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MLS in STL
St. Louis might have another shot at obtaining a Major League Soccer team
December 10, 2018
“We are a three professional sports town and the MLS is a great fit,” Carolyn Kindle Betz, Enterprise Holdings Foundation Executive Director and member of the ownership group, said to a Board of Aldermen committee about the Major League Soccer stadium proposal for St. Louis.
In April of 2017, voters of the City of St. Louis voted against building a Major League Soccer stadium in St. Louis. Now, 19 months later, citizens of St. Louis are beginning to talk about a new stadium.
Recently, the Taylor family, who owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, together announced a plan to fund and build a new soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis. The ownership group consists mostly of women. This would be the first majority female owned franchise in MLS history. The ownership group, which is 100 percent local, is led by Betz, senior vice president of Enterprise Holdings and granddaughter of the founder of the car rental giant, along with six other female members of the Taylor family. Andy Taylor and Jim Kavanaugh are the members of the ownership group. Kavanaugh, having played soccer as a youth and professionally, led the effort to bring the St Louis FC to St. Louis
The 2017 stadium proposal involved $60 million in public funding to be mostly paid for by taxpayers of the City of St. Louis. The 2017 stadium would have been built just west of Union Station. This is where the new stadium is proposed to be built.
“The proposed stadium would sit right in the middle of a downtown redevelopment plan already underway,” Kindle Betz said.
This new 20,000 seat stadium is projected to cost $250,000,000. In addition, the MLS franchise fee is likely to cost at least $150 million. The project will be predominantly privately funded by the ownership group with the only public funding coming from a tax on tickets, rather than through taxes from residents of the City. This way the only citizens helping to pay for the stadium will be the citizens that attend the games.
“The ownership group will cover all costs of the stadium including maintenance and other costs typically [incurred] by the property owner,” Kindle Betz said.
The 2017 stadium proposal was put to a vote of the residents of the City and was defeated. However, for this new stadium, the stadium will not face a public vote, but instead the St. Louis aldermen have to approve the deal in order for it to be accepted.
On November 30, the City’s Board of Alderman approved a resolution that outlines tax incentives to help finance the stadium.The Board of Alderman passed the MLS tax incentive plan by a vote of 26-2. The tax incentive plan includes a 50 percent break on ticket taxes, with a three percent sales tax on items sold at the stadium. It also includes free use of the site and a exemption on sales tax for construction materials. The resolution also recommended that the other 50 percent of the ticket tax be placed into a city fund to help support future improvements to the stadium. The City estimates that the stadium proposal would generate tax dollars of about $1.4 million a year or $41 million over 30 years.
Now that the City has passed the stadium resolution, by the end of the year, the ownership group plans to submit a formal application to MLS to be awarded a franchise.
In 2015, Major League Soccer announced that they wanted to expand from 24 teams to 28 teams. Nashville and Cincinnati were chosen to have the 25th and the 26th team in the league.
Along with St. Louis, the league is also looking at Detroit, San Diego, Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. If approved, St. Louis could have an MLS team playing here by 2022.
CHS senior and girls varsity soccer captain, Eliza Copilevitz said “I would definitely go to some soccer games. Especially after we lost the Rams it’s always fun to go to sports events that bind the city together.”
The team could also inspire many young children in St. Louis to start playing soccer.
“It would inspire younger soccer players to really want to work hard and get better because they see that there are professionals and role models that can continue doing what they love even after there high school years and college years,” Copilevitz said.
Many citizens feel that this new stadium could help improve the city. And St. Louis is a soccer town with over 50,000 youth soccer players and more than 4,000 youth teams in the area.
“What resolution 180 means to the City is not just about soccer. It’s about growth and development of our city,” Aldermen President Lewis Reed said.
“St. Louis has soccer players playing for teams all over the world. There is no doubt St. Louis is a soccer city,” Kindle Betz said.