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Poll results: readers on desired activity for St. Louis’ Gateway Mall linear park

March 31, 2010 Downtown, Parks, Sunday Poll 12 Comments
ABOVE: Carl Milles' sculpture/fountain in Aloe Plaza cross from Union Station

Each Sunday as I post a new poll on this site I’m never sure how it will go over, see Poll: What activity do you want to see added to the Gateway Mall? Last week I was pleasantly surprised by the response to the poll, the number of responses was far better than I thought it would be.

Here is the question and results:

Q: What activity would you like to see added to the Gateway Mall? Pick only one:

  1. Miniature golf 66 [24%]
  2. Ice skating 55 [20%]
  3. Ferris wheel 34 [12%]
  4. Other answer… 27 [10%]
  5. Skateboard/BMX park 24 [9%]
  6. Picnic/BBQ area 21 [8%]
  7. Dog park 18 [6%]
  8. Level field for kickball, etc 14 [5%]
  9. Basketball 7 [3%]
  10. Unsure 6 [2%]
  11. Tennis 5 [2%]

Based on the way the poll software works I had to have readers pick only one answer.  As with voting, this can skew the results because everyone’s 2nd answer might be the real winner.  But the length of the mall is long so there is room for more than one activity. If we look at the top 5 items we have:

  1. Miniature golf
  2. Ice skating
  3. Ferris wheel
  4. Skateboard/BMX park
  5. Picnic/BBQ area

Miniature Golf
I wasn’t keen on the idea the first time I heard it suggested but after more thought and the strong interest here I’m liking the idea more and more. I don’t think anyone wants to see a typical cheesy miniature golf course set in the middle of our urban park.  What is appealing is that it is a good activity for one person or for groups.  It has been about three decades since I’ve played miniature golf so I know I need to check out newer courses that are more interesting and worthy of a grand public park.

Ice Skating

Urban ice skating can be lovely, in January 2008 I enjoyed watching skaters in downtown Providence RI.  With St. Louis’ popular Steinberg Skating Rink less than five miles to the West I’m hesitant to think we could sustain two rinks in our short Winter.  I’d rather see something not offered elsewhere instead of competing with Forest Park. Furthermore, you need to have uses for the rink for the 8-9 months of the year when it is too warm for ice skating.

Ferris Wheel

A few years ago it was suggested to have a Ferris wheel at the West end of the Gateway Mall, across 20th from Aloe Plaza.  While the carnival ride association doesn’t appeal to me I could see it being a draw that offers great views of our skyline.  I’ve seen friend’s pics taken from the London Eye and the Ferris Wheel on top of City Museum seems popular.  So I’m torn on this one, the activity level would be good most of the year but it seems rather cheesy. I’m not ruling it out, I just need visuals of a Ferris wheel in an urban context.


To me this is the best idea!  Again, we have space for more than one activity and I’d really like to see this be one of them. Such a space would almost always be in use — an important consideration.  Some will have concerns about the city’s liability but numerous cities have municipally owned skate parks such as Oklahoma City’s Matt Hoffman Action Sports Park and Bowling Green KY. A message on Twitter said “It should be done right. It should have high and low rails, at least a double-wall bowl, event seating, and lighting.”  Agreed, having a big name associated with a design would help attract users.  I’d be there on the seating to watch the kids do their thing.

ABOVE: OKCs Hoffman Park in 2005
ABOVE: OKC's Hoffman Park in 2005

Picnic/BBQ Area

I like the idea of groups gathering in the Gateway Mall for picnics but I wonder if a covered pavilion would look out of place in an urban context? I’m going to look into any examples in other cities.

