The Road for MLS Expansion in St. Louis Takes a Wild Turn
On November 17, 2016, an ownership group known as SC STL revealed an official plan to build a 20,000 seat stadium to lure an expansion MLS franchise to St. Louis. The proposed $200 million stadium would be built west of Union Station and have the capability to expand to 28,000 seats if demand dictated. Per SC STL’s plan, private investors would pay at least 60 percent of the stadium costs. The remaining 40 percent, or around $80 million, would be funded with public money subject to a public vote. The city would own the facility. The concept of using public funds for sports arenas has been an area of hot debate around the country — especially in St. Louis in the aftermath of the departure of the Rams from the city.
The plan took an unexpected turn this week. Enter Foundry St. Louis, a rival ownership group trying to secure MLS expansion in St. Louis. Foundry’s CEO, Dan Cordes, sent a letter to the leadership of SC STL proposing that Foundry would cover the $80 million that SC STL’s plan is depending on public funding to cover. That letter, dated November 23, 2016, was made public on November 28, 2016 by a local sports blog known as “STL Soccer Report.” According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cordes confirmed the authenticity of the letter. There is no mention in the letter where Foundry is getting the funds and it is not clear what type of stake Foundry is seeking for its investment.
On its face, the offer purports to be a blueprint for the rival groups to work together to bring professional soccer to St. Louis without the need for public funding. Cordes writes in his letter, “And this commitment ensures St. Louis fans are invested in SC STL, since a portion of Foundry equity is owned ‘in trust’ by St. Louis citizens as a symbolic way of showing Foundry’s dedication to our City and region.” However, some have seen Foundry’s offer as a play to back into SC STL’s plan by influencing public sentiment. If SC STL rejects Foundry’s plan and continues with their originally proposed plan, their rejection of private funds in lieu of public funds could hurt the public’s perception of SC STL, which may leave a lasting impression before a vote asking for tax payers’ money. To this point, there has been no comment from SC STL.