Having been burned twice on stadium deals by one version of football, St. Louis wasn’t about to risk another financial disaster on the world’s version of football. The long-awaited stadium vote, which would have brought Major League Soccer to Missouri for the first time since Sporting Kansas City hopped over the state line to Kansas, was defeated on Thursday morning, with 53 percent of voters in the city of St. Louis voting no on Proposition 2. The vote would have allocated $60 million in public funding toward the construction of a new soccer stadium for a proposed MLS expansion franchise.
Without the new stadium, MLS is now likely to bypass St. Louis in favor of one of the other cities that have applied for an expansion franchise, which the league confirmed through a statement that called the vote a “significant setback” for their efforts. The St. Louis stadium vote was done in two parts, with Proposition 1 raising the city’s sales tax by a half-cent and creating a use tax in the city that would mainly be used to fund improvements to the city’s mass transit system. Proposition 2 then proposed to allocate some of that money to a new soccer stadium.
Proposition 1 passed easily, garnering 60 percent of the vote, but Proposition 2 could not get the necessary support from voters in the city despite stadium advocates spending $1 million in support of the St. Louis stadium vote, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The no vote marks the second straight stadium vote to fail after being put before the public, following the unsuccessful attempt of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers to get a new stadium approved in San Diego. The Chargers ultimately relocated to Los Angeles, joining St. Louis’ former NFL team, the Rams, in California’s largest city.
According to the Post-Dispatch, city residents were wary of voting for spending public money on a stadium after what happened with the Rams, who received a far-too-generous deal from St. Louis in 1995 and utilized that to return to Los Angeles in 2016. That move occurred despite St. Louis offering to finance the majority of a stadium that neared $1 billion in proposed costs, dampening the city’s willingness to fund a stadium.
The St. Louis proposal ran directly into that issue, along with the fact that the city would be shouldering the cost of the stadium alone. Unlike most cities, St. Louis is independent of any county, meaning that the costs would be incumbent only on St. Louis proper, leaving the suburbs completely free of responsibility should tax funds not meet projections.
With the St. Louis stadium vote now a failure, MLS is likely to look at other Midwestern opportunities, including Cincinnati and Indianapolis. The decision ensures that MLS will remain one of just two of the five major American sports leagues, along with the NBA, to have no presence in Missouri, as the league left the Show-Me State in 2007 when Sporting Kansas City opted to leave Kansas City, Mo., and pursue a stadium in Kansas City, Kan.
Readers, are you surprised by this decision? Would MLS have worked in St. Louis? Should cities be involved in funding stadiums? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
Commentary by Dan Angell
Photo Courtesy HOK