Neighbors of The Arena greeted the news of its demise favorably for the most part Tuesday, although many decried that the city shot down a plan to put an aquarium in the aging stadium.
"I'm very excited. This is a very positive thing for us and for the city," said Henry Shannon, president of Forest Park Community College, The Arena's next-door neighbor along Oakland Avenue.
Shannon noted that he and officers of the nearby St. Louis Science Center, Zoo and Art Museum had pushed earlier for a related cultural use of the site, such as an aquarium, when a MetroLink stop was envisioned there.
"But our main concern was that it not become an eyesore, and an office park would be a welcome addition," he said. Another concern is the 300-400 allotted parking spaces on The Arena lot for Forest Park students. Shannon was confident of arrangements to continue that courtesy.
Another close neighbor, Deaconess Central Hospital at Oakland and Hampton avenues, was also upbeat over the news.
"While we are sad to see an historic landmark disappear from the scene, we are hopeful about the possibilities for development in the neighborhood of The Arena," Steven R. Stout, chief operating officer of Tenet Hospitals in St. Louis, said in a prepared statement. Tenet owns Deaconess and several other local hospitals.
"Clearing the site would seem to be an important first step toward redevelopment," Stout added.
Douglas King, president of the Science Center at 5050 Oakland, said he would have preferred a public educational use of the site.
"The land itself is such a treasure by its size and location along the central educational corridor," he said, referring to a string of schools that begins with the Central Institute for the Deaf and includes St. Louis U. High, the Science Center, the city science magnet school and Forest Park Community College. "But anything that will generate taxes for the city is a good thing."
Charlie Hoessle, director of the Zoo in Forest Park, said his only concern was that there be ample parking facilities, whatever the use of the land. With its proximity to Highway 40 (Interstate 64) and Interstate 44, the site and Oakland Avenue are key to any central-city traffic plan for the 21st century, he said.
Bob Kelley, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, which has offices nearby at 1401 Hampton, said the plan to demolish and build "could prove a real boon for the city."
St. Louis U. High principal Robert Bannister said an office park would have no effect, positive or negative, on the school, which is several blocks away.
Kevin Bornhop, manager of the busy Steak 'n Shake restaurant at 1253 Hampton, figured that an office park would be as good for his trade as an aquarium. "An aquarium would have helped our weekend business, but the office park will definitely help the weekday lunch business. The main thing is they're putting something there," he said.
Lou Santambrogio, who has lived in a residential area behind and south of The Arena for all of his 75 years, mourned the death of The Arena, which he had cursed when its hockey games and rock concerts flooded the neighborhood with parked cars and trash.
"There would be ample parking, though, for an aquarium, which our Cheltenham Neighborhood Association was 100 percent in favor of," he said. "We don't need another office park or shopping mall. It's sad."
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