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MLS Expansion: St. Louis setback, Charlotte's dual options
by Paul Kennedy, January 11th, 2017 1:24AM
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TAGS:  mls


Jan. 31 is the deadline for MLS expansion candidates to submit proposals to league. Besides the soccer part -- fan support, past, present and future -- the bidders need investors, most already identified, but they also need to build or expand stadiums, the big ticket item. Here's the latest stadium news from St. Louis, Charlotte, St. Petersburg and Nashville.

ST. LOUIS. First, the state spigot -- a possible $40 million -- was turned off. Now, the city spigot -- $80 million in funding -- has been shut.

SC STL -- promoting the St. Louis MLS expansion bid -- remained optimistic despite the decision of St. Louis alderwoman Christine Ingrassi to withdraw a bill to place a city tax measure on the April ballot for voter approval.

The state and city funding sources would have contributed as much as $120 million to the $200 million cost for the downtown stadium, which has the support of St. Louis mayor Francis Slay -- a former NAIA soccer champion at Quincy.

“We remain committed to working with SC STL to develop a sound financial proposal to put before the voters," Slay said in a statement published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That said, we don’t yet have an agreement. There are a lot of components that still need to come together, especially support from the state.”

SC STL issued a statement that it will continue to work with Slay and Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who opposes the project as "welfare for millionaires," on ways to bring an "exceptional amenity" to St. Louis.

CHARLOTTE. Competing plans -- one at the site of the city's municipal stadium, the other where there used to be a mall -- have been proposed for an MLS stadium.

The first one is at the old Memorial Stadium (Rodney Marsh's stomping grounds with the ASL Carolina Lightnin'). That's favored by some Charlotte council members because of its proximity to restaurants and hotels and location on a streetcar line being built.

Other city council members want the stadium built at the former Eastland Mall site, which Charlotte bought for $13.2 million in 2012 but has been unable to redevelop.

The Charlotte Observer reported that some council members believe the mall site is an "easier sell" to taxpayers. (Hotel tax money would be used to fund the city's contribution to the stadium.)

Speedway Motorsports owner Bruton Smith and his son, Marcus, have been working with the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County on the $150 million public-private project.

TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG. The USL (former NASL) Rowdies have played at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg since 2011. The former baseball stadium will need to be expanded from 7,500 seats to 18,000 stadium for MLS.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards proposes to spend $80 million on the stadium. The project would still need public approval via referendum because of its location on the St. Petersburg waterfront. The referendum on Rays Ballpark the MLB Rays proposed for the same area was withdrawn before going to the voters.

Edwards believes the modest scale of the soccer stadium and accompanying impact (local parking) makes it a better fit for the St. Petersburg waterfront.

NASHVILLE. John Ingram, who has been identified as the lead investor for the Nashville bid, is a longtime supporter of athletics at Vanderbilt University, which could be interested in teaming with the MLS team on a football-soccer stadium.

Metro Nashville is working with the MLS group on negotiating a possible stadium deal. Nashville Business Journal reported that one model is the Nashville Sounds' First Tennessee Park, which was built with bonds that will be paid back in part by lease revenues from the minor-league baseball team.

-- Las Vegas wasn't on the short list of 10 cities MLS commissioner Don Garber mentioned as expansion targets, but it is trying to get back in the game. A sports investment firm -- Inner Circle Sports -- was awarded a contract to come up with an expansion plan (investors and funding).

  1. Kenneth Gough
    commented on: January 11, 2017 at 2:18 p.m.
    Let's hope every one of these cities gets a team and a privately financed stadium. Missouri's governor is right - welfare for millionaires. "Public-private partnership" means the public takes the risk while the private partner takes the profit.
  1. Mark Landefeld
    commented on: January 11, 2017 at 5:54 p.m.
    Isn't the Sacramento facility already ahead of these sites? Their EIR is approved and there funding comes from within the Sac Republic FC ownership group
  1. Glenn Maddock
    commented on: January 12, 2017 at 10:19 p.m.
    San Diego should move to the top of the list now. It's a perfect market with no competition from NFL any more. Also, SDSU has to have a new, small, college football stadium. That's the perfect partner for an MLS group.

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