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You’ll soon get to hoop in St. Louis’ two biggest parks

Forest Park is seen in this drone photo looking southeast near the visitor's center on November 19, 2021.
Brent Jones
St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Parks Department is eyeing a site behind the visitors center for basketball courts in Forest Park.

By 2023, St. Louis’ two largest parks should have basketball courts.

A $250,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund will help fund the restoration of courts in Tower Grove Park, located in south-central St. Louis. The park previously had basketball courts, but they were removed in the late 1990s because the concrete deteriorated.

“[Basketball] was one of the most requested recreation additions to the park during the master planning process,” said park Executive Director Bill Reininger. “So we're really expecting folks to come out and use them and be excited about them.”

Despite its central location, Forest Park has never had a basketball court, said Greg Hayes, the city’s parks director.

“It wasn’t technically contemplated in the 1995 master plan,” he said, adding there was a “minimal reference” to putting basketball in the area that became the police department's stables.

Some have seen the lack of basketball courts in Forest Park and others as racially motivated, intended to keep people of color from going to certain parts of the city. Two efforts to build basketball courts in Forest Park, one in 2016 and one in 2017, failed to gain traction.

Hayes said serious conversations about adding basketball began about a year and a half ago.

A final location for the courts has yet to be decided, but Hayes said the city and the Forest Park Advisory Board are leaning heavily toward a spot behind the visitors center, close to parking, restrooms and other sports facilities including tennis, handball and racquetball courts. Funding will come from the city’s budget and donations to Forest Park Forever, the nonprofit that helps support the park.

Hayes said officials are eager to hear what park users think about the possibility of basketball courts. Under the park’s master plan, there are at least two more opportunities for public comment.

“We're excited about the prospect of basketball in Forest Park so folks can have a safe, fun and enjoyable time enjoying that amenity that's popular,” he said.

An artists rendering of the proposed basketball courts in Tower Grove Park
SWT Design
An artist's rendering shows the proposed basketball courts in Tower Grove Park.

The courts in Tower Grove Park will be built in a grassy area just south of the red-and-white-topped Turkish Pavilion, near the center of the park, Reininger said. They’ll match the park’s Victorian architecture, with a stone wall replacing the typical metal benches for seating.

“They'll be separated from each other with a walkway in between that will be planted,” he said. “We’ll also be able to do a nice plaza area so that there'll be a drinking fountain as well as some picnic tables.”

Reininger hopes to raise the required $250,000 in matching funds and finish the design within a year.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.