CHICAGO – Missouri Gov.-elect Eric Greitens threw a wrench into financing plans for a $200 million stadium to house a new St. Louis-based Major League Soccer team this week after announcing his opposition to public subsidies for professional teams.
The comments from the incoming Republican governor stalled consideration of $40 million in state tax credits that were on the Missouri Development Finance Board's Dec. 20 meeting agenda. The credits would go through the Land Clearance for the Redevelopment Authority of the city of St. Louis, which owns the proposed site.
"This project is nothing more than welfare for millionaires," Greitens said Monday. "Right now, because of reckless spending by career politicians, we can't even afford the core functions of government, let alone spend millions on soccer stadiums."
The stadium financing plan relies on the tax credits, which were supported by outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon, and a city contribution of $80 million with the remainder financed by the franchise investor group known as SC STL. The city is planning to ask voters to support its contribution in an April ballot measure.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has proposed placing two tax proposals on the ballot, one to repay borrowing for the stadium and the other to help finance and repay borrowing to expand transit as well as fund in neighborhood development projects, workforce development, and public safety initiatives.
The latter would be financed with a half-cent sales tax increase that could generate $20 million annually. If that's approved, the city's "use" tax would automatically be raised by a half-cent which would generate about $4 million and a portion of those funds would go toward the stadium financing. Voters must agree to allow the use tax to fund the stadium. Final council approval is needed by Jan. 24 to place the items on the April ballot.
The investor group warned in published reports that opposition to public financing for the project could jeopardize efforts to secure one of the expansion spots the soccer league is dangling in front of cities around the country and said it's evaluating its options. The group could seek county subsidies.
MLS has said it would award four franchises in the coming years with applications for the first one to awarded later in 2017 due by the end of the January. Stadium site and financing plans must be included in the application. The St. Louis group unveiled its downtown, 20,000-seat stadium plan on a 24-acre site last month.