In the 1995 Forest Park Master Plan that has guided much of the park’s improvements over the last 25 years, there was no mention of basketball courts. It’s sort of unfathomable that a 1,300 acre park with 13 million visitors per year (6th most for urban parks in the nation) had no intentions to provide facilities for one of the most popular sports in the United States. Their absence in St. Louis City’s parks has long appeared to many as a racially motivated message about who can use the space. And that message is sad enough for any park, but Forest Park is supposed to be a space that unites the whole city.
Fortunately, there are now plans to add basketball courts to Forest Park by 2023. Their inclusion into Forest Park’s offerings makes the park an increasingly diverse and dynamic place to come together in the city.
City officials haven’t decided on a location for the courts yet, so let’s take a look at some options.
While there may be a few other suitable locations in the park, let me explain why I think consolidating the courts in this section of the park is a good idea.
- It’s a 5 minute walk from the Forest Park DeBaliviere Station and has a central location in the park
- The ground is already relatively flat making site prep cheaper/quicker
- It’s around other amenities like the Visitor’s Center (i.e. restrooms)
Of the three options, my preference would be to combine Options 1 and 3. Eyeballing it, you could fit roughly 30 basketball courts on those spaces. To begin, you might see the city build four to eight courts on Option 3. But as the facilities become a huge success, having the ability to expand would be valuable. Having a large outdoor basketball complex next to the existing tennis complex would be a good way to utilize land in the park. Or, if the city wanted to add a recreation center in Forest Park at some point, the parking lot site of Option 1 would be a great location and the outdoor basketball courts would then be adjacent. Additionally, we could get rid of one of the park’s parking lots in the process in favor of healthy recreation for residents.
Having a large outdoor basketball complex in Forest Park would also allow for the potential of a Middle America (if not national) 3 on 3 tournament similar to Spokane, Washington’s HoopFest. In addition to the use of the complex’s courts, other courts could be set up in the streets throughout the park. Forest Park would be a perfect site for such an event.
But that’s a pretty lofty dream. For now, I’m just excited that Forest Park will finally add basketball courts for residents. What are your thoughts for where the courts should go?