St. Louis CITY SC will open a permanent experiential art exhibit on the site of their new stadium commemorating a Historic Black Neighborhood demolished in the 1950s, the club announced Friday. The expansion club's new soccer-specific stadium, set to open when they join MLS in 2023, is being built within the boundaries of where the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood once stood.
The installation, created by nationally acclaimed post-disciplinary artist and St. Louis native Damon Davis, is designed to honor and recognize the 20,000 Black residents who were displaced from the once-thriving Mill Creek Valley neighborhood – in what's known as the Downtown West neighborhood – in the name of urban renewal in the 1950s.
The stadium’s southern side will be landscaped to show the exact plotline of the homes that stood on the stadium site over 50 years ago. Friday's release notes that the club "hopes that soccer fans, supporters and visitors alike will be encouraged to learn about and experience the history of Mill Creek Valley on game days and beyond, including recognizing the contributions of the people who lived there. In addition to the art exhibit, STL CITY will build out augmented reality, information and resources on Mill Creek Valley and the exhibit on its STL CITY SC app starting 2023."
“With our stadium district overlapping the footprint of Mill Creek Valley, we knew it was important to acknowledge the hard truths of the past. We have to learn from what came before so we can envision a better way toward growth and revitalization together that’s inclusive of all St. Louisans,” said Khalia Collier, St. Louis CITY’s vice president of community relations.
The project is happening in partnership with St. Louis’ trailway organization Great River Greenway, which is working on a one-mile stretch of the new Brickline Greenway segment between the new soccer stadium and Harris Stowe State University. It's intended to, in the club's words, "reinforce Downtown West as one of the city’s important regional destinations."
MLS Commissioner Don Garber added, via the release: "Sports teams and leagues have been leading voices in helping create meaningful dialogue around social and racial equity issues, this important project is unlike anything in professional sports as it has the ability to help transform a city. When St. Louis CITY hosts their first home match, I am excited MLS will be playing a prominent role in sharing the story of Mill Creek Valley."
The project also garnered praise from Carolyn Kindle Betz, St. Louis CITY SC chief executive officer.
“Sports and art both have the ability to empower and connect people from diverse backgrounds," she said in a release. "By partnering with Great Rivers Greenway and working with this project’s many other partners, including Damon Davis, we believe we will create a moving experience within our stadium district where art, green space and gathering places come together to honor a historic St. Louis neighborhood.”