A St. Louis MLS expansion team has officially been announced, with MLS officials and club investors unveiling plans Tuesday.
Led by members of Enterprise Holding’s Taylor family, including Enterprise Holdings Foundation president Carolyn Kindle Betz, and Worldwide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh, St. Louis’s bid had been emerging as a top contender. Solid local ownership played a part in the bid’s rise, along with plans for a new soccer-specific stadium at a site west of Union Station (rendering above) in downtown St. Louis.
As was confirmed on Tuesday, St. Louis has been awarded an expansion team by MLS. There are still approvals needed for the stadium plan, which calls for the project to be primarily financed through private funds, but club investors are confident that the facility will be ready by the club’s planned launch in the 2022 season. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
It’s a task that Kindle-Betz is confident can be finished by the 2022 season, “even if I have to go out with a hammer and nails myself,” she quipped during an interview Tuesday.
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has already endorsed a stadium financing plan, which the Taylors have indicated would be “overwhelmingly” privately financed. There’s a break on real estate taxes and a few site-specific sales taxes that need final approval, but top city leaders have all signaled support for the plan.
St. Louis has long been on MLS’s radar for a potential expansion team, but any hopes of placing a club there seemingly stalled in April 2017, when city voters rejected a proposed public funding contribution to a stadium plan that was included in a previous bid. The current bid that has been approved by MLS helped revive the effort to bring a club to St. Louis, and fulfills a long-standing vision of having a team in the city.
“It is with great pride that we welcome St. Louis to Major League Soccer,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a press statement. “St. Louis is a city with a rich soccer tradition, and it is a market we have considered since the league’s inception. Our league becomes stronger today with the addition of the city’s deeply dedicated soccer fans, and the committed and innovative local ownership group led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, the Taylor family, and Jim Kavanaugh.”
“Our ownership group has come a long way since we first announced our bid last October at Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and it’s an incredible feeling to now be able to say, St. Louis is home to the first official majority female-led ownership group in MLS,” Kindle Betz said in a press statement. “Our MLS team and stadium will only add to St. Louis’ renaissance currently underway and will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community, uniting people in their love for the game.”
In addition to Kindle Betz, the group includes six other female members of the Taylor family, making St. Louis the first female majority-owned team in MLS history. Enterprise Holdings executive chairman Andy Taylor is also part of the group.
Reflecting current MLS facility trends, plans for the new St. Louis stadium call for it to anchor a larger redevelopment initiative. According to MLS’s announcement, the new stadium will be the centerpiece of the Downtown West district, an area that will also include mixed-use retail, restaurants, and gathering spaces open to the public on a year-round basis.
St. Louis will be MLS’s 28th team. There are 24 clubs competing in the 2019 season, with Nashville and Miami set to join in 2020, followed by Austin in 2021.
St. Louis’s major sports scene includes MLB’s Cardinals and the NHL’s Blues. The city has been without a third major team since the NFL’s Rams relocated to Los Angeles after the 2015 season.
While St. Louis has been announced, there are still plenty of questions surrounding future MLS expansion slots. We will have a closer look at the situation with our latest MLS Expansion Odds later today.
Rendering courtesy HOK and Snow Kreilich Architects.
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