ST. LOUIS — Steel columns 85 feet tall have already begun to define the new Major League Soccer stadium taking shape on the western edge of downtown, the future home of the region’s new club, St. Louis City SC.
Construction crews began installing the steel beams this week inside a pit between Market and Olive streets that contractors have been busy excavating for the last nine months. The crater — parts of which are nearly three stories below street level — now accommodates some 170 workers and dozens of cranes, backhoes, dump trucks and mixers.
Within weeks, those passing by the site just west of 20th Street downtown, catty-corner from Union Station, should be able to discern the outlines of a stadium as crews finish placing the remaining steel beams, made by Hillsdale Fabricator, an affiliate of local construction firm Alberici Corp., in north St. Louis. The top of the stadium will be only about 40 feet above street level at the western end.
By late next year, the workforce on site should peak at about 800 people before trending down as the stadium approaches an August 2022 completion date, said Denver Callahan, senior project superintendent with Mortenson.
At the beginning of the year, Market Street will shut down for more than two months to accommodate stadium construction, which will necessitate detours for motorists and pedestrians who are still going to work downtown during the pandemic. Stadium and city officials say the reconstruction of the Market Street bridge — which previously spanned depressed ramps onto Interstate 64 that have been removed for the stadium — should wrap up by late March. The public can learn more about the closure at a virtual meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday.
The Minneapolis-based general contractor Mortenson is leading the roughly $400 million project as part of a joint venture with Alberici and St. Louis-based L. Keeley Construction. Mortenson and Callahan have in recent years built stadiums such as the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where the NBA’s Bucks play, and Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, which will be home to the city’s new NHL team and its WNBA team.
There have been few surprises on site — other than an underground spring, buried beneath two centuries of development.
“That’s not uncommon in an urban setting,” Callahan said. The spring water will be treated and redirected into the storm sewer system, he said.
Callahan said construction is on schedule in St. Louis and praised the quality of the labor force here, which he said is almost entirely local construction trades members. Work started in the spring, just as the pandemic hit the region, but Callahan said there has been no project-site transmission of COVID-19.
There’s already a tunnel under Market Street connecting the stadium site to the area to the south where the construction team will soon begin building practice fields and office space for the soccer team. When the MLS pushed back by a year the debut game of St. Louis’ expansion franchise, to March 2023, the extra time gave planners a window to add more to the south side of Market Street, Callahan said.
Earlier this month, the team unveiled designs for a pavilion and team store on the southwest corner of 21st and Market streets, which architects say could include a coffee shop or other gathering places directly across the street from the stadium. Market Street and the sidewalks on both sides in the stadium district will also be landscaped and upgraded from the drab concrete bridge there now.
The new team, led by an ownership group made up of the Taylor family of Enterprise Holdings and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh, was awarded an expansion team from the MLS in August 2019.