Neighborhood group petitions court for environmental review of new St. Thomas arena

An artist's rendering of the interior of a sports arena
An artist's rendering of the planned Lee and Penny Anderson Arena on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, set up for a hockey game. The arena would also be used for basketball and special events. The university announced on Jan. 17, 2023, that the Andersons are donating $75 million toward construction of the facility.
Courtesy of University of St. Thomas

Updated: Nov. 6, 1 p.m.

A group of residents from neighborhoods surrounding the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul have petitioned the Minnesota Court of Appeals to request a further review of the environmental impact of a proposed hockey and basketball arena.

The neighborhood group “Advocates for Responsible Development” filed the petition last week. They said an initial environmental assessment did not take into account the full pollution and traffic impact of a sold-out arena.

The arena is designed to hold up to 4,000 people for hockey games; up to 5,500 people for basketball games; and up to 6,000 people for certain events such as commencement ceremonies.

The group called the project’s 148-page Environmental Assessment Worksheet, or EAW, “inadequate, incomplete and misleading.”

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“We want to see that all these issues we think are important are adequately addressed before the decision is made to build that building,” said Donn Waage, ARD spokesperson and local resident.

University officials said in a statement that they believe their EAW was thorough and appropriate. They said they will work with the city to create parking and traffic plans and provide opportunities for neighbors to voice their concerns.

“The university is confident the proposed project to build the arena, which will be an energy efficient facility and is being designed to meet LEED certification requirements, has been examined in detail by all necessary parties,” officials said in a statement Friday.

Waage said he hopes that putting the case before the court can help make sure their concerns are heard by university and city officials and require the university to provide a deeper analysis of the arena’s environmental impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

A map showing the location of a planned sports arena
A map showing the location of the planned Lee and Penny Anderson Arena on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. The university announced on Jan. 17, 2023, that the Andersons are donating $75 million toward construction of the facility.
Courtesy of University of St. Thomas

The proposed 270,000-square-foot arena would sit on six acres of its south campus on the corner of Cretin and Grand Avenues. In January, St. Thomas received a record $75 million donation from Lee and Penny Anderson toward the design and construction of a Division I hockey and basketball facility.

The university plans to break ground on the project next spring with a grand opening goal set for fall 2025.

Correction (Nov. 6, 2023): This story has been updated to correct the square footage of the proposed arena, and to clarify its capacity for various events.