JEFFERSON CITY — A state board is poised to debate the first round of state aid that will help pay for St. Louis’ Major League Soccer stadium.
In an application submitted to the Missouri Development Finance Board, the city is asking for $15 million in tax credits that will help pay to prepare the sprawling downtown site.
“(T)he project will enable the St. Louis region to reclaim its regional and national reputation as a three-sport, ‘first-class’ city,” the application notes.
The board will meet in a special session Tuesday and could vote on the tax credits at its regular meeting on Dec. 17.
A second application for another $15 million is expected to be submitted next month. Construction could begin as soon as January, the application notes.
Plans calls for construction of 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.
MLS officially awarded the group the 28th team of the growing men’s soccer league in August.
In the application, the city’s redevelopment agency notes that the project will employ an estimated 2,179 workers during the 25-month construction period and provide 636 permanent jobs once the stadium begins operating.
The application notes that the project “will be an amenity to help attract businesses and employees to the city and state.”
“Simply put, MLS fans are the people St. Louis will need to recruit and retain to populate St. Louis’ booming start-up sector, the new, expanded National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and St. Louis’ growing bio tech industry (to name just a few,)” the application says.
“Finally, one of the most important policy objectives achieved by the project is that it will help downtown St. Louis avoid a serious vacant property issue,” the application says. “It will help activate the recently renovated Union Station and the new Ferris wheel and aquarium within.”
Compared to other cities with soccer teams, the St. Louis project will be funded primarily with private dollars. Nearly 90% of the MLS facility in Kansas City, for example, was financed with public money, compared to an estimated 22% for the St. Louis stadium.
Construction also is waiting on a final agreement between the Missouri Department of Transportation and the city. MoDOT owns the highway ramps that will be removed to make room for the massive project; the city plans to acquire the land and sell it to the ownership group.
The application notes that the final three of nine parcels needed to build the facility are close to being acquired.
Though the Taylor-led group would own the stadium, it plans to ask for 25 years of property tax abatement on the value of the stadium development. The MoDOT land is tax-exempt now, but the ownership group plans to pay property taxes on the value of the undeveloped land based on what MoDOT agrees to sell it for.
It also would continue paying existing property taxes based on the current value of several private properties it intends to acquire along Olive Street.
In an attempt to keep the area active beyond the 17 regular-season MLS home games, the owners plan to build the stadium so restaurants and commercial spaces can serve game-day patrons and weekday pedestrians, even when games aren’t going on.
A public plaza with a small soccer field on the eastern end of the stadium offers a more intentional end to the Gateway Mall. The mall now trails off at 21st Street before falling into the highway-ramp hole beneath Market.
“(T)he project will also serve as the anchor for revitalizing an underutilized area of the city, helping to attract new economic activity in an area adjacent to the area occupied by the project,” the application says.