ST. LOUIS • City voters rejected funding for a Major League Soccer stadium on Tuesday but approved a companion ballot measure imposing a half-cent sales tax increase for expanding MetroLink.
The public financing plan for the soccer stadium lost by 3,000 votes, with 47 percent of voters supporting it and 53 percent opposed in final but unofficial results. About 60 percent of voters approved the MetroLink sales tax increase.
Proposition 1 will increase the city sales tax by half a cent on every dollar and put about $12 million a year toward planning and engineering for an 8-mile north-south MetroLink expansion. Proposition 2 would have provided funding toward construction of a 22,000-seat soccer stadium downtown.
Both propositions were needed to pass in order to fund the stadium. The sales tax increase in Prop 1 will generate a corresponding increase in the city's business use tax, expected to be about $4 million a year.
What will be done with that new revenue has yet to be decided, though most business use tax revenue goes toward affordable housing, public safety and building demolitions.
Mayor-elect Lyda Krewson said “there's not a plan in place at this time” for that new money.
“We have a lot of needs in this city,” Krewson said.
MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said the defeat of Proposition 2 was “clearly a significant setback for the city's expansion opportunity and a loss for the community.”
Investor Terry Matlack said Tuesday night, "It's unlikely St. Louis ever gets an MLS team now."
MLS Commissioner Don Garber previously said he was “confident” St. Louis would get an expansion team in the league if the stadium got public financing. The league is expanding from 24 to 28 teams, with two of the new clubs to be announced later this year.
The league's statement didn't rule out St. Louis' expansion bid, but the commissioner also said last week that if the stadium plan was defeated, St. Louis would not get a team. Members of the ownership group, SC STL, have said they don't have another stadium plan if voters reject the public funding option.
St. Louis is one of 12 regions where ownership groups are competing for an expansion franchise. The St. Louis ownership group had offered to pay $95 million for the stadium, as well as any maintenance and operations costs for 30 years, plus a $150 million fee to the MLS for the expansion franchise. Public funding would have totaled $60 million.
The MetroLink expansion, which would not be completed until 2026 or later, would span from Fairground Park in north St. Louis to Cherokee Street in south St. Louis.
City officials estimate Proposition 1 will raise $20 million a year. The amount of new tax revenue over $12 million will go to programs aimed at neighborhood revitalization, workforce development, public safety and infrastructure.
The 8-mile route is seen as the first phase in a potential 31.5-mile city-county MetroLink expansion to the north and south, although St. Louis County has yet to guarantee its participation in the project.
The estimated cost of the comprehensive plan is $2.2 billion and would require a combination of federal, state and local funding, city officials said.
The success of Proposition 1 will push the city's sales tax to one of the highest in the nation at 9.17 cents per dollar.
The stadium proposal was defeated despite investors sinking $1 million into a political campaign to pass it, while facing no organized opposition.
The failure of the stadium financing plan comes a little over a year after the Rams left St. Louis in January 2016. Political observers say that saga, in which local and state officials scrambled to find millions to appease an ownership group determined to move to Los Angeles, left city voters dubious of further public financing plans for sports.
Voter turnout was twice as high for this city general election than four years ago, the last time the mayor's race was on the ballot. Voter turnout was 30 percent, or about 59,000 voters, while in 2013 turnout was 12.5 percent of voters.
Aside from the MetroLink expansion tax, city voters approved only one other proposition on Tuesday's ballot: Proposition C, which amends the city's charter to give city residents preference over non-city residents in securing civil service jobs, passed with more than two-thirds of the vote.
Measures that would have raised property taxes to rehabilitate vacant properties; shift municipal elections to align with state and national elections; and abolish the recorder of deeds office and direct the monetary savings toward police body cameras, all failed.
Joe Holleman, Walker Moskop and Koran Addo of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.