Soccer stadium funding bill will not go to ballot

The public funding for the stadium essentially fell flat on its face Tuesday.

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis residents will not be voting on a bill to use taxpayer dollars to pay for part of a new Major League Soccer stadium this spring, St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia has confirmed.

Board Bill 226 would have put a measure on the April ballot, asking St. Louis voters to approve $80 million worth of city funding to build the $200 million soccer stadium.
 
Ingrassia, the bill's sponsor,  explained why she put a stop to this bill, and perhaps to the hopes of a soccer stadium along with it.

"I think it's been, unfortunately, quite a bit rushed,” she said.  The rush has been to meet the Jan. 24 deadline to put the proposal on the April ballot.  On Jan. 31, expansion franchise applications are due to MLS.

At Tuesday's Ways and Means committee meeting, Ingrassia made it clear she would not move forward with the bill. Her main issue: a dearth of financial information from the ownership group, SC STL.

"My colleagues and I have not seen a full financial proposal,” she explained, “I felt like the level of money that was needed in subsidy was not at a place where I felt comfortable asking voters to decide upon that."

Several aldermen also feel city residents shouldn't be forced to bear the financial burden for a stadium the whole region would enjoy.

"The county executive is not interested in working on soccer at this point in time, and I think Governor Greitens has made it pretty clear that there's no room — at least right now — in his administration for public subsidy at the state level,” said Ingrassia.

5 On Your Side’s Rebecca Sheehan asked, "So it's not looking hopeful for the stadium right now?"

"Right, unfortunately it's not,” answered Ingrassia, “I think it would be great to have an MLS team here, I think it would be an exceptional thing for the city, but not at the financial risk that we would currently have to undertake to move forward."

In response to Ingrassia's accusations about lack of a financial proposal, STL Spokesperson Jim Woodcock stated, "We met with Christine Ingrassia Friday for almost two hours. We followed up with multiple emails of information she requested over the weekend and we left her phone messages yesterday and last night.  She has not called or responded to us,  so until we hear from her directly, it’s hard to respond to statements made in the media."

Meanwhile, Mayor Francis Slay said he remains committed to working with SC STL to develop a sound financial proposal.  He explained, “"We have an ownership group that has committed itself to investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the City of St. Louis to develop a swath of vacant land and bring a Major League Soccer team to our city. That's a great thing for St. Louis and Missouri.”  He added, “I am confident that we will have a clearer picture of soccer's future by week's end."

The move comes after Governor Eric Greitens took a firm stance against using taxpayer dollars toward the stadium, calling it "welfare for millionaires."

MLS reached a verbal agreement with local investors in November to bring an expansion team to St. Louis. The cost of the MLS expansion fee, along with construction of the stadium is estimated at $200 million.

MLS expansion rules say the earliest the team could take the field would be 2020.


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