With the Rams departing for Los Angeles and a billion-dollar downtown stadium on hold, the chances for a future St. Louis MLS team were boosted, as Commissioner Don Garber announced the league would immediately launch a stadium-planning effort.
Garber also announced he would be meeting with potential ownership groups.
This isn’t the first time St. Louis popped up on the MLS radar: in 2015, before the Rams announced a move to Los Angeles and business leaders launched efforts on a downtown stadium, Garber had discussed the potential of a St. Louis MLS team. (That’s where the above rendering comes from.) St. Louis would fit into future MLS expansion plans: the league will add Atlanta and Minnesota teams in 2017, Los Angeles and Miami teams in 2018, which would put the circuit at 24 teams. The goal beyond that is 28 teams; a St. Louis MLS team could fit nicely into that effort. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“Nobody argues that St. Louis is not a great soccer market,” Garber said. It has a passionate fan base, and a great soccer history. With packed crowds at national team and international soccer games here, St. Louis fans have recently proven their market power. The league also likes the potential rivalries between St. Louis and existing teams in Kansas City or Chicago.
St. Louis has had a harder time, however, pinning down local owners and finding the correct stadium site.
But after the Rams left for Los Angeles, “a number” of potential owners began contacting Garber, Peacock and political leaders, Garber said.
They wanted to know how much a team would cost to buy and operate. Owners have paid as much as $100 million in expansion fees recently. Operational costs, however, weren’t something Garber felt he could discuss with prospective owners without knowing more about St. Louis sites and financing.
The preferred site, of course, would be the downtown site once envisioned as the site of an NFL stadium. A new stadium for a St. Louis MLS team would cost much less than the billion dollars estimated for the NFL facility — but any public funding would face the same obstacles the Rams faced.