The “other” answers were numerous and in a few cases, not serious:

  1. outdoor vendors and consession stands
  2. Ironic croquet through mini-arches, with Alice-and-Wonderland bird mallets, etc
  3. Frank Gehry designed amphitheater
  4. keep homeless people out
  5. Urban Glass Maze
  6. Construction
  7. Class A office space
  8. Minigolf ala City Museum style – instead of kitch plastic, arch’tctural ele
  9. Veledrome
  10. Antique merry-go-round
  11. Food Vendors
  12. outdoor vendors and media ads
  13. Office/ residential
  14. music venue
  15. Urban Garden
  16. Dedicated jogging track — multi-block
  17. Buildings: Stores, Apartments, Houses
  18. what are boundaries of the gateway mall?
  19. A St. Louis Zoo Annex
  20. city museum style playground
  21. No More! Already full!
  22. garden/farm
  23. bicycle rental
  24. Fishing Pond
  25. Walking/Jogging/Bike trail
  26. RV park (for Arch visitors)
  27. grenhouse structure open sided seasonally

Many great ideas, too many to comment on them all.  Here is a thought on a few: I’m a huge advocate of more vendors throughout downtown and the city, lots of people & activity will mean the homeless are a smaller percentage of the users,  a stocked pond for fishing could be interesting.

The first meeting of the Gateway Mall Advisory Board will be 5pm Wednesday April 21, 2010 at the offices of the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, 710 Olive Suite 450 (Laclede Gas Building). These meetings are open to the public.  The agenda is still being determined but I do know the first order of business is the oath of office will be taken by those of us on the board.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Random thoughts. One, a picnic pavilion could be fraught with unintended consequences, since it would be a great place for the homeless and/or bored youth to hang out, out of the weather, when it's not being used by groups for its intended purpose. Two, an ice rink can be a multi-purpose facility, either with roller hockey in the summer months or as another water play facility for kids, a la City Garden. Three, minature golf seems to be a strange fit, and probably would be more successful elsewhere, likely in conjunction with a golf course or a rec center. Four, a Ferris wheel is intriguing, more so than miniature golf. Five, a great skate park seems like the best idea. And six, out of the others, some sort of amphitheater/bandshell at the west end seems like a great way to energize that end of the mall (and no, it doesn't need to be a Frank Gehry design, we have plenty of local talent). I still have a warm spot in my heart for Boulder's iconic, art deco bandshell: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=boulder+bandshell

  2. Kevin Barbeau says:

    I still can't get excited about any of these options…especially the top-voted ones. They all feel fake and forced and, frankly, hokey. Having been to the Millennium Park ice rink in Chicago, it can not compare to the serene intimacy of the Steinberg rink. A downtown ice rink (and for that matter a ferris wheel, putt-putt or a skate park) isn't an attribute, it's a one-off publicity play. It may make sense to have all of these things together (perhaps on a dedicated north riverfront boardwalk or at the Union Station train shed), but not in our city's central mall.

    There's nothing wrong with modest landscaping, tasteful art/fountain pieces and St. Louis red or Mississippi mud brick pathways comprising the mall. I feel it would be better to develop an area that looks nice and is functional and let the public and event organizers use it as need and interest deems, rather than pigeon-hole the area for skating or putt-putting or ferris-wheeling.

  3. markgroth says:

    I voted for skate park; that would be unique to St. Louis and would be another reason to keep kids, young adults and families DT and in the city in general. I can't believe ferris wheel and ice rink beat out skate park…we already have these things within the city limits. And, skate boards are way cooler than mini golf….there is no argument against that. Mini golf seems like something you do once or twice a year, tops. Devoted skaters in the city would be there ALL THE TIME. I would be there watching them skate…I have no interest in being a spectator to a round of mini-golf.

  4. darondierkes says:

    I vote for skate park.

    I've seen skate parks and ice rinks in urban areas. ice rinks generally make big walls you have to walk around, i.e. I can't walk down the mall!

    Skater/BMX parks are appealing because I can still walk right through them. People are doing interesting things there, and I can watch. Maybe I can stop to hang out, but if I want to just walk through I can.

    A miniature golf area is not a great idea at all. The expensive stuff will likewise need a wall around it. You'll need an admission area, but only those that pay to get in can really use it, and in winter, what are you going to do?

    You need something that anyone can access any time, or choose not to use. An open volleyball or badminton court that doesn't have to be rented, can just be used by the residents of Plaza Square at their leisure. A skate park can also be used at the leisure of the skaters that do that kind of thing.

    The church next to Plaza Square has a lot of anti-skating stuff installed on their benches and steps. They wouldn't have done that if there wasn't some presence of skater kids already there.

