If you remember the long battle over the new New York Yankees stadium, you may remember how one key hurdle was getting the approval of the National Park Service for the project, since the stadium site was on parkland that had previously gotten federal funds, meaning it either needed to be maintained as open space in perpetuity or replaced with equal land elsewhere. (A requirement that was eventually met, sort of, by building a new park years late on the other side of a highway.)
The St. Louis Blues are currently working on building a new practice rink on 40 acres of similarly federally funded parkland in suburban Maryland Heights — using $6 million of county money, in addition to the county land — and so are stuck in the same boat of waiting on the NPS. Except, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger, the Blues owners aren’t waiting:
Today, the site tapped for the ice complex is scraped bare by bulldozers. On both sides of Marine Avenue in the northwestern corner of the federally protected park, trees, grass, wildlife and wildflowers are gone, replaced by acres of dirt being flattened and raised by heavy construction equipment every day.
That work, key county officials claim, has nothing to do with the ice project, which has yet to get the approval it needs from the National Park Service to go forward.
Messenger reports that Sheila Sweeney, CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, insists the park was bulldozed not for the Blues, but for “an unrelated stormwater project.” Only one problem:
The proposed site of the Blues practice arena project is 13750 Marine Avenue, which besides being in the county park is also in the city limits of Maryland Heights. That means the company doing the grading work needed a permit from the city.
That permit was issued July 6. It lists the description of the work to be done:
“Construction of an Ice Center.”
Environmental groups are fighting the use of parkland for the hockey complex, with a Change.org petition that notes that not only is Creve Coeur Park valuable green space, but it sits in a floodplain, making it maybe not the best place for a permanent sports facility. And now the chair of the St. Louis County Council has called for a timeout on the project, on the grounds that “information that now appears to be incorrect, misleading, or incomplete” and that “we were purposely misled.” Better late than never, I guess, though maybe it would have been nice to do this before the chainsaws came out.