Despite uncertainties surrounding a proposed MLS stadium in St. Louis, officials are downplaying the notion of converting The Dome at America’s Center to a soccer facility.
As was detailed this morning, Missouri governor-elect Eric Greitens is continuing to make his case against the use of state funds for a soccer-specific stadium in St. Louis. This comes as St. Louis and SC STL officials are pitching a downtown stadium for the city’s MLS bid, with the proposed financing for the project including $40 million in state tax credits and $80 million in city funds.
A December vote on the tax credits by the Missouri Development Finance Board was scrapped after Greitens initially criticized the proposal. With the stadium in St. Louis expected to cost about $200 million and state assistance looking increasingly unlikely, the MLS bid is left with numerous questions.
Meanwhile, local officials are considering the future of The Dome at America’s Center, which was most recently known to sports fans as the Edward Jones Dome. The former home of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams has found a new purpose as event space with the adjacent America’s Center since the Rams departed for Los Angeles last year, but officials are concerned that it cannot compete with similar venues over the long haul unless it is renovated.
With that, some are suggesting that a possible solution could be to renovate the facility into an MLS stadium. However, St. Louis Visitors and Convention Commission president Kitty Ratcliffe says converting The Dome at America’s Center into a soccer stadium could be an infeasible solution. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Some local die-hard soccer fans and St. Louis taxpayers who could vote on $80 million in new taxes for the stadium in April want to know why the Dome isn’t in the discussion.
Ratcliffe said it would cost hundreds of millions more to retrofit it for professional soccer. Artificial turf is essentially a non-starter for the league, and installing grass would require removing the roof and rebuilding the deep concrete surface beneath the playing area to include drainage and irrigation systems.
“Anything is possible, but does it make financial sense to do that?” Ratcliffe said.
About 54,000 fans packed the Dome for an exhibition game between European soccer power houses Real Madrid and Inter Milan in 2013. However, the natural grass playing surface that was brought in for it was dead in a matter of days, Ratcliffe said.
Whereas the downtown location and size of the stadium that is being discussed by SC STL and St. Louis fits some trends in the MLS, The Dome at America’s Center does not stand out as a surefire fit for the league. While it does offer a downtown location, the Dome would need significant work in order to become an MLS-caliber facility. Furthermore, if St. Louis officials believe The Dome at America’s Center’s future is more likely to be in events than in the MLS, converting the stadium could be a tough sell.
Photo of 2013 MLS All-Star Game by Brett Flanders via flickr.com.