When a major new sports venue opens in the city of the IBEW’s birth, it’s a safe bet that St. Louis’ Local 1 performed the electrical work.
|An aerial view of City Park under construction in 2021, with the Gateway Arch in the background.
Flickr/Creative Commons photo by Chris Stritzel.
Those members can take a bow again as CityPark, home of Major League Soccer expansion franchise St. Louis City SC, draws rave reviews since hosting its first match in November 2022.
The team has sold out every MLS match at the 22,500-seat facility, which has spurred a new interest in investment on the west end of St. Louis’ downtown. A city with a deep soccer history is celebrating finally having an MLS team.
Local 1 Business Agent Mike Newton, a city resident who has worked on the current Busch Stadium (home of baseball’s Cardinals) and Enterprise Center (hockey’s Blues) during his 31-year career, said Local 1 members usually jump at the chance to work on sports arenas and stadiums. This was no different.
“It’s like a historical thing for them,” Newton added. “People will be telling their grandchildren that grandpa or grandma worked on that place.”
Every seat is within 120 feet of the pitch, the closest in the league. A canopy roof protects all those seats from the elements and makes the noise generated by the raucous crowds even louder. HOK, the stadium’s architect, kept the corners open so spectators could naturally mingle in plazas.
St. Louis City SC’s training center and team offices sit just to the south and are connected to the stadium via underground tunnel. It’s a rarity in American team sports for a training center to be connected so closely to the main stadium. Local 1 and the other trades worked on the building of that, too.
“I’m just very happy our members worked on this,” said Paul Reinheimer, Local 1’s telecommunications business representative. “They should be very proud. How can you not walk by that stadium without a smile on your face and say, ‘I worked on that’?”
Every project has obstacles, however, and CityPark had more than its share. That’s where Local 1 members used their skills and expertise to help keep the project on time and under budget. (It cost more than $400 million and was privately financed.)
Local 1 member Tim Culleton, now a superintendent for signatory contractor Sachs Electric, is a veteran of stadium projects in the city. This one was the most difficult, he said.
HOK called for all conduit to be hidden from view — a challenge in a facility that relied on tall, round, narrow columns for support. The floors weren’t terribly deep, either. Culleton said electricians couldn’t install anything longer than 1-inch conduit, adding that he still worries about that “because you get a lot of rodents in there chewing on cable.”
In the end, however, after long days that included plenty of trial and error, they found the right conduit and installed it in a way that met the architect’s demands.
Now, Culleton is a St. Louis City SC season ticket holder.
“Going in there every day and going through the difficulties and the coordination due to the pandemic, the timelines and the weather, it wasn’t all that fun at times,” Culleton said. “But once you’re in there now, the atmosphere is unreal. My wife and I go to every game and just have a blast. I don’t think we’ve ever had that good of a time at a venue.
“This is just unique,” he added. “The fans are all into it.”
Reinheimer said the crew that installed the lighting and sound systems were accustomed to working on scaffolding. But for this project, the signatory contractors rolled out a suspended deck supported by a giant platform. The new system was safe, but it was an adjustment, Reinheimer said. He and others felt like they were hanging out over the ground more.
“It’s not something that we’re used to,” he said. “But our crew understood there was a job to be done and we were happy to do it.”
Local 1 Vice President Frankie Valleroy said more than 300 members worked on the stadium and adjoining team facility. Work started in February 2020, just before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. That forced numerous adjustments on the job, including wearing face coverings and social distancing.
“Trying to keep the project on schedule and maintaining a good workflow, it was challenging,” Valleroy said. “But all the craftsmen on the job were very excited. It’s a very modern stadium with a lot of amenities, especially on the electrical side. There’s some things we haven’t been able to do in St. Louis before.”
Maybe the team took notice. In its debut season, St. Louis City SC had a record of 17 wins, 11 losses and five draws and has clinched the best record in MLS’ Western Conference heading into the season finale against Seattle on Oct. 21. Driving by the stadium now, it’s hard to image it was a vacant lot just four years ago.
“Like an aggressive midfielder, CityPark has claimed a vacant spot on the pitch, filled it with numbers and pushed forward. …People are heading to the city from the far reaches of the region and they are loving it,” wrote Tony Messenger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Local 1 members are pleased to say they did their part.
“Quite a few of our people were there for more than a year,” Valleroy said. “We’re a proud bunch. We put a lot of pride into our work.”