Delayed Decision on Port Authority Territory Leaves Questions About St. Louis MLS Stadium Funding

MLS St. Louis Stadium rendering

There is some uncertainty over proposed St. Louis MLS stadium funding, as aldermen did not vote Monday on a related proposal to expand the city port authority’s territory.

St. Louis is competing with Sacramento for MLS’s 28th team, with its expansion bid led by members of Enterprise Holding’s Taylor family and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh. As part of the group’s bid, a new $250 million soccer-specific stadium would be constructed near Union Station in downtown St. Louis.

Under the current proposal, funding for the facility would be aided by a three-percent stadium-only tax that includes a one-percent on-site sales tax levied by the St. Louis Port Authority. In order to have it included in the final plan, however, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen would first have to approve an expansion of the authority’s territory from its current boundaries–19 miles of Mississippi River front–to cover the entire city, effectively including the proposed stadium site in the process.

The legislation to expand the authority’s territory did not go before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Monday as its 2018-19 session drew to a close, as there was not enough support to allow the bill to be brought up for final approval. City officials emphasized that this does not end discussions of stadium funding, but the city and leaders of the MLS bid might explore alternatives. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

[Mayor Lyda Krewson’s chief of staff Steve] Conway said the port authority expansion bill would be reintroduced in the upcoming 2019-2020 session that opens Tuesday but that it would not necessarily be used to help fund the soccer stadium.

“That’s not an absolute, that’s an option,” he said.

Other alternatives to funding the stadium also could be looked at by the city and the ownership group, Conway said. He didn’t elaborate.
The 1 percent port authority sales tax had been identified as part of a 3 percent stadium-only tax that would help fund the $250 million stadium project.

The race for MLS’s 28th team has certainly gotten more competitive in recent weeks, with Sacramento backers–led by Ron Burkle–scoring a victory last week when the Sacramento City Council approved an incentive package for a proposed privately financed stadium. In St. Louis’s case, the backers have built momentum over the last several months and have been seeking to translate that into more corporate support for the bid. The MLS Board of Governors will meet in Los Angeles later this week, but the league still has not given a firm timeline on when it will announce its selection for the 28th team.

Rendering by HOK reflects stadium proposal from previous bid. 

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August Publications