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No public money for a soccer stadium in St. Louis — at least not for now

A rendering of the proposed St. Louis soccer stadium.
Courtesy of HOK
A rendering of the proposed St. Louis soccer stadium.

Public financing for a soccer stadium near Union Station in downtown St. Louis is unlikely to appear on the April ballot.

Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, confirmed Tuesday that she will not move forward legislation that would have asked voters to chip in $80 million in tax revenue for the stadium. The money would have come from an increase in the use tax that would be triggered by a separate measure.

Ingrassia had several reasons for her decision. None of the proposals made financial sense for the city, she said, and she would not ask voters to consider an irresponsible financial package. And she did not hear from the ownership group, SC STL, until Friday, even though the project is in her ward. 

Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, will not bring up a measure that would have provided city funds for a professional soccer stadium.
Credit File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, will not bring up a measure that would have provided city funds for a professional soccer stadium.

"I appreciate the time and attention that the ownership group put into it. Unfortunately, I think there were some key errors they made in respect to engendering community support," Ingrassia said. "It’s not about me having my feelings hurt. It’s more about the whole process here at the board, with respect to the colleagues that I have asking questions and the committee being able to put their opinion in as well at public hearings."

Ingrassia said Mayor Francis Slay's office reached out to SC STL over the weekend to let them know that the public financing request would not move forward. Officials with SC STL said they had not heard from Ingrassia directly and therefore would not comment on her decision.

In his own statement, Slay said it was a great thing that an ownership group was committed to investing in St. Louis.

"We remain committed to working with SC STL to develop a sound financial proposal to put before the voters. That said, we don't yet have an agreement. There are a lot of components that still need to come together, especially support from the State," the statement said.

Other reactions

Gov. Eric Greitens had already come out forcefully against any state dollars for the stadium, and Ingrassia's decision to kill the city's portion had few detractors.

"The legislation regarding the soccer stadium was probably going to be robustly debated even with state funding included as part of the overall deal.  With state money, per our new governor, pretty clearly off the table, the sentiment is there is no way that a viable financing structure can come to be at this time," said board President Lewis Reed, a candidate for mayor.

One of Reed's opponents in March,  Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, said  the move was best for the city.

"My opinion has always been that given our current stadium to-do list, the idea of a new project leap-frogging our current needs is a bad one," he said. "I would love to see soccer in St. Louis, but it needs to be privately funded."

State Sen Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, also applauded the move. 

"“I’m sure they’re going to come back with a different plan at a different time. But at the end of the day, if we are having problems on the state level when it comes to the economy – then now is not the time," Nasheed said.

A spokesman for treasurer Tishaura Jones, also a candidate for mayor, said from her perspective, there's no deal on the table that made sense.  Aldermen Jeffrey Boyd, D-22nd Ward and Lyda Krewson, D-28th Ward, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They are also both running for mayor.

Ingrassia's decision on the MLS funding has no bearing on a separate piece of legislation that would ask voters to boost the sales tax by a half-cent for a variety of economic development measures. It was the corresponding increase in the use tax that voters would have been asked to direct to the soccer stadium.

A public hearing on the sales tax increase is scheduled for 6:30 pm Wednesday at the Nebula co-working space,  3407 S Jefferson Ave. That bill remains on track for the April ballot, though an additional meeting of the Board of Aldermen may be required.

Jason Rosenbaum contributed reporting for this story.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Copyright 2017 St. Louis Public Radio

Shula Neuman is the executive editor at St. Louis Public Radio. She came the station in late 2013 as a subject matter editor, after having worked as an editor for NPR in Washington, D.C. Shula started her journalism career as a general assignment reporter for the Watertown Daily Times and made the switch to radio when she took a job as a reporter/evening newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio. After that, Shula reported on economic development for Cleveland’s public radio station. This is Shula’s second stint with St. Louis Public Radio. She says she just can’t stay away from her hometown because she’s tired of rooting for the Cardinals in absentia. Shula has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University; an Executive M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis; and a bachelor’s from Reed College in Portland, OR. She claims she has no intention of going back to school again.
Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.