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St. Louis aldermen advance key MLS stadium bills

St. Louis aldermen advance key MLS stadium bills

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ST. LOUIS — Key legislation needed for the planned Major League Soccer stadium complex on the western edge of downtown advanced Friday at the Board of Aldermen.

The board, voting 26-1 each time, gave preliminary backing to two bills authorizing tax incentives to help fund the project, expected now by ownership to cost from $350 million to $400 million. Final approval is expected next Friday.

“Today was an exciting day for soccer fans and our city,” the bills’ lead sponsor, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, said.

“Over the past 14 months, a collective effort of every branch of government have worked diligently to ensure a great project for the city. We are one vote away from sealing the deal.”

One measure would provide 25 years of property tax abatement on the value of the new construction, saving owners of the city’s new Major League Soccer franchise about $34.5 million.

The other bill authorizes a sales tax exemption for materials used to build the stadium. No estimate has yet been released on what that’s worth.

Plans also call for two separate 1-cent sales taxes on food, drinks, tickets and other items sold at the 22,500-seat stadium. The taxes would be levied by a new community improvement district, which still needs aldermanic approval, and a new transportation development district, which does not.

In addition, ownership is counting on revenues from a third 1-cent sales tax that would be authorized by the city Port Authority.

But aldermen must first expand the authority’s territory to include the stadium site. The three sales taxes together could generate more than $21 million over 25 years.

Some state aid also is expected but the amount has yet to be determined. Most funding, however, will come from the owners, made up of Enterprise Holdings’ Taylor family and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh. The team is expected to begin playing in 2022.

Alderman Christine Ingrassia, D-6th Ward, said the stadium plan is a better deal for taxpayers than one rejected by voters in 2017 when a different set of prospective team owners were involved.

She also said it’s “a much more ... responsible project” than the one endorsed by a nonbinding board resolution for the current ownership group in 2018.

Among the changes the owners agreed to: The team, not the city, will own the stadium, freeing the city from potential upkeep and renovation costs. Team owners also agreed to put their offices and practice fields in the city and to make the stadium energy-efficient, Ingrassia and others said.

Alderman Bret Narayan, D-24th Ward, said the changes show that “we don’t have to take the first deal that comes to us” on such major projects.

The only opponent, Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, said she wasn’t against the stadium but voted “no” in part to protest the lack of major city-funded development in north St. Louis.

“I am not voting for anything that goes downtown (or in the) central corridor ... until we do some stuff in north St. Louis,” she said.

Pay raise passes

Aldermen on Friday passed a pay raise for employees in most city civil service agencies. The annual merit raise will increase to 3% from the current 1.5% for the next two fiscal years beginning in July. In addition, most will get a one-time $1,000 bonus at the end of next month.

Separate pay legislation will cover police and firefighters.

Mark Schlinkmann • 314-340-8265 @markschlinkmann on Twitter mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com

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