The City of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever Celebrate the Groundbreaking for Major Improvements Coming to Central Fields

This $5.8 million renovation project will create a much-improved area for soccer, rugby, popular community events and general visitor enjoyment


Katy Peace, Marketing & Digital Media Manager | | 314.561.3290

ST. LOUIS, June 6, 2017 – This afternoon in Forest Park, the City of St. Louis and the nonprofit conservancy Forest Park Forever hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for major improvements coming to the Park’s Central Fields.

As part of the current multi-year phase of capital improvement projects in Forest Park, Central Fields is being rebuilt and enhanced during 2017 and 2018. This project originates in the 1995 Forest Park Master Plan, the document that continues to guide the Park’s significant restoration efforts. 

Central Fields is one of the most heavily used spaces in the Park — and one of the largest. At nearly 30 acres, it is the size of about 23 football fields; larger than Union Station; and larger than Busch Stadium, Ballpark Village and its parking.

Central Fields is home to major annual events like the Great Forest Park Balloon Race and LouFest. Accommodations are being made to host those popular fall events elsewhere in the Park during 2017, with the Balloon Glow and Race moving to Art Hill and LouFest moving to the Festival & Parking Plaza at the Upper Muny.

Central Fields has also long been home to competitive sports like soccer, rugby and softball. As part of this project and softball will move to Forest Park’s Boeing Aviation Field (already home to baseball), while Central Fields is reconfigured to host rugby and soccer.

“This Central Fields project has been on our list for many years, so we are excited about moving into the construction phase,” said Greg Hayes, Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry for the City of St. Louis. “We have a fantastic project design that will greatly improve the experience of visitors enjoying an array of activities, from sports to concerts to festivals. Next year will mark an exciting new chapter for this iconic area of Forest Park.”  

“Central Fields has become such an important destination in Forest Park, both for those playing in competitive athletic leagues and visitors attending popular community events like LouFest and the Great Forest Park Balloon Race,” said Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E., President and Executive Director of Forest Park Forever. “Through this thoughtful and strategic project, Central Fields will become an even more high-quality, usable and visitor-friendly destination. Forest Park Forever is grateful to our generous donors, especially lead project donor Emerson, for making these improvements possible.”

Project highlights include:

  • Four top-quality soccer fields
  • Three full-sized rugby fields
  • New facilities to improve the visitor experience, including two restroom facilities, a pavilion and a concession stand
  • New spaces for visitors to meet and gather
  • Re-grading and soil improvements for better drainage
  • Irrigated fields to maintain quality turf
  • New trails, which will now connect Central Fields to Steinberg Rink and the Jewel Box
  • Street improvements and better pedestrian access
  • New bike racks that can house up to 36 bikes
  • New trees and attractive new landscaping

This $5.8 million project has been funded primarily by private donations to Forest Park Forever’s special Forever capital campaign, with additional funds provided by the City of St. Louis. Forest Park Forever is grateful to Emerson for providing the lead gift that has helped make this major Park improvement project possible. Learn more about the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the Park’s history at

“As a global company anchored in the St. Louis region for more than 125 years, Emerson is proud to support Forest Park Forever with this gift to the Forever campaign,” said David Rabe, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Emerson. “Forest Park has become one of the truly great parks in the country and a vital part of our region’s quality of life. The campaign’s improvements, including a transformed Central Fields, will greatly enhance the visitor experience for many years to come.”

The groundbreaking ceremony featured remarks from Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry for the City of St. Louis Greg Hayes; Board of Public Service President Rich Bradley; Forest Park Forever President & Executive Director Lesley S. Hoffarth P.E.; Forest Park Forever Board of Directors member Larry Thomas; and Emerson Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility David Rabe. Following the remarks, there was a special ribbon-cutting featuring representatives from groups that use this popular space, including the Great Forest Park Balloon Glow and Race, LouFest, PeaceFest, the St. Louis Ramblers Rugby crew and soccer players from nearby St. Roch School. 

About Forest Park Forever

Founded in 1986, Forest Park Forever is a private nonprofit conservancy that works in partnership with the City of St. Louis and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry to restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park as one of America’s greatest urban public parks.

Along with the City of St. Louis, Forest Park Forever raised $100 million between 1995 and 2003 and dramatically restored many landmark destinations in Forest Park, including the Emerson Grand Basin, the Boathouse and the Jewel Box.

Today, Forest Park Forever maintains Forest Park with the City of St. Louis; raises funds for and helps manage capital restoration projects called for in the Forest Park Master Plan; delivers experiential educational opportunities to teachers, students and adults; and provides information and guides for the Park’s 13 million annual visitors. Not part of the Zoo-Museum Tax District, Forest Park Forever is supported by private donations from throughout the community, including its 7,000 members, 1,100 volunteers and many leading community and corporate partners.

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About Forest Park

Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri, is considered one of the nation’s greatest urban public parks. The Park’s 1,300 acres feature beautiful landscapes sprinkled with forests, ecosystems, nature reserves, lakes and streams, as well as five of the region’s major cultural institutions and endless opportunities for recreation. Forest Park attracts 13 million visitors each year, making it the sixth most visited urban park in the United States. In 2016, Forest Park was voted the #1 City Park in the country by readers of USA Today.