St. Louis is making a new case for an MLS expansion franchise, as plans have been announced for a bid backed members of the Taylor family.
After a 2017 ballot question for a public funding contribution to a proposed downtown stadium was rejected by voters, St. Louis’ MLS hopes seemingly faded. There have been recent signs that a separate group was looking to formulate a new plan, however, and more details emerged during an announcement on Tuesday.
The new St. Louis MLS bid will be led by members of the Taylor family, including Carolyn Kindle Betz, a granddaughter of Enterprise founder Jack Taylor and current senior vice president of Enterprise Holdings and executive director of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation. Kindle Betz would be joined by six other female, multi-generational members of the Taylor family, potentially forming MLS’ first club majority-owned by women, as well as Andy Taylor and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh.
Under the current stadium proposal, the group is seeking a site west of Union Station that was part of the last St. Louis MLS bid. While the previous proposal called for a $60 million public contribution that was rejected by voters, the new stadium plan would hinge on mostly private financing. The group would seek to lease the stadium, estimated at about $250 million, from the city’s Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, while receiving some city and state tax breaks. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A roughly $250 million stadium dedicated to the soccer franchise would be “overwhelmingly” privately financed, the Taylors say. Public help would likely come from dedicated sales taxes on concessions and other merchandise sold to patrons, a property tax break from a city agency owning the stadium site and leasing it to the group, state tax credits and a break on the city’s 5 percent ticket tax.
The Taylors are teaming with the family of Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of Maryland Heights-based World Wide Technology and a former professional soccer player who was part of last year’s failed bid to build a stadium and win a team from the growing professional soccer league. He also is part-owner of St. Louis FC, the United Soccer League franchise that plays in Fenton, which would serve as a development club if St. Louis lures an MLS team.
“As you all know, the Taylor family has been soccer fanatics for a number of years,” Kavanaugh joked to the crowd.
It wasn’t a long-standing love of soccer that initially drew the Taylors to form a partnership — though Kavanaugh said they are really starting to get into the sport now — but instead “because the entire Taylor family is so passionate about St. Louis.”
Stadium funding will have to be resolved in order for a new St. Louis MLS bid to gather support, as the result of the April 2017 referendum on public funding helped stall the previous effort. Prior to that vote, St. Louis was seen as a viable expansion candidate.
There are still plenty of uncertainties surrounding the next round of expansion, however, as the league has yet to come forward with many firm details. Other intriguing candidates figure to be in the mix when the time comes, perhaps including Detroit and Sacramento–two of the four finalists from the last round–Phoenix, and San Diego, where an initiative for a new MLS venue and surrounding development in Mission Valley will be considered by voters in November along with a competing San Diego State University stadium proposal. Still, with this announcement, it is clear that St. Louis’ MLS ambitions are alive and the league, for its part, sounds open to exploring the proposal.
“We recently met with the Taylor Family and Jim Kavanaugh regarding their new vision for Major League Soccer in St. Louis and impressed by their commitment to the MLS effort,” Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications said in a statement. “We look forward to spending time with them during the coming months to learn more about their plan.”
Rendering reflects stadium proposal from previous bid.