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St. Louis aldermen throw support behind soccer stadium — now the waiting game begins

St. Louis civic leaders, members of the Taylor family, which owns Enterprise Holdings, and World Wide Technology Jim Kavanaugh announced plans to form a bid to attract a Major League Soccer expansion team in St. Louis. Oct. 9, 2018.
File photo | Melody Walker | St. Louis Public Radio
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has backed the efforts of an ownership group, pictured here with civic leaders on Oct. 9, 2018, to bring a Major League Soccer team to St. Louis.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen on Friday threw its support behind an effort to bring a Major League Soccer team to St. Louis.

A resolution making it clear that the board will work to pass the needed special taxing districts was approved by a 26-2 margin. One alderman was absent.

The board would also be asked to give the ownership group a partial break on the city’s amusement tax. The rest of that tax would be set aside in a fund to cover the costs of renovations and repairs at the proposed stadium west of Union Station.

“The result of today’s Board of Aldermen vote on President Lewis Reed’s resolution was a big win towards us being able to show MLS we have support from the city and the Board of Aldermen on our stadium proposal,” Carolyn Kindle Betz, a member of the ownership group, said in a statement.

The taxing districts and fund will require legislation, and a lease between the ownership group and the city for the use of the stadium must still be negotiated. Reed said work won’t begin on anything unless the MLS expands to St. Louis.

A spokesman said the ownership group will submit its expansion proposal to the league by the end of December. MLS officials did not return a phone call seeking more details on when the league might announce its expansion plans.

Though the ownership — led by members of the Taylor family and Jim Kavanaugh of World Wide Technology — will finance the $390 million stadium privately, the city will own the land on which it sits. That led Alderwoman Megan Green, D-15th Ward, to cast one of two no votes.

“This is a remarkably better deal than was before voters a year and a half ago,” Green said.

“What we are doing here today is as good as this deal is going to get for us. So, the question is, 'Is this as good as we can do?' And I’m not sure that it is.”

She said she would prefer that the stadium be privately owned. Backers of public ownership say it gives the city more flexibility if the team leaves the city in the future. Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, was the other dissenting vote, citing similar concerns.

Reed said private ownership of the stadium could be disastrous.

“Can you imagine where the city would be right now if [Stan] Kroenke owned the Dome?” Reed said, referring to the downtown football stadium where the St. Louis Rams played for 20 seasons. “We’d be sitting here trying to figure out, 'How do we renovate our convention center with an owner that could very well be non-response or non-cooperative?'”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.