ST. LOUIS • A competing group of investors has proposed joining forces with SC STL to construct a $200 million Major League Soccer stadium downtown, but Foundry St. Louis’ offer also comes with pointed criticism of the project.
A letter from Foundry CEO Dan Cordes to the leaders of SC STL, who include former Anheuser-Busch president Dave Peacock and St. Louis FC founder Jim Kavanaugh, proposes that Foundry cover up to $80 million of the construction costs. SC STL is working with city officials to place a tax on the April election ballot to fund approximately 40 percent or less of the stadium’s construction costs.
The Foundry letter was published Monday night in a post by an unknown author on a local sports blog, STL Soccer Report. Cordes confirmed through a spokeswoman that he wrote the letter but didn’t provide additional comment.
In the letter, addressed to Peacock and dated Nov. 23, Cordes said the arrangement would negate a public vote and not put taxpayers on the hook for stadium funding. Cordes did not provide details on how his group would provide the $80 million. His letter also doesn’t address the cost to the city of purchasing the stadium site.
“Foundry’s investment effectively guarantees City of St. Louis receives an expansion franchise under the verbal agreement reached with MLS,” Cordes wrote. “And this commitment ensures St. Louis fans are invested in SC STL, since a portion of Foundry equity is owned ‘in trust’ by St. Louis citizens as a symbolic way of showing Foundry’s dedication to our City and region.”
Representatives of SC STL did not respond to a request for comment on the letter. It’s unclear whether they or anyone at City Hall had heard about the proposal before it was published online late Monday. Several aldermen were listed among those who received copies of the letter, but Mayor Francis Slay was not included.
The letter caused some local soccer fans to take to the internet to accuse Foundry of playing politics with the stadium funding vote.
The letter goes on to talk about poverty and racial inequality in the city, saying repeatedly that the stadium project must include minority-owned businesses in its construction and ongoing operations. It also says Foundry St. Louis was created “to avoid stadium proposals like SC STL made” Nov. 17, when SC STL announced its bid for a team.
SC STL has the support of MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Gov. Jay Nixon, Slay and other prominent sports and business leaders. But several aldermen have been publicly skeptical of the public financing proposal . The 24-acre site west of Union Station is currently owned by the state Department of Transportation.
SC STL said the city would own the stadium under that proposal. Cordes did not say whether Foundry’s offer would change whether the city owns the facility.
Foundry had previously proposed a stadium on a 13-acre site on the northwest corner of Grand Boulevard and Chouteau Avenue. The land is owned by St. Louis University, and officials there were initially receptive to working with either Foundry St. Louis or MLS2STL, which dissolved to become SC STL following the Nov. 17 announcement. “The site at Grand and Chouteau is already primed for construction and does not need to be purchased by taxpayers from taxpayers in order to be developed,” Foundry spokeswoman Jen Crichton said in October.
MLS is in the process of expanding to 28 teams, with a Miami franchise expected to be the next approved . Four other team franchises remain up for grabs, and the league hasn’t set a firm timeline for naming them, a league spokesman has said.
SC STL representatives previously said they would cover the fee of acquiring an MLS expansion team, which league officials have said could be as high as $200 million. The city would be responsible for buying the land for the stadium, which is currently being appraised.