Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Working On Another Final Four

Officials from the NCAA were in town on Monday to tour the Edward Jones Dome as part of the St. Louis Sports Commission’s bid to win the city a Men’s Final Four in 2012, 2013 or 2016.

The Sports Commission will make its final presentation to the NCAA on November 12 and expects a decision to be made sometime shortly thereafter.

According to an article in the Post-Dispatch, the city has agreed to allow Broadway to be closed on the east side of the Dome to help create a festival atmosphere. One of the few criticisms of St. Louis’ hosting of the Final Four in 2005 was that there was a lack of connectivity and core of energy in the blocks surrounding the Dome. Closing Broadway should help significantly.

The article also features a quote from NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt, who said, “There is truly a resurgence in the downtown area. It’s very noticeable.”

This just goes to show how important the public face we present to the rest of the country – our downtown – is to anyone who’s considering planning an event in St. Louis, whether it be a convention, a major sporting event, or even something as simple as a family vacation. And that public face is impacted by downtown’s businesses and residents.

It’s exciting to think about what downtown will look like in 2012, 2013 or 2016. Should we receive a Final Four, I can just imagine how much better Washington Avenue will look, with a renovated Dillard’s Building (I’m assuming) and possibly a revitalized St. Louis Centre. Ballpark Village could be a popular gathering spot. Old Post Office Plaza could host events and broadcast the games on its giant video board.

Of course, downtown’s continued revitalization will depend on economic conditions and the availability of credit, but it also requires commitment from our community. That means locating businesses downtown instead of Clayton and beyond. That means offering a variety of housing options to encourage the greatest possible number of people to move downtown. And that means having a “can do” spirit that so many St. Louisans seem to lack.

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