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Government, Politics & Issues

As debate picks up over Blues’ practice facility, county council seeks ‘timeout’ on construction

With elections looming, tensions continue between the St. Louis County Council and County Executive Stenger.
File photo I Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger (second from left) argues with Councilman Sam Page during a meeting of the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday. Page sponsored a bill halting construction at the site of an ice center.

All construction work would halt on the St. Louis Blues’ new practice facility under a bill introduced Tuesday by the chairman of the St. Louis County Council.

Area residents have become increasingly vocal over the possible environmental impacts of the four-rink St. Louis Ice Center facility slated to go up at Creve Coeur Lake Park in Maryland Heights. The debate further illustrates the divide among councilmembers and County Executive Steve Stenger.

The bill by Democratic Councilman Sam Page, who is from Creve Coeur, requires “immediate cession” of “all earth movement and all other construction and grading related activity” at or near the area.

Page sponsored the original ordinance approving the project, but he said the council should call a “timeout” on the development after members of the public spoke out. Environmentalists say that, among other things, the new facility could increase flooding risk at the park.

Contractors began smoothing out land earlier this summer for the facility. The council approved the facility in December, although the National Parks Service still needs to sign off on it. Greg Smith, a lawyer for the St. Louis Legacy Ice Foundation, said the project’s backers are fully prepared to pay to clean up the parcel of land if the ice center isn’t approved.

Page also said Stenger “misled” the council about the facility’s size and cost.

“Like everyone on the council, we voted for a few things we didn’t explore as deeply as we should have,” Page said. “And we should have had a public hearing on this before we ever voted for it.”

In a statement before the meeting, Stenger said the claim was “pure political posturing by Page, who has claimed he has been misled on numerous pieces of legislation and did not know what he was voting on.” He said after Tuesday night's meeting that most the grading could be finished before Page's bill gets passed in a couple of weeks. 

“I know the dog ate your homework and the sun was in your eyes, so you have a hard time with things,” Stenger said to Page during a heated exchange during Tuesday’s meeting.

Backers of the ice center say it could help the area’s youth hockey organizations — as well as ice hockey enthusiasts from around the country. A number of the facility’s supporters, some wearing Blues jerseys, held a rally before Tuesday’s county council meeting.

“[There seems to be opposition] to everything that happens when it comes to progress or development or making improvements to our area,” Maryland Heights resident Craig Ball said. “Personally, I hate seeing Nashville and Kansas City and Indianapolis kind of blow past us as cities — and get a lot of the big events.”

Page’s proposed ordinance is at least two weeks away from a final vote. However, the council did pass a nonbinding resolution Tuesday, which asks state and federal officials to hold off on approving the ice center.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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