Stadium measure's defeat likely ends St. Louis' MLS chances

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2017 5:20 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — For the second time in 16 months, plans for a splashy new downtown St. Louis stadium have fallen by the wayside.

City voters on Tuesday defeated a ballot measure that would have allocated $60 million from a tax increase on businesses toward the construction of a 22,000-seat soccer stadium in the hopes of luring a Major League Soccer expansion team. In January 2016, the NFL rejected plans for a $1 billion football stadium along the Mississippi River, and league owners approved the move of the Rams to Los Angeles.

Failure of the soccer stadium measure, which was defeated by 53 percent to 47 percent margin, will apparently doom St. Louis' chances of becoming a three-sport town again anytime soon.

The new stadium would have near Busch Stadium, home of baseball's Cardinals, and the Scottrade Center, home of the NHL's Blues. SC STL, the group hoping to bring an MLS team to the city, agreed to invest $95 million in the project and cover the league's $150 million expansion fee.

St. Louis appeared to be a heavy favorite among the 12 cities seeking two MLS expansion teams for the 2020 season. But the effort was contingent on approval of public financing, Commissioner Don Garber said at a rally in St. Louis last week.

MLS released a statement late Tuesday calling the vote "a significant setback for the city's expansion opportunity and a loss for the community."

Jim Kavanaugh, vice chairman of SC STL, said the vote "is likely the final stage of our journey." But he said the ownership group owes it to supporters to "step back for a day or two before making an official announcement."

It certainly sounded like the end.

"We wish the outcome would have been different," Kavanaugh said. "This would have been an outstanding project for the future of St. Louis."

Kavanaugh went a step further in an interview with the St. Louis Business Journal, saying the ownership group is likely to disband and end its effort. He didn't immediately reply to a message seeking comment.

SC STL also can't expect any last-minute help from the state of Missouri. Though the state was negotiating for the potential sale or lease of 24 acres of land for the stadium site, Republican Gov. Eric Greitens is a staunch opponent of public funding for stadiums.

"The voters have spoken, and they agree," Parker Briden, the governor's spokesman, wrote Wednesday in an email.