Walt Disney World in St. Louis? City says no to Mickey’s dome

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – Decades before the city rejected paying millions for a new football stadium, St. Louis leaders rankled entrepreneur Walt Disney by refusing to pay the bulk of costs for a domed theme park in downtown St. Louis.

With the success of the Disneyland park in Anaheim, California, Disney sought to develop other unique parks around the country. In 1963, he proposed a five-story, all-indoor theme park covering two city blocks to be constructed in downtown St. Louis.

The project, called “Walt Disney’s Riverfront Square,” was to feature rides and attractions inspired by the city itself, as well as the Mississippi River, and the City of New Orleans.

According to a 10-part history on the Riverfront Square project, August Busch Jr. (“Gussie”) and Disney engaged in—but quickly settled—a quarrel over alcohol sales at the park.

When the time came to figure out construction spending, Disney insisted the city cover the cost of building the dome itself, while he would pay for the rides and other attractions within. The Civic Center Redevelopment Corporation, the city’s “economic development arm,” was not keen on spending millions of dollars for Disney’s theme park.

An article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculates Disney may have been reluctant to spend more money on the Riverfront Square project when he was investing large amounts of capital on land and development of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The only known existing blueprints for the failed Riverfront Square development were auctioned off in December 2015 for $27,000.