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St. Louis Soccer Stadium A Bit Closer To Reality

This rendering shows the interior design of a proposed 22,500-seat soccer stadium that could be built in downtown St. Louis. April 20, 2019
Legislation approving incentives for a proposed soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis has been introuced at the Board of Aldermen.

City support for the Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis took a small step forward Friday, with the introduction of bills outlining the financing and development plans.

“Major League Soccer could be huge for the city of St. Louis,” said Lewis Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the lead sponsor of the two bills. “We know just by the initial matches at Busch Stadium that there’s a huge appetite for Major League Soccer.”

An ownership group led by the Taylor family, which owns Enterprise Holdings, and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh, will cover most of the cost of the more-than-$200 million project, which includes the stadium, team offices and practice fields. Construction equipment is already at the site, which will sit on both sides of Market Street just west of Union Station. They have also agreed to own both the stadium and the land.

But MLS4THELOU is asking for city incentives to cover the cost of improvements to infrastructure like sidewalks. Those incentives include two and possibly three special taxing districts, and a discount on city taxes. The proceeds would be put back into the site.

“What this deal does, which is amazing, is that if you do not attend a game, you do not pay,” Reed said.

The complex has the enthusiastic support of Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward. Her backing is crucial — the project is in her ward, and aldermen often defer to their colleagues on development projects.

“We have a commitment to prevailing wage and union jobs on the site for all the construction workers. We have a commitment that they will be building to LEED specifications, so that’s environmentally friendly. They’re working with Ameren on the possibility of electric charging stations and solar panels, so that would mean clean energy at the site,” Ingrassia said. “But I think most importantly, they will own both the stadium and the site itself. So that really alleviates my concern.”

A previous version of the plan called for the city to own the stadium site. That prompted two aldermen in 2018 to vote against a nonbinding resolution saying the board would work to approve the incentives for the ownership group.

The financing still has a long way to go before becoming a reality. There will be at least one, and possibly more, committee meetings, in which aldermen would hear from both proponents and opponents of the plan. Then the board will have to take two votes in order to send the measures to Mayor Lyda Krewson.

The city is also waiting for approval of state tax credits. A board rejected a $30 million request in December, but Reed said he is confident the ownership group will get what it needs.

“Part of what’s going on there I believe is, there’s an election going on,” he said. “A lot of times some of these things that benefit the city of St. Louis directly aren’t that popular in outstate Missouri.”

MLS4THELOU could not be reached for comment.

Prevailing wage

Also on Friday, Krewson signed legislation that secures higher wages for all skilled workers on major construction projects.

Krewson called the prevailing wage requirement “transformative” and the key to a level playing field. It applies to projects worth more than $1 million that are receiving public money or incentives like tax abatements. Prevailing wages are set by the state Department of Labor.

Alderwoman Sarah Martin, D-11th Ward (right) and labor leaders watch as Mayor Lyda Krewson signs prevailing wage legislation on Feb. 7, 2020.
Credit Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio
Alderwoman Sarah Martin, D-11th Ward (right) and St. Louis labor leaders watch as Mayor Lyda Krewson signs prevailing wage legislation on Friday.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

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