    The neighborhood room isn't meant for programming, but for casual and passive use. Some people also like trees! I lived in Plaza Square and I was in the neighborhood room all the time. Whatever you do, don't take up that much room with it. Make sure there's something for everybody. If you have to take out a tree, please pick it up by the bulb and replant it elsewhere.

  5. Patrick says:

    I voted for the ferris wheel…but I regret that. I honestly think that there are less than 10 people within 1mile of the mall who are longing for a skatepark. So note this – If you don't create an amazing skate park that draws super-regionally (i.e. significant amounts of suburban yoots and their GMC Yukon drivin' moms), then this skatepark ends up as randomly used and eventually just another “open topped scary trash dumpster full of plastic bags, cigarette butts and wet newspapers.” I also think the skatepark is too seasonal – 4 or 6 months at best which is not much considering the investment, space required and use limited to skaters. What I really like is the concert/performance venue. Think of Milwaukee's Summerfest or Austin's SXSW and Austin City limits. This could revive the Mississippi River Music Fest, Fair Saint Louis, Live on the Levee, Ribfest, etc…I'd love to see several concerts/festivals/plays, rallys,…extending from the arch grounds(or at bottom of arch steps) down market to another venue on the mall. If you don't like that then I 2nd a versatile rink of some sort. My 2 cents.

  6. JoeBorough says:

    You can walk through a maze winter summer spring and fall, cmon people, I'm trying to build a legacy here. Thick clear slabs of glass, you can place them over lights in the ground and have different colors. It could be funky and cool and if it isn't successful I imagine it can be easily removed. You could use mirrors inside the maze to further confuse people. The mirrors could be see through. You could make the glass decorative and with the lighting beneath you could achieve some quasi-stained glass effect. Point is, there's lots of embellishments to make it not only a maze but a piece of art. Red and green on christmas, orange for halloween, pink for valentines day such and so forth.

  7. Zundo says:

    Considering the growing demand for ice in St. Louis, I have a hard time believing we could not sustain a rink downtown. It could be an interesting place to see a high school or other level hockey game. During the warmer months it could become either a volleyball court or a roller rink. Does reopening the Kiel mean the fox will shut down? I see that as a decent comparison, albeit completely different in many regards.

  8. Brad says:

    I also LOVE the BMX skate park idea… Anything we can do to attract/keep kids (and thus families) in the city is key. Even if users don't live in the city itself, if kids are begging their parents to to take them to the “really cool skate park” it's an opportunity for other commerce (VENDORS!) to take place downtown. A partnership with City Museum to make it truly unique and urban would be amazing… maybe even extend some of the sculpture usage from City Garden to create a cohesive theme throughout the urban space. LOVE these ideas… We badly need effective and aesthetically pleasing public space. City Garden was a fantastic step in the right direction.

    Also, the glass maze idea sounds very intriguing as well… I'd be curious as to what that would entail/look like.

    • Danny says:

      These two sound the best to me. And although I was initially uneasy about it, I can't help but think adding a Cassilly-style minigolf would make this a prime people-watching/ cheap date location. Who would have ever thought that about the gateway mall a couple of years ago? I know I'm stealing this from Austin, and we shouldnt actually market this, but let's make St. Louis weird!

  9. Jeff says:

    a little late to the party, but all the same, i'd still vote for the ice rink, mainly for two reasons. All Millennium park comparisons aside, St Louis during the winter, outside of certain places, is generally a ghost town, the ice rink would get people out and about downtown during the winter, and with such proximity to scottrade center, I can't imagine they'd ever be hard up for skaters when hockey season rolls around. Also, as far as competition with Steinberg goes, I agree that Steinberg is great in it's own right, its not in a crowded place like Chicago, but you still get the hospital buildings that give it a nice urban feel. The only thing i have against Steinberg is that it's just about always crowded. I mean PACKED crowded. I find it hard to think that an ice rink on the gateway mall could relieve the crowd at Steinberg by a little bit, and give people a little elbow room down in Forest Park. The only issue in my eyes is what to do with it once summer rolls around. I don't think sand volleyball would be quite as popular, hah.


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