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Soccer stadium slowdown? State balks on aid to help kick off construction in St. Louis

Soccer stadium slowdown? State balks on aid to help kick off construction in St. Louis

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Planned MLS stadium in St. Louis

The eastern entrance to the MLS stadium looking west from near Chestnut and 20th streets, according to renderings obtained by the Post-Dispatch. The facility is being designed by HOK of St. Louis and Minneapolis-based Julie Snow.

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials are balking at approving $30 million in state aid to help finance the construction of a Major League Soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis.

Without explanation, officials canceled a meeting of the Missouri Development Finance Board set for Tuesday where the first $15 million installment of state tax credits was expected to be voted on.

That appears to put the timeline for construction sought by stadium backers in limbo as city officials scramble to resolve the impasse.

“We’re trying to sort things out,” said Otis Williams, who heads redevelopment efforts for the city. “We’re looking at other options.”

Williams would not elaborate on why Tuesday’s meeting was canceled or why new options are being considered. The director of the development finance board was not available Monday.

The move came as a surprise to the MLS4THELOU Ownership Group.

“The Missouri Development Finance Board did not consult with us in making the decision to cancel the meeting, so we’re not sure why it was canceled,” the group said in a statement to the Post-Dispatch.

The city had asked the board for $15 million in tax credits to help prepare the sprawling downtown site for a 22,500-seat stadium north of Market Street in place of highway ramps, parking lots and private businesses along Olive Street.

Practice fields and other team facilities would be wedged south of Market between 21st and 22nd streets, replacing empty land and highway on- and off-ramps.

St. Louis’ MLS ownership group, led by the Taylor family of Clayton-based rental car giant Enterprise Holdings, wants to get the stadium built in time for the first game in March 2022.

The total price tag for the development is listed at $461 million, meaning most of the project is being financed with private dollars.

The goal of the request was to get $15 million from the state in 2019 and a second installment of the same amount in January 2020.

Splitting the request between two calendar years was viewed as a way to keep the board from going $10 million over its normal tax credit cap, which could have dried up dollars for other projects around the state in 2020.

The request needed the signature of Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Rob Dixon and two other cabinet-level directors.

Spokespersons for Dixon and Gov. Mike Parson did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

But, earlier in December, Dixon told the board that approval had not occurred.

“That has not happened yet,” Dixon said.

Attorneys for the ownership group told the board on Dec. 3 there were no other plans in the works for getting the $30 million if the tax credits were not approved.

Other members of the development finance board expressed excitement about the project during the earlier meeting.

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, a close ally of the governor, called the project “incredible.”

“I think this will be a great success,” he told board members earlier this month.

Another board member, Reuben Shelton, also praised the proposal.

“It’s just amazing,” Shelton said.

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