The death of the St. Louis Mills
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Sophomore Jacob Dalton has fond memories of the St Louis Mills. “One time my brother, [SCHS graduate Josh Dalton], got stuck between bars in the playground,” Dalton said. “We had to get firefighters to pull him out of them.”
His is but one of many other students’ memories of the mall, ranging from hockey practice at it’s ice rink, shopping and hanging out with friends, to riding go-karts at the attached NASCAR Speed Park.
Quite a lot of time has passed since these memories were made for most people, and time hasn’t been kind to the mall, bought and rebranded the St. Louis Outlet Mall in 2012.
On Sunday, Jan. 22, I stepped out of the car to an near empty parking lot. Ahead of me was a very foreboding sight, the remains of the former Nascar Speedpark, presently a monument to urban decay. The gate to it was busted open, overriding the “Authorized Personnel Only” sign next to it. No go-karts, no bumper boats, not even a trashcan in sight – just abandoned racetracks. I turned around and began walking towards the St. Louis Outlet Mall. At this particular entrance Putting Edge glow in the dark mini-golf was still open, but most of the other entrances had no businesses, one having the outline of where a Books-A-Million sign used to be on its wall. As I opened the doors to the mall (the automatic door was non-functional) I noticed the two trash cans outside were filled to the brim with trash.
The St. Louis Mills opened in November 2003 to a high volume of customers. Outside of many robberies in it’s infamously unsafe parking lot, the Mall was a great success with most spaces inside filled by a business. Over time traffic fell in the Mall, but most businesses stayed open. Then, around 2014, traffic catastrophically plummeted and many businesses began to close. The mall began to empty.
This has worsened to an incredible degree today. The Mall’s food court is empty, save for an Sbarro Pizzeria, which offers the incredible value of ‘2 slices for $10.’ You can count the number of open businesses on your hand. The NASCAR Speedpark is closed with all outdoor fixtures left abandoned. The only attraction still open is the St. Louis Blues Ice Zone, an ice rink where the Blues and many little league teams still practice, and a playground which was the most active part of the mall with many children playing on it.
Cabela’s, a fixture there since the mall’s opening, is still there and was the only business with customers when I was there. However, it is indeed only attached. “Cabela’s is still an enjoyable experience,” senior Joey Harbour said, “but it’s mostly because it’s closed off to the rest of the mall.” Last year Cabela’s began to shut its mall entrance security shutters 24/7 to keep customers, who are dismayed with the mall’s condition, coming.
There are a few new memories still being made too, mostly in one new business in the mall that is flourishing: the Epic Music Cafe Teen Night Club. This is non-alcoholic club features cutting edge music and lighting effects.
During my walk through the entire mall there was not a single officer, or any rule enforcer, encountered. Although, the nightclub is popular enough that, according to Student Resource Officer Michael Shipley, there are “off duty police officers there who make sure the patrons are safe.”
However, on the mall itself being safe, Shipley had this to say: “Would I let my daughter run around and hang out in there in the evening? No way.”