Neighbors are concerned about traffic and parking congestion.
University of Saint Thomas officials presented preliminary plans for its proposed 4,000- to 5,000-seat hockey and basketball arena to two neighborhood groups in January. Increases in traffic, spillover parking and vehicular access to the arena site on UST’s south campus emerged as the major concerns.
“I seriously hope that you look at all of the street and safety concerns,” said Cindy Radtke, a member of the Macalester-Groveland Community Council board.
“Parking is going to be an issue, traffic is going to be an issue,” said Goodrich Avenue resident Colleen Crenshaw.
Other local residents pressed for more use of mass transit, remote parking lots and shuttle buses. UST officials said they are looking at those ideas. However, they also noted that many of the seats will be occupied by students who will be able to walk to the games.
Arena will be served by 750-space parking ramp
The arena will be built just west of Anderson Parking Ramp. The ramp, which is located just west of the intersection of Grand and Cretin avenues, has about 750 spaces. It could be expanded with two more stories or about 300 more parking spaces. However, adding to the ramp would mean reopening Saint Thomas’ 2004 campus conditional use permit, which some neighbors are reluctant to do.
The Macalester-Groveland Community Council Housing and Land Use Committee reviewed the arena plans on January 25 and the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee on January 31. More meetings are scheduled.
Public meetings planned for February 13 and 27
A public meeting on the arena plans will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. Monday, February 13, at the Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Ave. A virtual meeting with the Union Park District Council’s land use committee will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, February 27.
The arena is planned as a multipurpose facility where commencement exercises and other large convocations could be held with as many as 6,000 in attendance. The plans were announced in mid-January after longtime UST benefactors Lee and Penny Anderson made a $75 million gift toward the $150 million facility.
A step up for Division I sports
UST’s men’s and women’s hockey teams are now playing their games at Saint Thomas Academy’s arena in Mendota Heights. The UST basketball teams play in Schoenecker Arena on the north campus. Both facilities are considered too small for NCAA Division I athletics. UST moved up from Division III to Division I two years ago.
UST will need two major approvals from the city for the arena. The overall project site plan will include a range of issues that need to be resolved before construction can start. An environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) will be required to determine the potential environmental impacts of the project and outline ways to mitigate those impacts. The EAW will be overseen by city officials and will be followed by a 30-day public comment period.
Parking will be a priority for UST
The city of Saint Paul recently amended its parking requirements so that new facilities can be built with no additional parking. However, accommodating parking and traffic will be a priority for UST, according to Amy McDonough, chief of staff to new UST president Rob Vischer.
Another potential need is street redesign, especially on Cretin Avenue between Summit and Grand avenues. Related to that are any changes to vehicular access to the south campus.
Access to south campus another concern
Preliminary plans for the arena site show Grand Avenue closed off west of Cretin to allow for the building of a plaza in front of the new facility. That could direct more cars traveling to and from the south campus to the driveway off of Summit Avenue. No vehicular access points are planned off of Goodrich, but questions were raised about an additional access point off of Cretin south of Grand.
The new facility will be privately funded. If all goes as planned, construction could start as early as the spring of 2024, with the new facility opening for sports and other events in the fall of 2025. Ryan Companies will do the design-build for the new facility, working with Crawford Architects.
Three buildings eyed for demolition
To make way for the Lee and Penny Anderson Arena, three buildings will be torn down—the Cretin Hall dormitory, McCarthy Gym and a service center. Cretin was built as a dormitory for the old Saint Paul Seminary and was designed by noted architect Cass Gilbert. That does not sit well with some historic preservationists. Another Gilbert-designed dormitory turned office building, Loras Hall, was torn down a few years ago to make way for UST’s new STEAM building.
UST officials are addressing the latest news about the project and related concerns on its website at stthomas.edu/neighbors.
— Jane McClure
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“[St. Thomas representatives] also noted that many of the seats will be occupied by students who will be able to walk to the games.”
Many? The current undergraduate count at all three campuses is 5,778 per the university’s website. What percentage can be expected to attend? I’d guess no more than half, probably much less on average.
“The arena is planned as a multipurpose facility where commencement exercises and other large convocations could be held with as many as 6,000 in attendance.”
Don’t let St. Thomas minimize the potential traffic and other impacts of this facility.