Missouri governor-elect Eric Greitens is weighing in on a proposed deal for an MLS stadium in St. Louis, offering a harsh critique of the project’s funding model.
Greitens, who is set to replace current governor Jay Nixon after winning November’s election, has taken aim at the project’s finances. SC STL is currently working with St. Louis officials on a proposal that calls for a $205 million stadium to be constructed in the city’s downtown, and $80 million of that cost would be covered by the city.
That piece of the funding model will not be secured without a referendum for city voters, which would take place in April. However, the Missouri Development Finance Board could decide today on whether to issue $40 million in tax credits for the project.
In advance of that decision, Greitens made it clear that he is unhappy with the stadium as proposed. More from the News & Observer:
“I’m opposed to spending taxpayer money to build a soccer stadium in St. Louis,” Greitens, a Republican, said in his statement. “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.”
Greitens, who defeated Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in the November election, doesn’t take office until Jan. 9. It wasn’t immediately clear what action he could take once in office to remove tax credits if they are approved by the finance board. Messages left with a Greitens spokesman were not returned.
Outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has expressed support for state funding. MLS Commissioner Don Garber met with Nixon and potential investors during a visit to St. Louis last year. MLS has expressed interest in St. Louis as a site for future expansion, though no timetable has been established.
A spokesman for SC STL said the group had just learned of Greitens’ statement and declined immediate comment.
St. Louis is one of 10 finalists under consideration for future rounds of MLS expansion. When the MLS recently backed SC STL, which was one of two groups to pitch a stadium in the city, it signaled a possible route for St. Louis to enter the league. Funding the stadium, though, will be a must if the bid to join the MLS is to move forward.
Update: SC STL has confirmed that it is postponing its Tuesday meeting with the state finance board. In meantime, the organization says it wants to discuss the stadium proposal with Greitens. More from the AP (Via ESPN FC):
SC STL chairman Paul Edgerley said the group hopes to meet with Greitens to fully understand his position and outline the project’s benefits.
“While we were disappointed in the statement yesterday by Governor-Elect Greitens, we respect that he and others may differ from our views,” Edgerley said in a statement. “We continue to believe in the substantial economic and other benefits of this project to the State and to the City of St. Louis.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if Greitens was open to a meeting. Phone and email messages left with his spokesman were not returned.
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