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New life emerges for St. Louis soccer stadium

New life emerges for St. Louis soccer stadium

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ST. LOUIS • The city’s Major League Soccer stadium proposal may have more lives than the average house cat.

About one hour — and millions of dollars in projected new city revenue — made the difference between the death of St. Louis’ Major League Soccer bid at 10 a.m. and its surprising resuscitation at 11 a.m. in the Aldermanic Ways and Means Committee at City Hall.

Next it goes to the full Board of Aldermen for referral to city voters.

The city’s $60 million contribution to the downtown stadium, valued in total between $155 million and $200 million, was first defeated 6-2 on Thursday. Aldermen, attorneys and SC STL team investors rapidly poured out of the room after the vote to negotiate in the mayor’s office.

About an hour later, the bill was amended to include between $12.5 million and $17 million in projected new revenue going into the city’s general fund over 30 years. The measure passed 5-4.

The committee also voted 5-1 to send the MetroLink expansion sales tax proposal to the full board. That plan also allocates money to public safety and neighborhood development.

That sales tax increase, if approved by voters, would trigger the increase in the business use tax that would fund the city’s stadium contribution.

Two weeks ago the soccer proposal before the board sought $80 million for a stadium. The current bill offers the city about $37 million in savings plus new money compared to the original.

The new revenue sources include a 2.5 percent entertainment tax on ticket sales, projected between $7.5 million and $12 million, and $5 million over 30 years to be diverted to the city from a pre-existing tax district that overlaps the site west of Union Station. That tax-increment financing district currently benefits developer Paul McKee’s NorthSide development.

That revenue combined with other sales tax money generated by the future stadium have officials projecting a net gain over 30 years for the city’s investment. A precise projection on overall gains for city revenue from the project wasn’t immediately available Thursday.

Last week, city budget officials said they worried the city wouldn’t see sufficient return from its revenue sources for funding the stadium, which could affect the city’s credit rating. Bill sponsor Alderman Christine Ingrassia, 6th Ward, said the amendments improved the stadium plan from revenue neutral to a net gain for the city over the next 30 years.

Ingrassia also said McKee had been contacted by the city and officials are confident he will sign off on the TIF agreement. “I feel good about that,” Ingrassia said.

The amendments were roughly what Alderman Scott Ogilvie, 24th Ward, told the committee he wanted in the proposal before he voted against the plan on the first vote.

“I like soccer, but my job here today is to look out for the best interest of constituents and my city,” Ogilvie said.

Stadium supporter and committee Chairman Stephen Conway, 8th Ward, voted against the proposal as a legislative tactic to be able to revive it later.

With the amendments, the revised plan passed 5-4, with backing from Ogilvie, Conway, Lewis Reed, Beth Murphy and Joseph Vaccaro. Aldermen Antonio French, Chris Carter, Samuel Moore and Terry Kennedy remained opposed.

“The city drives a hard bargain, but they should,” SC STL executive committee member Dave Peacock said after the second vote.

Moore, of the 4th Ward in north St. Louis, was emphatic in his opposition to the soccer stadium and another proposal for the city to pay for $67.5 million of $138 million in renovations to the Scottrade Center. That proposal was ultimately tabled Thursday for the second time in a week.

“We’re talking about fixing up hockey and soccer stadiums while I’m sick and tired of asking to get help in the Third World America of north St. Louis, Missouri,” said Moore, who brought poster-size photos of blight in his part of the city to demonstrate.

As for the MetroLink sales tax proposal, Moore was the lone opponent, while French, Vaccaro, Ogilvie, Carter and Murphy voted in favor.

Other amendments to the stadium proposal include securing a guarantee from the state that it will help facilitate the project. SC STL officials say the state has communicated a “path forward” on the plan, which may include preparing the land for construction and selling or leasing it to the city.

Another amendment to the soccer stadium proposal prevents the city from using general revenue to pay off the $60 million. If the business use tax increase doesn’t generate enough revenue, team investors would cover the cost.

SC STL also agrees to pay for construction cost overruns and maintenance of the facility over the 30-year lease. Peacock told the aldermen he is “very confident” the team wouldn’t come asking the city for more money at the end of the contract.

About $10 million of the city’s contribution to the stadium would come from its initial half of the TIF district funds. The stadium is projected to generate $20 million in tax revenue over 30 years in McKee’s TIF district, but the new bill would give just $5 million of that to McKee’s development.

Both the stadium and MetroLink ballot proposals could receive a final vote Feb. 3 from the Board of Aldermen. The city would have until Feb. 21 get a court order to put both measures on the April 4 ballot.

The city needs a judge to intervene because the deadline for approving ballot proposals was Jan. 24.

The financing agreement between the city and SC STL will be fine-tuned and possibly voted on by the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, Ingrassia said.

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