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NFL/MLS Stadium A Better Fit In St. Clair County Illinois

January 20, 2015 Featured, Metro East, Popular Culture, STL Region 18 Comments

It was recently suggested by former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl that a new NFL/MLS stadium be built across the river in Illinois. Over the last few years I’ve thought this as well, regular reader & prolific commenter “JZ71” has mentioned several times building a stadium specifically between the approaches to the MLK & Eads bridges. It would be visible from downtown St. Louis and be located adjacent to an existing MetroLink light rail station. I’ve thought that was too tight but knew there’s lots of vacant land there awaiting new use.

In June I got married at the beautiful Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park — directly across from the Arch — maybe South of there? Or to the North of the MLK bridge approach? Looking at maps and serial images only gets you so far, so Saturday afternoon I drove around checking out the Metro East riverfront/bottoms.

I crossed the river on the Eads Bridge since it was direct, I quickly ruled out the land to the South of the Martin Memorial/geyser because of access issues and future CityArchRiver plans, wildlife, etc. So then I looked at the space between the Eads & MLK approaches — as I suspected it appears way too tight for a stadium with enough buffer to keep the bridges open game days.

Looking South on Front St with the MLK in the foreground, the Eads in the background, and the Arch to the right
Looking South on Front St with the MLK in the foreground, the Eads in the background, and the Arch to the right
Looking East from Front St, the MLK approach is to the left just out of view, the Eads approach on the right
Looking East from Front St, the MLK approach is to the left just out of view, the Eads approach on the right. Great location for a hotel(s) if a stadium were built to the North of the MLK
Just North of the MLK bridge approach
Just North of the MLK bridge approach, the land on the right is mostly vacant of structures
Looking East at a gravel road.  More on this later in this post.
Looking East at a gravel road. More on this later in this post.
East St. Louis Police shooting range head
East St. Louis Police shooting range head
Presumably this 80 year old pumping station is still operational
Presumably this 80 year old pumping station is still operational
Very quickly the new SMVMB is in view past the levee
Very quickly the new SMVMB is in view past the levee
Industry at the end of the road, no access to I-70 or the new bridge -- yet.
Industry at the end of the road, no access to I-70 or the new bridge — yet.
Looking back at St. Louis across the Mississippi River
Looking back at St. Louis across the Mississippi River

So access here kinda sucks too — but not for long. Since it opened in February 2014 I’ve driven across the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge (I-70) many times, but this weekend was my first seeing how it connected to IL Route 3. Later this year will mark 25 years I’ve lived in St. Louis, I know the region pretty well, including the Metro East — but the new I-70 approach to the new bridge is very different than it has been. Connectivity is greatly improved and will get better.

The new I-70/Route 3 interchange has the start of a road heading toward the East St. Louis riverfront
The new I-70/Route 3 interchange has the start of a road heading toward the East St. Louis riverfront
It's unfinished but will soon provide easy access to the Casino Queen, Malcolm Martin Memorial, and anything else built here.
It’s unfinished but will soon provide easy access to the Casino Queen, Malcolm Martin Memorial, and anything else built here.
The blue line marks where the road will continue. Image from the New Bridge gallery, click to view.
The blue line marks where the road will continue. Image from the New Bridge gallery, click to view.
Aerial shows how the new I-70/iL Route 3 interchange will connect to Riverpark Dr  leading Front St.
Aerial shows how the new I-70/iL Route 3 interchange will connect to Riverpark Dr leading Front St. Three potential sites here, the bottom left has good visibility from downtown St. Louis and the other two from the new I-70.

This is within St. Clair County, an analysis of future MetroLink light rail expansion into neighboring Madison County four of seven possible alignments would pass by to the East along the Route 3 corridor.  Additionally transportation officials are working to improve Amtrak speeds between Alton & St. Louis while also considering a new stop in St. Clair County. No historic buildings/districts razed, fewer/no businesses/residents displaced.

A new NFL/MLS stadium, light rail expansion into Madison County, and an Amtrak stop could transform this area and further connect the St. Louis region. Sorry Gov Nixon, Illinois make much more sense!

— Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Great analysis – thanks! Yes, it makes a lot of sense, from a design standpoint; the challenge is on the political and financial side. Missouri taxes are paying for the current stadium, I’m not aware of any Illinois tax sources dedicated to it. If we, as a region, decide that it is better to do a stadium on the east side, it’s going to take either Illinois government “stepping up to the plate” to define a funding scenario or the Bi-State Development Agency (aka Metro) being given more power to levy taxes and issue bonds to create a regional facility: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bi-State_Development_Agency

     
    • A hotel/motel tax in St. Louis City & County are the tax source that’s been paying for the current dome. Missouri & Illinois, after a few years, figured out how to pay for a new bridge. There is a way to do this — I’m just not certain of the particulars at this time.

      An Amtrak stop and Madison Co MetroLink would be separate funding, locating them in the same area with a new stadium would create massive synergy. The land, for example, might already be publicly owned. The road work is likely funded.

       
  2. Fozzie says:

    Another SimCity-styled pipe dream where political and financial ramifications are ignored.

    Folks from St. Charles and Chesterfield who a team needs to buy PSLs and season tickets are already edgy about downtown St. Louis, and now you put a stadium in East St. Louis? Bwah-hah-hah!

