Missouri Governor-elect calls St. Louis MLS stadium plan ‘welfare for millionaires’

To say that Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens is not a fan of the St. Louis MLS stadium plan is an understatement. Greitens made a statement on Monday in opposition to any public financing for the proposed venue, making his stance on the issue quite clear.

“I’m opposed to spending taxpayer money to build a soccer stadium in St. Louis,” Greitens said. “This project is nothing more than welfare for millionaires.

“Right now, because of reckless spending by career politicians, we can’t even afford the core functions of government, let alone spend millions on soccer stadiums. This back-room wheeling and dealing is exactly what frustrates Missourians. This type of politics as usual is coming to an end.”

St. Louis’ plans to bring an MLS expansion team to the city are centered around a proposed $200 million stadium next to Union Station. They are asking for $80 million in public funds from the city, which will be decided in a public vote, as well as a $40 million state tax credit. The Missouri Development Finance Board will vote on the tax credit on Tuesday, which prompted Greitens’ statement on Monday.

If the Missouri Development Finance Board votes to award the $40 million in tax credits, it’s unclear what Greitens could do to revoke them after he takes office on January 9. He may not be able to do anything. Out-going governor Jay Nixon has supported the tax credits for the stadium.

The departure of the Rams to Los Angeles has complicated the issue of public funding for the MLS stadium. On one hand, the public funds they are asking for are a fraction of what the city and state were offering to build a new NFL stadium to keep the Rams, and a soccer team would help fill the void left by the football team’s exit. But the Rams did leave a stadium that was built entirely with public funds, which is still not yet paid off, and now sits largely empty, so the city is staring at a problem with a publicly financed stadium already.

The $40 million in state tax credits won’t mean much if the St. Louis voters vote not to allocate $80 million towards the building of the stadium. That vote will come in April.

St. Louis has long been a favorite of MLS and they’ve been trying to get a team in the city since the league was founded in 1996. They have struck out finding an ownership group with a stadium plan. That has changed now, with an ownership group of wealthy local businessmen pushing forward and putting together this stadium plan. If the stadium is approved, they will probably be granted an expansion team to enter the league in 2020, but that is a big ‘if’ right now.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.