A public financing plan for a new St. Louis MLS stadium was shot down by voters in a referendum yesterday, putting the future of expansion in that city in doubt.
Though polls showed support for the measure, the voters had a different idea, and at the final tally it lost by a 53-47 percent margin. It could be argued that voters were very specifically opposed to funding a sports venue vs. a tax hike, as the same referendum had voters approving a hike in the city sales tax to fund a MetroLink expansion. There were two propositions on the ballot relating to the stadium financing; both needed to pass, but the soccer-specific proposition lost.
MLS officials were keen to add St. Louis in the next round of expansion, with Commissioner Don Garber in town in recent weeks to rally support for the measure. Now, without the public financing, it’s clear a new St. Louis MLS stadium is on serious life support. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said the defeat of Proposition 2 was “clearly a significant setback for the city’s expansion opportunity and a loss for the community.”
Investor Terry Matlack said Tuesday night, “It’s unlikely St. Louis ever gets an MLS team now.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber previously said he was “confident” St. Louis would get an expansion team in the league if the stadium got public financing. The league is expanding from 24 to 28 teams, with two of the new clubs to be announced later this year.
What’s bad news for St. Louis soccer fans, however, is good news for fans in other cities where investors are seeking MLS expansion teams. MLS officials say they’ll be expanding by four total teams before the end of the decade, and St. Louis was assumed to be a frontrunner in the process. With St. Louis seemingly out of the picture, that means a bid from the likes of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who have their own May 2 referendum on the issue of expanding Al Lang Stadium for MLS, could see better chances of landing a team. We’ll have our April look at MLS expansion this Friday.
UPDATE: MLS issued the following statement:
“For many years we have believed that St. Louis would be a tremendous market for a Major League Soccer team, but the lack of a positive stadium vote is clearly a significant setback for the city’s expansion opportunity and a loss for the community.
“We deeply appreciate the efforts of Paul Edgerley, Jim Kavanaugh and their partners to bring Major League Soccer to St. Louis. They were focused on creating a plan that benefited the community at no cost to St. Louis City residents while bringing the fastest growing professional League in North America to the region.”