MLS soccer stadium gets unanimous aldermanic committee support

ST. LOUIS – Another step forward is made to make Major League Soccer a reality in St. Louis as a Board of Aldermen committee passed a stadium proposal but not without scrutiny.

For three hours Wednesday, aldermen on the Housing Urban Development and Zoning Committee questioned the prospective team owners and their aids on the many details of the soccer proposal. They wanted to know how much money the prospective owners were putting into the deal and how much the city would be on the hook for.

Team owners said they'd cover almost the entire $392 million cost to build the stadium, although they won’t have to pay the amusement or real estate tax. And three cents will be added to every dollar spent by fans at the game, which will go to the team.

Some aldermen wanted to know how much it would cost to demolish the yet-to-be-built stadium in 30 years because the city will own it by then.

“Some of that stuff was just meant to distract and it’s sad those things continue to happen,” Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said.

The place was packed with soccer fans; it was standing room only. Everyone who spoke up supported the proposal.

“I have asked countless people in all walks of life tell me the downside of this. 'It’s too good to be true.' 'What am I missing?' The answer is simple there is no downside,” said Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin.

The proposal passed out of committee by a unanimous 8-0 vote.

“…a civic renaissance through a sport--if you will--that caters to the masses. It's all-inclusive. Soccer is a sport for a changing America," said soccer broadcaster Bill McDermott.

It appears the proposal has more than enough votes to pass by the entire board of aldermen when it votes on Friday.

“This could be a tipping impact for downtown, which would have a positive impact on our region's brand and our economy,” said Missy Kelley, the president of Downtown STL Inc.

Karlos Ramirez, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, echoed the sentiment.

"I believe the MLS team and stadium would also create new opportunities for all small businesses to get work here in the city and increase economic development,” he said.

Meanwhile, a SLU law scholar said he believes citizens have the right to vote on the issue, but at the moment he doesn't know of anyone launching a lawsuit to put the matter on the ballot.