Saving flooded out soccer fields, one taco at a time

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - Two iconic St. Louis sports facilities are reeling from massive flood damage. Mention the Soccer Park in Fenton or the Kirkwood Athletic Association and people will tell you, “I grew up there.”

Now, people are working to save them both.

Worldwide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton is in ruin and there’s no flood insurance. But soccer is family in St. Louis. And that family is rallying to the cause.

The non-profit St. Louis - Scott Gallagher Soccer Club owns and operates the complex. Flood insurance just costs too much. Damage estimates may top a million dollars.

“This is the crown jewel of soccer in St. Louis,” said executive director Patrick Barry.

Two of the four are lost. The playing turf either completely washed away or was carried into the bleachers by floodwaters. The central field where the St. Louis FC pro teams play needs to be deep cleaned and disinfected; so do the patios near the concession stands and all the bleachers – except the ones the flood mangled and carried away. There’s no saving them.

“The crest was almost five feet higher than it ever has in recorded history. So this is the worst flood ever in this part of the area. Obviously the damage far exceeds anything we’ve seen before,” Barry said.

“It was unbelievable to see. I was shocked,” said Adam Tilford, owner of Mission Taco in St. Louis.

Mission Taco is a sponsor of the St. Louis FC pro team, which plays at Soccer Park. They’re donating 20 percent of all sales Monday to the Save the Soccer Park fund.

Business had already been brisk and before dinner will likely pick up with the late night crowd between 10 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

“All our tacos are $2. We have couple of fun drink specials as well,” Tilford said.

Soccer Park is rooted in St. Louis; saving it is about more than soccer. It’s been a meeting place and home to special events – including weddings.

“I’ve gone to games and then friends of friends are like, ‘oh we’ve got extra seats at a wedding reception’,” said soccer fan Johnny Lang, who was eating at the Mission Taco restaurant on the University City Loop. “So, I’ve literally crashed weddings there.”

The Soulard location is also participating.

“Everybody go to Mission Taco and come join us and have a great meal and hopefully we’ll be able to raise some money to rebuild the Soccer Park…there’s a lot of history here and the soccer community is incredibly tight. It really is a family for soccer in St. Louis. So I’m not real surprised by the response so far,” Barry said.

Up the Meramec River at the Kirkwood Athletic Association (KAA), a log is lodged at the top of one of the backstops.

KAA has a history of flooding. But it’s never been this bad. There is still standing water which has turned to ice.

There’s a GoFundMe account to help raise the $75,000 or more for repairs.

How high was the water at the Kirkwood facility?

“Probably 20 feet. Behind us is our office building. It got to the peak of the roof and that’s 30-feet above the ground,” said KAA director Eric Eickmeyer.

About 3,000 boys and girls play in baseball and softball leagues at the Kirkwood Athletic Association every year, that doesn't even count tournaments. Both places hope to be up and running again by March.