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Soccer stadium, MetroLink tax proposals go to court Thursday

Soccer stadium, MetroLink tax proposals go to court Thursday

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A Circuit Court judge could decide Thursday if St. Louis residents will vote for both a sales tax increase for MetroLink expansion and funding for a new soccer stadium.

A hearing is scheduled at 2 p.m. Thursday in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court as the city seeks an order permitting the two propositions to go on the April 4 ballot. The city is petitioning the court because the Board of Aldermen approved the two bills more than a week after the 10-week deadline to make the ballot.

Judge Michael Mullen will have until Feb. 21 to issue an order to the city Board of Election Commissioners to place the proposals on the ballot. In a court filing Friday, an elections official said the board would not be opposed to such an order.

The half-cent sales tax increase would put about $10 million a year toward the study, planning, federal matching funds and eventual construction of a roughly 8-mile MetroLink expansion stretching from Fairground Park in the north to Cherokee Street on the city’s South Side. City officials have said the project would cost in the neighborhood of $650 million and could break ground in 2023.

The sales tax increase would create a corresponding increase in the city's business use tax, which applies to large out-of-state purchases by local businesses. That new revenue source would fund most of the city's $60 million commitment to a new stadium for a Major League Soccer franchise.

Team owners would put $95 million toward the stadium and cover any cost overruns, shortfalls in city revenue toward its $60 million commitment, and maintenance of the facility over the next 30 years. The league is expected to award two new team franchises later this year, and St. Louis is considered by many observers to be a front-runner.

Ownership groups in 12 cities have applied to MLS for an expansion team. There are four expansion clubs to be awarded, but a timeline for deciding the last two has not been determined.

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