On-campus arena site announced

As students returned to their homes for winter break, campus was
anything but deserted, as Saint Louis University planned to
announce the site of the new arena.

On Thursday, Dec. 18, 2003, the media flocked to SLU to hear the
announcement many had been waiting for: The $70 million arena will
be built on SLU’s campus, on the newly acquired Waring School
property at the corner of Laclede and Compton avenues.

“In less than 23 months, this will be a reality,” said
University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., under a heated tent
that served as home base for the press conference. “This is a
tremendous opportunity for SLU and metropolitan St. Louis.”

Along with Biondi, several city officials were on hand to
celebrate the decision to move forward with the project.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it wasn’t Father Biondi’s
fault,” said former mayor and current CEO of Grand Center, Inc.,
Vince Schoemehl. SLU’s alternative site for building the arena was
in the heart of Grand Center.

Property acquisition and demolition at the Grand Center site
would have cost the University $28 million, compared to the $1.25
million it paid to acquire the Waring property from the St. Louis
City School Board. Waring was one of 16 schools closed by the
school board in the summer of 2003.

Mayor Francis Slay also spoke, commenting that SLU is one of the
city’s greatest assets and applauding the area’s commitment to the
project.

Director of Athletics Doug Woolard recognized the benefits of an
on-campus arena for students and the athletic programs.

Woolard said the arena will not only assist in recruiting
potential athletes, but will also allow SLU to have complete
control over dates of events and allow athletes to practice where
they play.

“It will be some place students can call home,” Woolard
said.

While the University may be gaining an arena, it will not come
without several losses. Choosing to build the arena at the Waring
site means demolition of approximately one-third of the Grand
Forest Apartments, part of the LeMoyne parking lot and the tennis
courts. The University has planned to relocate the tennis courts to
the Health Sciences Center.

The 13,000-seat arena will function as host to men’s and women’s
basketball, as well as commencement, concerts, speakers,
conferences and conventions.

Construction will not begin until $40 million, the amount needed
to begin the project, has been raised. The University has currently
raised approximately $10 million in private donations toward the
$70 million project. It plans to borrow $25 million, which will be
paid off through revenue from events held at the arena.

One bump in the road that must be smoothed over before
construction can begin is the fact that an underground creek runs
beneath the site of the future arena.

The plans for the arena include digging 38 feet into the ground
for the foundation of the building, which would hit the
groundwater. SLU maintains that addressing the problem will still
cost the University less than if the decision been made to build
the arena in Grand Center.

Student Government Association President gives thoughts on
arena

University officials are not the only ones celebrating the
decision to move forward with the arena. Student Government
Association President Nick Sarcone also discussed the positive and
possible negative effects of the project.

“It will be great for the community, local businesses and
economic development, but (students) will still be the ones to
enjoy it the most,” Sarcone said.

While Sarcone does not doubt the potential success of an
on-campus arena, he has some concerns about the effects it will
have on the rest of campus.

The arena will undoubtedly bring in large conferences that need
breakout rooms, which Sarcone fears will trickle over to the Busch
Student Center–taking up more even more space in the overbooked
building. The BSC will not be able to handle both student and
conference needs due to its size, Sarcone said.

As for destruction of one-third of the Grand Forest Apartments,
Sarcone is not worried about the availability of housing for
students. In fact, he hopes that having the arena located next to
the apartments will lead to renovations in the remaining
two-thirds. However, Grand Forest’s close proximity to the arena is
also a concern to Sarcone, as he worries that added foot traffic
through the area could lead to more incidents of crime.

“If these issues are planned for, we shouldn’t have any
problems,” Sarcone said. “Foresight is the key.”