Highland Park neighbors push back plans for St. Thomas Sports Complex

The University of St. Thomas’ quest for athletic facilities worthy of its recent leap into NCAA Division I athletics status could bring it just under two miles south of campus.

But before St. Thomas can create new softball and baseball complexes at Ford’s former site in Highland Park, area residents will have a chance to step in — and some are already skeptical of the plans for the facility. university, which were not part of the original design of the project. .

Officials at the 137-year-old university will host a community meeting at 6 p.m. Monday with Ryan Cos., which is developing the site now called Highland Bridge. The 6 p.m. meeting will be held at Lumen Christi Church, 2055 Bohland Av.

Judging by posts on the ward’s social media pages over the past few months, opposition to a possible Tommie Athletics move to Highland Bridge appears to be growing.

Monday’s meeting follows a rejection much closer to home in St. Thomas. Earlier this year, university officials approached the Town & Country Club, less than a mile north of campus, about buying at least part of its golf course for a possible 61-mile athletics expansion. .4 million including a new ice hockey facility. The Tommies now play in the 1,000-seat St. Thomas Ice Arena. Current baseball and softball facilities are wedged into campus.

But the Town & Country board voted unanimously to reject the offer.

After being pushed back, St. Thomas turned to developing the 122-acre Highland Bridge in St. Paul, which rises on the grounds of a former Ford assembly plant. The development, including housing, retail, offices and new parks, came after more than a decade of discussions between planners, developers, city officials and neighbors.

Nowhere in those talks was the prospect of college athletic facilities. But St. Thomas, with its main campus constrained on all sides by established residential neighborhoods, needs to find a place in St. Paul where it can build new, larger facilities.

In July, university officials said they would not build a hockey arena there. But other sports facilities remained on the table.

Although far from complete, the ongoing transformation of the site has been spectacular.

A new Lunds & Byerly’s grocery store is expected to open in late September. The site’s central water feature, designed to mimic a meandering creek that feeds Hidden Falls, is already attracting kayakers. A skateboard park has been open for several weeks. Several other buildings, including townhouses, are in various stages of construction.

Eventually, plans call for 3,800 new residences and 55 acres of open space, including a civic plaza, civic plaza, new parks, and two little league fields.