ST. LOUIS — City aldermen, at long last, began on Friday the process of authorizing the deal — and tax incentives — to build the $461 million Major League Soccer stadium, sports complex and practice field planned west of Union Station.
Aldermen introduced two bills that “begin the process of codifying the deal we put together,” Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, the primary sponsor, told reporters.
“Major League Soccer could be huge for the city of St. Louis,” Reed said. “This brings jobs, this brings revenue, this brings more economic activity downtown.”
The news on Friday also came with a twist: Reed said aldermen might still consider expanding a city authority in order to lock down one more tax incentive.
Aldermen approved a nonbinding resolution outlining the financial plan for the stadium in November 2018, as part of an effort to convince Major League Soccer to award St. Louis an expansion franchise. The franchise was awarded last August.
Among other things, Friday’s legislation calls for two separate 1-cent sales taxes on food, drinks, tickets and other items sold at the stadium. They would be levied by new community improvement and transportation development districts.
“If you do not attend a game, you do not pay” the tax, Reed said.
But city leaders and the ownership group have yet to decide whether also to seek a third 1-cent sales tax at the stadium site through the city Port Authority.
To do that, a separate bill would have to be passed to expand the territory covered by the authority, now limited to the area along the Mississippi River.
Last year, a bill to expand the Port Authority’s turf to include the entire city failed to win board approval amid concerns among some aldermen that the move would cede aldermanic authority citywide over powers such as eminent domain.
On Friday, however, Reed said any new Port Authority expansion bill for the stadium would be limited to the site itself and a narrow area connecting it via the Gateway Mall, along Market Street, to the downtown riverfront.
“It would just come straight down the mall and expand out once it got to the area for the soccer stadium,” he said.
Another unknown, Reed said, is how much in state tax credits are approved for the project.
Gov. Mike Parson’s administration surprised the ownership group in December with its decision not to grant a $30 million request for the stadium project but indicated that a package of state aid closer to $6 million was possible.
Since then, Mayor Lyda Krewson and others have urged state officials to reconsider.
The ownership group, made up of World Wide Technology executive Jim Kavanaugh and Enterprise Holdings’ Taylor family, is funding the bulk of the cost of the project.
Bill Kuehling, an attorney for the group, said that includes $14 million paid to the Missouri Department of Transportation for excess state highway right-of-way on which the stadium will be located. That transaction closed Monday, he said.
The financing plan also calls for 25 years of property tax abatement on the value of the new construction, plus a sales tax exemption for construction materials.
An aldermanic committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the bills.
A co-sponsor, Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, said the deal is better for the city than what was outlined in 2018 — particularly the addition of the team as owners of both the stadium and the site itself, which some believe will shift long-term maintenance costs off the city’s shoulders.