St. Louis soccer stadium plan sponsor kills funding plan, ball’s in MLS’s court, uh, pitch

Looks like we can downgrade the St. Louis MLS stadium plan’s condition from critical to dead, after the sponsor of a city bill to fund $80 million of the cost said she’s withdrawing the legislation:

“That bill will not be moving forward,” Alderman Christine Ingrassia, 6th Ward, said at Tuesday’s meeting of the aldermanic Ways and Means Committee…

Ingrassia said she wanted SC STL to show a proposal that was at least “revenue neutral” on the city’s budget over time.

“It looked like to me, and in the conversations I had with people who have more expertise in the field of public financing, that they were basically just repackaging the same subsidies in different ways,” Ingrassia said. “So they were asking for way more than I feel like we could support here in the city.”

“Repackaging the same subsidies in different ways”? I’m sure I’ve never heard of anything like that before.

It’s not entirely clear what changed Ingrassia’s mind — you go and sponsor a bill to spend $80 million on a soccer stadium, then turn around and say that this is “way more” than you can support? — but it’s worth noting that after newly elected governor Eric Greitens ruled out state funding as “corporate welfare,” Ingrassia started backing away as well. Elected officials are just so susceptible to peer pressure, you know?

If the soccer stadium plan really is dead, at least in this iteration — Mayor Francis Slay held out hope of still getting a proposal on an April ballot, but time’s running out and there’s now no funding plan at all — it’s worth noting that this would be one of the largest MLS stadium subsidies in history, all for a team that doesn’t actually exist yet. Top-level pro soccer in St. Louis isn’t a bad idea — it’s not a bad idea most places, which is why the league is handing out franchises to just about anyone who asks — but providing a near-record subsidy just so that MLS can get away with charging $150 million expansion fees was a terrible one. This alone won’t change the league’s business model, but maybe if Greitens has started something and a few more prospective expansion cities push back against subsidy demands … friends, they’ll call it a movement?


12 comments on “St. Louis soccer stadium plan sponsor kills funding plan, ball’s in MLS’s court, uh, pitch

  1. if the owners of the so called SC St Louis can’t come up with more $$$, MLS should move on from St Louis…….many other cities have the $$$ to support MLS……..GO SOUNDERS!

  2. Word Salad by a StLtoday writer.

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/benjamin-hochman/hochman-welfare-for-millionaires-no-it-s-about-growth-for/article_dbaf0881-b47e-51c3-a23b-ec9b46b1383a.html

  3. Handing out teams to anyone ? You might be getting MLS mixed up with NHL or even the NFL who have had some real shady owners. So the alderman has decided not to let the voters decide. In mean time a deal is getting hammered out to give the Blues another half billion. Government picking winners and losers.

    • You can say that about the NHL where a third of the league gets some form of operating subsidies along with arena subsidies. Most MLS have not received much or anything in subsidies and seem to be doing OK. Teams that received public moneys were exchange for poor locations or adequate locations where the teams are expected to pay back funds. However it looks like that may not be the case with a couple of the cities looking to get into the league in next few years.

      • MLS is a single-entity structure, with the league paying player salaries directly. Kind of hard to compare that with the NHL’s business plan.

    • Ben, not sure what you’re saying here — if it’s a bad idea without subsidies, why is it a better one with them? Or do you just mean that MLS is a lousy product, but a great method of grifting?

    • I’d argue that without public subsidies at the school , college and pro level the top two sports in this country would have the same level of interest that they enjoy in the rest of the world.

    • I’m just saying it’s a very different structure, so you can’t say “No operating subsidies like the NHL!” and take that as the defining difference.

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