St. Louis votes against soccer stadium, potentially kills city’s MLS expansion bid

St. Louis voters have decided not to redirect $60 million from an existing tax to help fund a soccer stadium that was central to the city’s MLS expansion bid. Now it’s possible that St. Louis’ expansion bid is dead.

The city’s expansion bid was centered around a proposed stadium near Union Station. Originally, the stadium would have been funded by a combination of the team, the state and the city, but the state refused to give the project any money. A restructured plan would have seen the team pick up most of the tab, with $60 million coming from the city. However, that had to pass a vote to be approved and, on Tuesday, Proposition 2 fell, so it will not get that money.

Now the stadium, which is central to any expansion bid, is in doubt. If they cannot find the money to cover the $60 million gap — which at this point would most likely have to come from ownership — then odds are that St. Louis will not be a realistic contender for an MLS expansion team.

In a statement after the proposition was defeated, MLS expressed disappointment and hinted at the significance of the vote going against the stadium.

For many years we have believed that St. Louis would be a tremendous market for a Major League Soccer team, but the lack of a positive stadium vote is clearly a significant setback for the city’s expansion opportunity and a loss for the community.

We deeply appreciate the efforts of Paul Edgerley, Jim Kavanaugh and their partners to bring Major League Soccer to St. Louis. They were focused on creating a plan that benefited the community at no cost to St. Louis City residents while bringing the fastest growing professional League in North America to the region.

The league was not overstating their feelings on the market. They have tried to put a team in the city for two decades but have struggled to find the right ownership and stadium to make it work. The thinking was that with the Rams leaving for Los Angeles, there could be an opening for a soccer team. Everyone associated with MLS has spoken glowingly of St. Louis and its bid for months, making it clear that it was a heavy favorite for an expansion team. All they needed was to lock up the stadium deal, but that came down to Tuesday’s vote. Now that it’s gone against them, the stadium is in doubt, and so is the entire bid.