MLS investment group promises millions of dollars for youth, jobs programs in St. Louis | St. Louis Public Radio

MLS investment group promises millions of dollars for youth, jobs programs in St. Louis

Mar 21, 2017

An ownership group that’s trying to persuade St. Louis voters to help fund a professional soccer stadium said Tuesday that it will invest millions of dollars in youth soccer and job-training programs.

The ownership team, SC STL, along with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and nonprofit organizations at a news conference detailed the potential benefits of attracting an Major League Soccer team. Slay called the Community Benefit Agreement negotiated between SC STL and the city a “first-of-its-kind deal” that promises millions of dollars for more than a dozen organizations and initiatives — and shows their request to voters isn’t just about sports.

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The agreement is part of the push ahead of the April 4 election, when voters will decide the fate of two ballot initiatives — Propositions 1 and 2 — to fund part of the stadium construction. Some officials are skeptical of publicly financing a sports stadium, arguing any tax increase should go first to efforts such as affordable housing. Plus, the tax measures come on the heels of failed attempts to keep the NFL’s Rams in St. Louis.

“After our experience with the NFL, their confidence in our city, respect for our citizen and passion for the game of soccer are refreshing, to say the least,” Slay said about the soccer group.

One of the ownership group’s partners, Paul Edgerley, noted that the agreement is “helpful not only in an economic development sense, but in a sense of trying to make sure that a bunch of important programs are adopted in the city.”

The programs SC STL is promising include:

  • $5 million over 20 years to expand interest in soccer among city youth. The team will also run soccer camps in both north and south St. Louis.
  • Free tickets to youth organizations for club home games.
  • 12 summer jobs at the stadium for youth working for the club and 10 jobs to graduates of Mission: St. Louis, a job training and youth mentorship organization.
  • Installation of security cameras tied into the police department’s crime tracking center around the stadium.

St. Louis is one of a dozen cities that has applied for an MLS expansion team. The league says it’ll announce later this year two clubs that will begin play by 2020; the other two will be named at a later date.

Without a stadium, St. Louis' application will be sunk. But building that 20,000-seat stadium just west of Union Station on state-owned land is contingent on the passage of Propositions 1 and 2. About $4 million dollars a year in an increased use tax on local businesses will go toward stadium construction.

A rendering of the proposed St. Louis soccer stadium.
Credit HOK

SC STL says it’s investing $255 million of its own money in the expansion effort. Revenue from ticket and sales taxes from soccer games and other events is estimated to be about $5 million a year, which SC STL says will offset the money it will get from the business tax.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic to ask the city to participate, especially considering we’re going to be returning more tax revenue than what the city is going to be giving up,” investor Jim Kavanaugh said.

The investment pledge also helped persuade the Board of Alderman to put the funding measure up for a vote in April.

Officials from the state have not made any financial commitments to the stadium construction or expansion campaign.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney.