to direct development. Perhaps most promising are potential close partnerships with the university hospital and other academic programs.

In the same way that the school’s law school move to downtown St. Louis, adjacent to the city and federal courthouses and the region’s largest law firms, close proximity to the stadium could facilitate partnerships. Imagine sports medicine and sports-focused entrepreneurial business endeavors. And they could be housed in the same facility.

One near precedent is the new Indiana Pacers practice facility, a partnership with St. Vincent Health. With the burgeoning Cortex district nearby, it’s becoming easier to imagine a sports start-up scene in Midtown. Not to mention, the facility would make for an incredible home to the storied SLU soccer teams.

Ultimately, site selection for an MLS stadium in St. Louis isn’t going to be a democratic process (surprise!), but for those who care about such things, this is the time to weigh in, loudly.