St. Louis committee approves more than $100m in subsidies for Blues, MLS, but who’s counting?

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen’s Ways and Means Committee approved bills this week to funnel public money into both renovations of the St. Louis Blues arena and a new MLS stadium. How much money? As is so often the case, that’s a complicated question:

  • In the Blues’ case, the original plan was to demand $67.5 million from the city, mostly in the form of kicked-back sales taxes. (It would add up to $112 million over time, but the present value would only be $67.5 million.) The committee amended the bill to include $55 million in ticket tax revenue — in place of some of the sales tax money, I think, maybe? — but that cash flow wouldn’t start arriving until 2034 since it’s currently being spent elsewhere. And since it’s not a new tax surcharge but just money that otherwise the city could start collecting for other uses in 2034, I’m not going to go through the trouble of firing up Excel to figure out the present value of that, because it’s a subsidy either way. (The Blues owners are still also demanding an additional $70.5 million from the state of Missouri, though given the new governor’s feelings about such things, that may not go so well.)
  • For the proposed St. Louis MLS team, the original plan was for the city to provide $80 million from mumble-mumble-hey-look-over-there, but that bill was withdrawn by its sponsor last month. In its place now is legislation to provide $60 million in city money, mostly from redirected property taxes, but also including a ticket tax surcharge (really payments in lieu of a ticket tax, for reasons not worth going into here) that would provide $7.5 million to $12 million over the next 30 years, and … okay, now I will fire up Excel, and that’s worth: somewhere between $4 million and $7 million now, so not really a big concession on a $60 million get.

The MLS stadium plan, if approved, would go before city voters in an April referendum. The hockey deal for some reason everyone thinks doesn’t require a public vote, though that’s not what the law passed in 2002 says. Hey, Jeanette Mott Oxford, if you’re reading this, any plans to file suit to intervene in this one?

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9 comments on “St. Louis committee approves more than $100m in subsidies for Blues, MLS, but who’s counting?

  1. The Blues sell a lot of tickets and merchandise. Get good TV ratings. Have a good arena and parking deal. And always, always lose a load of money. Of course that description could apply to 20 NHL teams.

  2. From the way the Blues have described their plight in Scottrade Center (asserting that present and past Blues ownership groups have lost $500M while generating $100M in tax revenue for the city), one would think they were a charity. Pretty much the same logic is afoot for the MLS St. Louis would-be stadium.

    Before their Tuesday game, the Blues brought a number of downtown STL bar/restaurant workers onto the ice, purportedly to show folk who benefit from events at Scottrade. The irony is that city tax breaks for the Cardinals’ Ballpark Village just east on Clark Avenue have killed many restaurants within at least a quarter-mile radius. The right hand never seems to know, be allowed to know, or acknowledge what the left hand is doing.

    1. In the baseball case putting small business out of business was always the objective. Besides Public funding at every level of the game they want every penny of disposable income a fan has in their pocket on game day. Look at the Yankees and Redsox. Look at what the Cubs are trying to do in Chicago. Without organic growth they depend on gouging their fans for revenue growth. The Cubs just rewarded their loyal fans with a 20% ticket price hike across the board.

  3. The Blues keep talking about their $500 million of losses for the previous several decades. They probably used expensive accountants to generate those numbers for tax purposes even if they are true. And what are the Blues worth now? What were they worth in the 60s when they started? Of course the entire difference is an untaxed capital gain from retained earnings they refrain from mentioning. And I’d bet a lot of St. Louis businesses have generated $100 million of tax revenue over decades. I hope they lose fans over this

      1. Any tax on tickets drives down the amount that the seller can retain from ticket sales, at least to an extent.

        1. If the tax rate stays the same, and the only difference is the government redirects some of the proceeds, it doesn’t change what the seller can charge.

          That wouldn’t be the case for the MLS deal, but would for the Blues, I believe.

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