Readers know that I love soccer. I’ve played the game and I value the habits — teamwork, competitiveness, stamina, good nutrition it taught me. Many St. Louisans share my interest in the game: St. Louis has one the country’s highest rates of participation in the sport.
I had hoped to find a site in the city for Jeff Cooper’s proposed major league/youth soccer complex. But, the 400 acres — ready for construction now required for the project were simply unavailable here. (Think: that’s more than three times the size of Fairground Park at Grand and Natural Bridge.) Jeff’s eventual selection of a site near Collinsville, barely ten minutes from the Edward Jones Dome, Scottrade Center, and Busch Stadium, is next-to-perfect, and I expect it to be an asset to the City and, especially, to downtown.
I support Jeff’s project for many of the same reasons I support the new Mississippi River Bridge: it keeps the City at the center of the region. The City and its neighborhoods are the region’s most important economic engine. There are 90,000 or so jobs located within a brisk ten-minute walk from my office at City Hall. Building new things in southern Illinois supports the City’s economy.
New thoughtful construction east of downtown, particularly along an existing transportation spine, is a positive development that I have been asking the local corporate community to support. As heartened as I was by the business community’s pledged support for the ultimately unsuccessful bid to win an NCAA Final Four selection in the next decade, I believe that Jeff’s bid to win a MLS men’s franchise here and his proposal to construct the soccer complex in Collinsville will have an even greater and more positive long-term economic impact on St. Louis than landing a single sports tournament.
The key to Jeff’s proposed development is landing an MLS franchise. The key to securing the franchise is a strong demonstration of community and corporate support, and ideally local owners to join Jeff and Albert Pujols. For the reasons I have sketched out above, I strongly urge you to step up now.