After much back and forth and voting twice, Thursday, The Ways and Means Committee passed the Major League Soccer proposal to the full Board of Aldermen after an earlier defeat. The vote was 5-4.
The $60 million proposal for public financing came with two amendments. There is a guarantee that the city would not use general revenue to cover the debt proposed source if a business use tax did not generate enough money to cover it.
The board had been going back and forth on the highly debated bill, a large portion of which was how to better use public money.
"We have more pressing needs," said Alderman Antonio French. "We need more police officers we need more attention to the vacant buildings in our communities so it will be up to the voters but they will be voting on a better deal than we got this morning.”
A deal that not only includes a 2.5 percent entertainment tax but also a half cent tax increase that if approved by voters, would trigger an increase in the business use tax that would fund the city's stadium contribution. Voters will decide whether they want to see money generated from the business use tax to be used toward building a brand new stadium.
"So you and I, the average consumers, do not pay the use tax," said Maggie Crane, with Mayor Francis Slay's office. "In fact, we don't even legally have to ask about the use tax on a ballot, but we are in this case because Mayor Slay is dedicated to letting the people of St. Louis decide whether or not they want a multi-use stadium that would also be home to a future MLS.”
Meanwhile, Dane Watkins, an employee at The Amsterdam Tavern, a restaurant in Tower Grove that caters to the sport, said that while he's a big soccer fan, he's actually on the fence about actually having a stadium in St. Louis.
"If it happens with taxpayer money that's great, but I know that people are very disenfranchised about the whole thing," Watkins said. "Stadiums are not going to generate a ton of long-term growth for cities, what it's going to do is provide an emotional lift."
The stadium proposal could receive a final vote next week from the Board of Aldermen. The city still needs to get a court order to put it on the April 4 ballot since it missed this week's deadline.