Downtown’s Kiener Plaza Reopens Friday

By on May 18, 2017

From St. Louis Public Radio:  St. Louisans will get their first peek at Kiener Plaza’s lush new gardens, splash pad and colorful playground when the downtown park reopens at noon Friday.

The bronze statue of The Runner is back and selfie-ready, with a new fountain and LED lighting that can change colors to mark holidays and special events, like Cardinals-playoff red and Stanley Cup-blue.

The renovation cost $23.7 million and took more than a year to complete. Public celebrations will be held Friday and Saturday. Details are below.

But, first, do you know who Kiener is?

And what’s the significance of that iconic runner in Downtown St. Louis?

Meet The Runner

The 1.9-acre park was dedicated in 1962, part of the massive urban redevelopment of the city’s downtown area that accompanied the construction of the Gateway Arch and Busch Stadium II. The plaza was erected on the former site of the Old Laclede Hotel and Senate Theater.

The plaza is named for Harry J. Kiener, a lifelong amateur sportsman who was a member of the U.S. track team that competed in the 1904 Olympics held in St. Louis during the World’s Fair.

Kiener was also a steel executive. Upon his death at age 80 in 1960, he bequeathed funds for a fountain with an athletic figure — which is how The Runner came to be.

According to a history compiled by the Regional Arts Commission, Kiener’s trust fund representatives first commissioned world-renowned sculptor Alexander Calder for the sculpture. But his proposed design had no figurative element. Because Kiener’s will included a five-year time limit, the trust company hastily selected sculptor William Zorach to produce a figurative athlete.  His design incorporated a runner with a trailing left leg supported by a bronze wave. Zorach never visited the park after The Runner was installed.

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About Dede Hance