‘More than soccer’: St. Louis businesses see CityPark luring more people, money downtown

Businesses see City park encouraging progress by enticing more tourist and people downtown, because St. Louis truly needs to wake it up.

At what cost does the city have to pay, if a new splashy soccer park kicks in and generates a boost in downtown’s fanfare? In my humble love for this place, I think the police and Mayor Jones need to develop a strategic plan to ensue the traffic violators, and other crimes are on lock and governed. We shall see, St. Louis now has 4 sports teams, with conventions and annual tourists, who will be flocking to town. Moreover, people are still coming here, regardless of the bad paintings the media flosses. Because crime is everywhere and accidents will happen, so you just have to watch out or stay at home! Editor.

Amanda Hosea and her fiancé Justin Woods dine beside a newly completed stained glass window celebrating St. Louis City SC on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, at Maggie O’Brien’s in St. Louis. The restaurant and bar, located across Market Street from CityPark, is expecting an influx of soccer fans.Laurie Skrivan photos, Post-Dispatch

Every year, Eddie McVey makes a few upgrades at Maggie O’Brien’s, his Irish bar on Market Street in Downtown West. But once he heard the new Major League Soccer stadium was going up across the street, McVey went all in with a top-to-bottom, multimillion-dollar renovation.

It’s for sure the same Maggie’s, with a bigger bar and little better flow and, most noticeably, a forest green paint job on the outside of the restaurant. For McVey, having the ownership group of St. Louis City SC choose the city for its base “means the world to us little guys of St. Louis,” he said.

“I’m proud to have a business in St. Louis,” McVey said. “This is just icing on the cake.”

Investment has poured into the Downtown West neighborhood since MLS announced a new St. Louis team in 2019, with roughly $820 million in development and 300 occupancy permits issued to date. In 2020 alone, the area had the most building permits citywide.

New businesses, like the ViolaSTL marijuana dispensary and London Tea Room, have opened or relocated nearby. A historic redevelopment with hundreds of apartments will welcome residents this summer. And major streetscape improvements that officials promise will improve pedestrian safety are underway.

Much of the investment — around $500 million — is the CityPark stadium itself at Market and 22nd, built by the local ownership group of the Taylor family, of car rental giant Enterprise, and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh.

St. Louis City SC officials said they want CityPark and the excitement around the new soccer team to be catalysts for change: lure development, generate civic pride and, hopefully, usher in a new era for St. Louis.

“As a region, we have to believe in the city,” said St. Louis City SC’s chief brand architect Lee Broughton. “Having a downtown that isn’t the most vibrant space will take away from any individual part that is down there. … So much of this is really about much more than soccer.”

David Carson, Post-Dispatch

St. Louis is a longtime believer in silver bullets. Leaders pinned their hopes on Ballpark Village and the Gateway Arch renovations only to be kept waiting. But the Taylor family’s investment in the soccer club and regional business group Greater St. Louis Inc., which has made the downtown area a key focus, could be crucial.

Downtown West was on the rise before the soccer team. But area business owners say CityPark has inspired them to work together with residents to create a vibrant, sustainable neighborhood.

“It’s just so attractive, it really lifts the whole neighborhood,” said Fran Caradonna, CEO of Schlafly Beer, located one block north on Locust Street. “It’s like your neighbor down the street who keeps their grass short.”

‘Activity begets activity’

For three years, Caradonna watched the Olive, North 20th, Market and North 22nd streets transform from a handful of parking lots, low-rise brick retail buildings, interstate ramps and underutilized greenspace to a 22,500-seat steel and concrete soccer stadium.

The brewery has had typical ups and downs, the worst coming during the coronavirus pandemic. But recently, the Tap Room has experienced an upswing as more people visit the downtown area. Caradonna expects CityPark to draw even more.

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