Today will decide if St. Louis builds a soccer stadium (and gets an MLS expansion team)
Today, St. Louis voters will go to the ballot boxes. They’ll vote on a number of things, one of which is whether to help fund the construction of a soccer stadium. If they decide to fund it, they will almost assuredly land the city an MLS expansion team.
St. Louis is one of 12 cities vying for the four expansion teams MLS has pledged to awarded, but they have a leg up on the rest. The city has an incredible soccer history and the league has been trying to get into the market for decades. Now, they have an ownership group that MLS likes and a stadium plan. There has been no shortage of kind words heaped St. Louis way from those involved with the league.
All St. Louis needs is the final go-ahead on their stadium and MLS will presumably follow up by awarding them an expansion team later this year.
That final go-ahead is $60 million, which would come from the city’s existing business-use tax. However, by law, the city’s voters have to agree to direct any public money to a stadium so today’s vote will decide whether the stadium gets that $60 million.
The team’s ownership group has agreed to spend $95 million of their money on the stadium, as well as paying the $150 million expansion fee. They’re asking for the state to donate the land for the downtown stadium, with the city kicking in $60 million to finalize the deal. The land isn’t expected to be an issue, so it really just comes down to the city vote.
The momentum for an MLS team, and a stadium, picked up after the Rams left the city for Los Angeles. Originally, the owners were asking for the state and city for money to build their 22,000-seat venue, however Eric Greitens was elected governor in November and immediately said the state would not give the project a penny. That left the city on the hook to finalize the deal, and getting it on the ballot wasn’t easy, with multiple aldermen (who needed to approve the ballot measure) speaking out against it. However, they decided to let the voters make the call. Today, they will.