State board gathers in small, enclosed space to approve St. Louis MLS subsidies

Hey, it’s actual stadium subsidy news! The world may be padlocking its doors as we speak, but the Missouri Development Finance Board did find time to approve $5.7 million worth of tax credits for the expansion St. Louis MLS team‘s new stadium.

The vote was unanimous, with board chair Marie Carmichael saying afterwards, “I feel a lot better about this project. It is certainly more doable.” (The team’s initial request, for $30 million in tax credits, was rejected last December after it was determined that the state was plumb out of tax credits after its next $5.7 million.) Though at least one board member noted the, uh, problematic timing of all this:

Although he voted in favor of the project, board treasurer John Mehner raised concerns about approving the project at a time when the world is focused on battling the coronavirus.

“I’m worried about the optics … and whether this is the exact right time to take action,” said Mehner, who suggested waiting for up to two months to take up action on the tax credits.

There’s also the question of whether the sports world will ever be the same as it was just a couple of weeks ago: Leagues are already looking at returning to play games in empty venues, possibly much smaller ones that could effectively be used as TV studios; this could be the new normal for a long while if predictions are accurate that we’re likely to be on a “roller coaster” of reopenings and reclosings as the virus waxes and wanes over the next year or two.

And then there’s the question of how sports leagues survive the economic hit of canceling most of all of their seasons — while some leagues are sitting on deep reserves of cash, that’s not true for smaller leagues like MLS (and certainly not for minor-league sports). Will the league’s strategy of continued growth underwritten by continued expansion still be viable in a world battered by a months- or years-long economic crash? We’ve seen leagues before that have gone on hiatus because of what seemed like a momentary crisis and then never returned; I’m not especially expecting that for MLS, but there could still be major repercussions for its business model.

In the meantime, I guess take comfort in the fact that at least some business as usual is still going on, even if you can’t go to work or school or the weed store. Sure, it’s the business as usual of tax money being handed over to private enterprise to underwrite their profits, but we’ve gotta cling to whatever normalcy we have now, right?

6 comments on “State board gathers in small, enclosed space to approve St. Louis MLS subsidies

  1. Given how many of the major pro sports are catering towards a more affluent spectator by trading off higher attendance for higher-wealth attendees, I can foresee a future for the NFL that looks a lot like what happened with the Chargers. The teams would play in a smaller stadium, while tickets would be more costly than before. Everyone else can watch on TV. In this scenario, an alliance between pro football (NFL and XFL) and pro soccer would make sense. You can expand the soccer stadiums to 40,000 or so, which will appease the NFL’s desire for its audience while giving additional revenue to the MLS team owners.

    The drawback, of course, is what happens to the NFL stadiums deemed “too large” for the new NFL attendance model? Will these stadiums be demolished, or possibly earmarked for larger (read: Super Bowl, college bowls) events? What about the tax payments going toward NFL stadiums that are “obsolete?” I don’t have an answer or even a thought as to what could happen.

    • Airlines, restauranteurs, hoteliers… take a number, boys.

      I am very interested to see if the present administration actually follows through on it’s “plan” (better make that stated intention/idea) to send $1,000 to every American.

      It would cost approximately $300Bn, of course. Far less than the TARP bailout (roughly 3x the cost). Or the $6-7Tr the Fed printed in the decade or so following the collapse of our bestest bubble since the 1920s to keep this pretend economy afloat.

      I’ll believe it when I see it. And if it does happen, I’d wager it will be accompanied by a much more expensive targetted bailout of America’s wealthiest citizens (what’s another Trillion or two when the debt is already ten percent larger than the entire economy?)

  2. Yes Mr. Mehner, waiting two months (until hospital staff are removing ventilators from 77 yr old patients to install them on 29 yr old patients because they don’t have enough ventilators, or nurses, or beds, or surgical gloves, or masks…) will certainly make it look much better.

    Take a bow.

  3. Seems like now that they’ve got the funding, STL MLS should slow track everything, maybe try and fall at least two years behind schedule. No sense in hiring a bunch of expensive players and building a stadium until people can actually go to games.

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