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New outdoor chess tables available in Forest Park

There is now another spot in St. Louis for chess lovers to enjoy the game in the great outdoors.

Forest Park Forever has partnered with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis on four outdoor, concrete tables near Steinberg Skating Rink.

The area is designed to attract more people to that section of the park throughout the year and expose more people, especially youngsters, to chess.

“We really work to try and hit as many students as possible because of the impact of the game,” Chess Club and Scholastic Center Development Manager Lauren Stewart tells St. Louis Public Radio.

“Having another place where families and students can come – it’s just more beneficial.”

Those thoughts are echoed by financier Rex Sinquefield, who provided the seed funding to launch the Chess Club and Scholastic Center.

“It’s a tremendous mental building tool for children,” he says.

“You use every part of your brain playing chess; judgment, intuition. You make a lot of decisions in a chess game that have consequences.”

Forest Park Forever President Lesley Hoffarth says the partnership is a natural fit.

“The skills you learn from that are transferable to so many different areas. And having something like this partnership – the chess tables in Forest Park – is only going to strengthen Forest Park’s ties within the community.”

The tables were donated by the Chess Club and are not included in the approximately $200,000 in upgrades in that section of the park.

The private contributions have helped re-open restrooms that have been closed for two decades.

The effort is part of a park-wide initiative announced last year that called for upgrades to four areas. That includes making sure the restrooms and drinking fountains work year-round, instead of shutting down for winter.

Improvements have also been completed at a picnic site along Wells Drive, near the Hampton roundabout and close to the Parks Administration building.

Hoffarth says roads around the Zoo are next on the list. They will be rebuilt with sidewalks.

She tells St. Louis Public Radio efforts are also about to begin to install seating areas in Kennedy Forest, which has trees that pre-date the 1904 World’s Fair.

“We want it to be not just a way for people to park their car and get to the zoo or the art museum,” says Hoffarth.

She sees the project as “a way for them to really experience the park in a new way.”

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.