We end 2016 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #10: MLS expansion hopes in St. Louis.
In the past year, more and more cities have been building their cases to land an MLS expansion franchise. Few efforts have had as much of action lately as those of St. Louis, where some major decisions will be made in the new year.
In the aftermath of the departure of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, St. Louis looked poised to enter the MLS expansion mix. The city had made previous pushes for to join the league and, with there now a hole in its sports scene, St. Louis found itself in a position to strike.
Ultimately, two groups emerged with their own stadium plans. One called Foundry St. Louis has proposed a stadium in the city’s Midtown section, and released renderings for the facility in October. The other concept comes from SC STL, which is working with the city on a downtown stadium near Union Station.
City officials and SC STL revealed that plan in November. Shortly after it was released, MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said that the league was backing SC STL, giving its stadium proposal the nod as St. Louis’ most likely path to the MLS. As we noted at the time, the backgrounds of SC STL’s investors could make it a solid fit for the league:
The statement from Abbott is the latest in a rapidly progressing situation that has seen SC STL laying in the weeds in recent months to recent developments that has seen the City of St. Louis obtaining an option on a 30-acre parcel that could be used for a MLS stadium and Foundry offering to pay part of the cost of the proposed $200-million downtown stadium. But as things unfold rapidly, Abbott quickly moved to clarify the league’s viewpoint on ownership groups. Not a surprise at all: MLS puts great emphasis on the pedigree of ownership groups when looking at expansion prospect, and the SC STL ownership group — led by investors with ties to the MLB St. Louis Cardinals, NHL St. Louis Blues, the minor league St. Louis FC and area businesses — certainly fit into that MLS evaluation process.
The biggest question now for St. Louis is how to secure funding for the stadium. City officials are considering a series of tax increases to cover an $80 million contribution for construction of the stadium, which has been estimated to cost $205 million. However, that plan will require a referendum, with voters possibly considering the measure in April.
Clearly there is still some ground to cover, but St. Louis has made itself one of the league’s most intriguing expansion options as the new year approaches.