     
    • Sorry, didn’t realize PSLs were geographically limited to those in Chesterfield & St. Charles. Is the latter the city or county?

       
      • Fozzie says:

        I didn’t realize the concept of marketing eluded you. I don’t think the Rams will target Fairgrounds Park residents for PSLs.

         
    • JZ71 says:

      North city and East St. Louis are equally “edgy” to scared suburbanites – if not here, where would you propose locating a stadium that is both less scary and more financially doable? Gumbo Flats? Riverport? Greens Bottom?*

      The biggest challenge, currently, is creating a package (design and location) that will support a funding package (PSL’s, extended taxes, new taxes) that 51% of the electorate will be stupid enough to approve. This is going to be a billion dollar effort when all costs are included. We need to decide if keeping an NFL franchise in the region deserves that much of a taxpayer subsidy, or if our tax dollars would be better spent on infrastructure and services that benefit each of us directly, every day. We survived the dark times between the football Cardinals and the Rams, and we’re not going to collapse, as a region, if we divide our NFL allegiences among teams in surrounding cities. Way more of us watch ’em on our flat screens than ever go in person, so it really doesn’t matter where they play, as long as they do. And much like baseball Cardinal fans from the hinterlands making their annual pilgrimages to Busch, there’s no reason why St. Louisans won’t make pilgrimages to KC, Indy, Dallas, Chicago, Nashville or Denver . . .

      *http://missouri.hometownlocator.com/maps/feature-map,ftc,1,fid,756129,n,greens%20bottom.cfm

       
    • The video game pipe dream is refacing the remaining bond debt on the EJD so it takes even longer to pay off, so ignoring the real reaidents & business owners whose lives would be impacted by the destruction necessary to clear the historic N Riverfront.

       
    • expos1981 says:

      People who harbor some sort of weird grudge against people who live in the suburbs have problems.

       
  3. KevinB says:

    I really feel the highest reason to have a St. Louis NFL team’s stadium on the Illinois side is for that super-shot of the Arch/downtown skyline in the near background. None of the sites you propose north of the MLK really do that. If it isn’t right smack dab across from downtown, the idea loses a lot of its luster.

    Now, from a non-aesthetic view, sure there’s no real issue putting it in Illinois. And if that’s the case, there’s plenty of open land further east that would do just fine — or the on-again-off-again Gateway Motors site — with ready-made interstate access.

    And oh! the financing/tax-sharing/border-baiting kerfuffle this would cause! Heh, I’d almost rather we just annex East St. Louis and make both sides of the river part of St. Louis proper.

     
    • JZ71 says:

      And I’m guessing that many residents in Illinois would be more than willing for us to “take over” responsibility for East St. Louis, Brooklyn, Dupo, Granite City, Brooklyn, Venice, Sauget, Alorton, Pontoon Beach and Cahokia – pretty much everything inside of 255 and 270 – to add to “our” collection of poor, black, struggling “cities”, places like Moline Acres, Dellwood, Jennings and Pine Lawn! We can’t figure out how to “annex” or merge cites on our side of the river; what makes you think that it would be any easier if it involved moving a state boundary line? If we “could”, Tennessee would have taken over a little, isolated chunk of Kentucky (that’s completely surrounded by the Mississippi River), just south of New Madrid. If it made “sense”, Missouri would just “give” Arkansas Kennett, Portageville, Caruthersville and the rest of the bootheel!

       
      • KevinB says:

        Then let’s do it! I’m tired of St. Louis leading from behind. Some of the best river cities are that way because they singularly control the development pattern for both banks. And how much further, really, can our crime issues (perceived and real) fall if we add another high-crime area.

        If Illinois wants to rid itself of East St. Louis, yeah, let’s have it. And the casino revenue too, of course.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          I guess there’s some validity in your point, since Denver, Austin, Phoenix, Chicago, New York, San Antonio, Little Rock, Des Moines, Pitttsburgh and Minneapolis all straddle (what are known locally as) rivers . . . but wait, Cincinnati, Louisville, Omaha, Memphis, New Orleans, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, DC DON’T!

           
          • John R says:

            Looking at other cities it is apparent how much we suffer from a topographical/natural and built environment/architectural deficit with the east riverfront; probably the worst of the major riverfront cities and I believe it is part of the reason for the slow rate of STL riverfront development. I think the new Stan Span helps create visual interest, but a shiny stadium would be a greatly welcome addition. Some artistic treatments with the Cargill silos would help, too. (Portland and D.C. both have substantial straddling rivers, btw.)

             
    • John R says:

      I agree putting it just south of Eads provides the best payoff. Not only would that spot provide the stunning visuals, but the area is the right size, secure, directly adjacent to Metrolink, and cost effective with respect to land acquisition and infrastructure work in comparison to other sites.

      With about 1,200′ to work with between the Eads and the Cargill operations, I believe there also is adequate width to put the stadium and a re-built and upgraded casino. Behind the riverfront bling would be a significant amount of parking with overflow sites b/w the two bridges. On gameday, it would be so cool to have the Eads serve as an awesome pedestrian party zone with food trucks and entertainment.

      To me, this is the plan that makes complete sense with respect to a site plan.. a stadium and improved casino would add so much to the drab east riverfront and enhance both sides of the river, the site would require the taking of no buildings and just one business (an RV campground), and its accessible and secure location would provide a great gameday experience. Let’s do this!

       

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