ST. LOUIS • The hopeful owners of a new Major League Soccer team in St. Louis are prepared to pay for a $250 million downtown stadium in cash, the leader of the ownership group said on Wednesday.
Carolyn Kindle Betz, granddaughter of Enterprise Rent-A-Car founder Jack Taylor and executive director of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, said that the nine-person ownership group had no plans to borrow money to build the 20,000-seat structure.
The league hasn’t told the ownership group — World Wide Technology chief executive Jim Kavanaugh and Enterprise Holdings’ Taylor family — precisely how many spots are left in the league, Betz also said. But she believes St. Louis is in control of its own destiny.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could get a team,” Betz told the Post-Dispatch. “If we can give them that package, with the ownership group secured, the land secured, the community involvement secured, I think that it would be very hard for them to say no to us.”
The financing may set this effort apart. Past proposals aimed to secure larger public funding: The effort to keep the Los Angeles Rams in St. Louis asked for about $400 million from taxpayers; National Football League owners declined and sent the Rams to L.A. And last year’s effort to land an MLS team sought $60 million in city sales taxes; it failed at the polls last April.
The Kavanaugh-Taylor group is asking for tax-dollar help. The city of St. Louis has proposed giving the owners a 50 percent break on ticket taxes, a full tax exemption on stadium construction materials, a $30 million tax break from the state, a 3 percent sales tax on stadium goods, and the free use of land — just west of Union Station on Market Street — for the stadium.
A city development board, the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, could approve some of the incentives Thursday. City aldermen are set to vote on a resolution outlining the deal in coming weeks. And the Missouri Development Finance Board could approve state incentives in December.
But Betz said there were still many unknowns. The league has not discussed a franchise or expansion fee — which could crest $150 million — with the owners, she said.
“I think there’s a lot that would go into that negotiation,” she said. “And I think it’s way too early to tell when that process would start.”
Betz said she wasn’t sure how the ownership group would use a 3 percent stadium sales tax. The tax is a collection of three 1 percent taxes to be collected by three special districts that would affect only stadium sales.
“I do believe some of them could be used to offset the cost for stadium construction,” she said. “But again, they won’t be incurred until we have a stadium built and a team, so it’d be hard for me to speculate now.”
But she said that competition from other cities wasn’t on her radar.
The league has said it is interested in growing to 28 teams and, with the coming additions of Cincinnati, Miami and Nashville, Tenn., has two slots left. Detroit, San Diego, Phoenix, Raleigh, Charlotte and Las Vegas are also reportedly interested.
Betz said the ownership group had toured several MLS stadiums and met with team leaders in Los Angeles, New York and Kansas City. Her group is beginning to think about engineering and stadium design. She said she hoped to get league Commissioner Don Garber to St. Louis for an on-site tour by mid-December.
Betz said she believed St. Louis really needed a soccer team. “I am,” she said on Wednesday, “becoming a big soccer fan.”