ST. LOUIS – There are concerns St. Louis could soon be embarrassed on a national stage.
In three days, the city will host a Bands of America high school marching band competition. Right now, the parking lots reserved for the bands near the Dome at America’s Center look like a jungle.
The roughly four square blocks of parking, bordered by Broadway, 7th, O’Fallon and Carr streets, are where band members are supposed to get on and off of their buses; load and unload their gear. The bands refer to them as staging lots. Staging lots are not like these lots in other cities. They are mostly covered with weeds up to seven feet tall, with trash scattered throughout the weeds.
In recent years, volunteers have picked up the trash ahead of the event, not the City of St. Louis nor Explore St. Louis (which operates the Dome). Volunteers were at the lots over the weekend and were stunned to see the overgrowth.
“Panic,” said volunteer leader Tom Stolze, a former band parent in the Fort Zumwalt School District. “The brush was so overgrown it was nearly impossible to get in there and get the trash out…literally there’s a band going on almost every 15 minutes from sometime Friday morning until Friday evening and then all day Saturday. There’s trucks and buses entering those lots every 15 minutes to unload, prepare, then obviously, loading and leaving.”
Stolze’s children are out of high school, but he still volunteers.
“(Cleaning parking lots) shouldn’t come down to volunteers but I think anyone who’s ever been a band parent will say, ‘It’s what we do,’” Stolze said.
“I would go over there personally myself and do it,” said marching band fan Yvonne Ragland.
“They deserve somewhere to park. It wasn’t like that last year. This was clear and the buses all parked there and I just watched them go in. They were blowing on the horns and banging on the drums. It gets me excited.”
Ragland has family living nearby. She just bought a ticket for the event this year after watching the bands load-in from afar in years past.
“It looks really bad. We’ve got to get it together. Let’s go, St. Louis. Let’s get it together,” Ragland said.
The Explore St. Louis website boasts that its event will draw 69 high school marching bands from 10 states to the dome. However, Explore St. Louis does not own the staging lots.
A FOX 2 News search of property records shows developer Paul McKee does. He tells FOX 2 he’s checking into the matter.
An Explore St. Louis spokeswoman says the lots will be ready on time. As of early Tuesday evening, the weeds were still standing tall, about 60 hours before the buses and bands start showing up.