St. Louis Could Rely on Courts for MLS Referendum

MLS St. Louis Stadium rendering

The proposal for a new MLS stadium in St. Louis is likely to be weighed by the circuit court, a step needed to secure an April referendum. 

Funding issues have stalled stadium talks in St. Louis, where the Board of Alderman needed to vote by Tuesday on the framework for a stadium deal. Such a vote would have allowed for an April 4 referendum in which St. Louis voters would weigh in on the proposal for the roughly $200 million stadium.

Talks of a new funding model, one in which St. Louis would contribute $60 million instead of $40 million, were tabled last week. That essentially negates the possibility that the Board of Alderman could decide to put the issue on the ballot, but a state law could allow the city to take the issue to a circuit court judge. The court would have to issue its decision by February 21. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The $60 million city funding portion for a 22,000-seat stadium west of Union Station was tabled Thursday at the city’s Ways and Means Committee after disagreements among aldermen. SC STL vice chairman Jim Kavanaugh said the plan isn’t being renegotiated, but “we are validating the numbers to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”

Aldermen are also being asked to abate an entertainment tax on ticket sales at the new stadium, but official estimates on what that amount might be have not been made available.

Last week the city’s budget director Paul Payne said he lacked confidence that the financial agreement wouldn’t ultimately dip into the city’s general revenue fund. A spokesman for Comptroller Darlene Green declined to comment Monday.

The proposal’s intent is to use only new revenue from a business use tax increase triggered if voters approve a half-cent sales tax increase for MetroLink expansion and other city services.

The MetroLink ballot proposal would also need approval by the Board of Aldermen and a judge to make the April 4 ballot. It was heard but not voted on at Thursday’s committee meeting.

Timing is of the essence for SC STL, the group tasked with bringing an expansion franchise to the city, as applications are due to the MLS at the end of this month. The league is expected to announce two new clubs later this year, with those teams joining the league in 2020.

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