SC STL | St. Louis Public Radio

SC STL

This is a mock-up of what the new riverfront stadium with a professional soccer team.
Courtesy of HOK

Almost $1.3 million went into this year’s failed attempt to persuade St. Louis voters to help fund an MLS stadium, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.

The report, posted on the Missouri Ethics Commission website, shows AspireSTL raised just under $1.2 million for their failed quest to pass Proposition 2 in the April 4 election.

Hunter Maret of University City watches Proposition 2 election results at Union Station at a pro-soccer stadium gathering Tuesday night.
Ryan Delaney I St. Louis Public Radio

Once St. Louis voters dashed his hopes of bringing Major League Soccer to the city, Dave Peacock didn’t make much of an attempt to modulate his tone.

 

Soccer supporter Stuart Hultgren at an event on Feb. 28, 2017  with the coach of U.S. men’s national team at the Amsterdam Tavern, a popular soccer bar in south St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo / St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis, in 1907, formed the first professional soccer league in the U.S., had several hometown players on the 1950 U.S. World Cup team, and over the years has fostered dominant college teams. The Major League Soccer commissioner said the city has always been in the league’s sights.

There are very few current MLS clubs with a history already built in, former MLS player (and St. Louis native) Taylor Twellman said, before a pro-stadium rally this week. “The only thing this city needs is a professional team, playing at the highest level, with a soccer-specific stadium.”

Investment group SC STL is trying to land a MLS team, partially with help of of St. Louis taxpayers. And that’s where some city residents lose interest.

Fans eagerly asked questions after listening to Bruce Arena speak.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Recovering from the slow-motion heartbreak of losing its NFL team (and, to a greater extent, watching the Rams grossly underperform for a decade), St. Louis is jostling with 11 other cities for a Major League Soccer expansion team. Building a stadium is critical to that effort, and an ownership group known as SC STL is trying to secure city taxpayer dollars for the facility.

But with St. Louis facing a raft of economic and public safety issues, opponents believe subsidizing professional sports is a misplaced priority. They also question whether a soccer team is going to provide much benefit to residents in struggling neighborhoods.

Jim Kavanaugh of SC STL, the investment and ownership group trying to bring an MLS team to St. Louis, is shown after a news conference Tuesday, March 21, 2017, announcing the group's planned investments in community development. (March 21, 2017)
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

Gov. Eric Greitens speaks to the crowd after taking the oath of office outside the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City on Jan. 9, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Eric Greitens says he’s receptive to having Missouri’s transportation department spruce up state land to make way for a professional soccer stadium in St. Louis.

His remarks during a news conference Thursday in Jefferson City appear to be his most direct response regarding the critical state involvement with the proposed stadium, which is on land owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation. For months, Greitens has spoken out against using taxpayer money to build stadiums.

Bruce Arena, head coach of the U.S. Men’s National soccer team, has a beer with the owners of the Amsterdam Tavern after speaking with reporters and fans.  (Feb. 28, 2017)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Bruce Arena, the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National soccer team, is bullish about how devoted St. Louis-area residents are to his sport.

 

Arena spent part of Tuesday morning fielding fan questions at the Amsterdam Tavern in St. Louis. He was in town to appear at an event with a team sponsor, as well as visit St. Louis-based Enterprise, which he described as a “potential sponsor” for Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer.

 

 

File Photo. Alderman Terry Kennedy says the delay in naming a St. Louis poet laureate could stretch into next year.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Alderman Terry Kennedy, known for his oratorical abilities, didn’t make intricate speeches or engage in tough questioning as his peers on the Ways and Means Committee repeatedly discussed proposed ballot issues to help fund a Major League Soccer stadium and fix up the Scottrade Center. 

But before aldermen sent a roughly $60 million plan laying out St. Louis’ financial responsibility for the proposed soccer stadium, the 18th Ward Democrat changed his approach, saying they had the wrong priorities and there needed to be “a paradigm shift.”

A representative from HOK shows renderings of a proposed soccer stadium. (Feb. 2, 2017)
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

An aldermanic committee backed a financial plan spelling out how St. Louis would help pay for a professional soccer stadium – if it comes to fruition.

The Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee approved the financial plan on Wednesday evening. Many of the details have already been publicly laid out: If two ballot initiatives are placed on a ballot by a judge and pass, about $50 million in a use tax increase could go toward the stadium. The city would also contribute up to $10 million from 50 percent of the sales tax revenues generated in the project site.

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

St. Louis is officially in the mix for a Major League Soccer franchise.

Whether professional soccer actually comes to the Gateway City is by no means a certainty.

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

It looks increasingly likely that St. Louis voters will see two tax-related measures on the April ballot.

In a rare Monday meeting, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen gave initial approval to a proposed half-cent increase in the sales tax. The second measure would direct the resulting increase in the use tax to a proposed Major League Soccer stadium near Union Station.

MetroLink train at station
File photo | Chris McDaniel | St. Louis Public Radio

The bid for public votes on a sales tax for economic development and on public funding for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium near Union Station faces a new hurdle to make the April ballot.

The Board of Aldermen had until Tuesday to send the measures to Mayor Francis Slay for his signature to meet a state-imposed deadline for the general election.  Because the board did not do so, it will take a court order for the measures to appear on the ballot.

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

Updated Jan. 20 at 9:00 a.m. with comments from SC STL — Supporters of a Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis walked into the city's Ways and Means committee on Thursday, cautiously optimistic that a proposal for public funding was on track to go to the voters in April.

Six hours later, they walked out shell-shocked, as members of the committee refused to take a vote on the measure. The decision closes even further the window of opportunity available before a Jan. 24 deadline.

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

Updated at 9:30 p.m. with additional comments from SC STL. —They say nothing is ever truly dead in politics, and the proposed public funding for a professional soccer stadium near Union Station is proving that adage.

Just last week, Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, announced that she would not ask the Board of Aldermen to consider her bill directing extra use tax revenue to the stadium. The use tax will go up automatically if voters approve a separate measure boosting the city's sales tax by a half percent.

But on Wednesday morning, the stadium funding bill showed up on the agenda of the Ways and Means committee.

Gov.-elect Eric Greitens' opposition to publicly funding a St. Louis soccer stadium may be placing the city's Major League Soccer bid in jeopardy.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When those who are working to bring Major League Soccer to St. Louis rolled out their stadium proposal, it seemed as though everything was in its right place.

The ownership group known as SC STL included people with experience with top-flight sports franchises. Many of the region’s top leaders were on board with the proposal. And in stark contrast to the failed bid to keep the St. Louis Rams, this group promised a public vote before any taxpayer funds were expended in St. Louis.

What soccer stadium proponents apparently didn’t foresee was what Gov.-elect Eric Greitens had to say.

Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End on Election Day 2016.
File photo by Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 3:30 p.m. Jan. 2, with renewed opposition from Gov.-elect Greitens - If those who want state help to build a new Major League Soccer stadium in St. Louis had hoped for softening from the incoming governor, no change is apparent. At an event to announce a new public safety director, Gov.-elect Eric Greitens said he has "completely ruled out state funding for stadiums.

He repeated an earlier description the idea: "I do not support welfare for millionaires. I look forward to meeting with the leaders of the MLS project to see if there's a way for them to bring private sector funding to bring a soccer team to the state of Missouri."