ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – There were signs Monday that the proposal for a new soccer stadium in St. Louis could be unraveling. Governor-Elect, Eric Greitens said he’d already ruled out state funding. St. Louis Alderwoman, Christine Ingrassia, who’s proposed a sales tax hike for stadium funding, called the team’s ownership group “disrespectful”.
On a day when St. Louis was at the center of the sports world hosting the NHL’s Winter Classic at Busch Stadium with more than 40,000 fans watching an outdoor hockey game in terrible weather, the state’s next governor leaves no doubt about his support of using $40 million in state tax credits to develop the proposed site of a 22,000 seat, $200 million soccer stadium next to Union Station in Downtown St. Louis.
“To be very clear, I’ve completely ruled out state funding for stadiums,” he said. “We are not going to use money from the people of the state of Missouri for what I believe is corporate welfare.”
Greitens takes office in a week.
The State Development Finance Board was scheduled to vote on the issue but delayed the matter at the request of the SC STL ownership group.
With an approved stadium deal, St. Louis is considered a “lock” to get a Major League Soccer team to begin play in 2020.
Ingrassia told Fox 2 her confidence in the stadium plan was fading. She’s proposed putting a sales tax increase before city voters in April to provide up to $80-million in funding for the stadium, which would be in her ward.
“I’m growing increasingly concerned because I have not had a conversation with the ownership group yet, which I find to be exceedingly disappointing and pretty disrespectful considering the proposed site is in the 6th ward…I’m the sponsor of the bill. I need to feel confident.”
The ownership group had yet to produce a detailed stadium funding plan, she said. Her tax bill was just a first step toward negotiating a final deal to put before voters. The deadline to make the April ballot is January 24th.
Still, neither she nor Greitens said the deal was dead.
“I like the idea of a soccer stadium in St. Louis…I’m not willing to send along an irresponsible financial package to my colleagues or to city voters,” Ingrassia said.
“I was elected to put an end to business as usual,” Greitens said. “I do not support welfare for millionaires. I support investing in the core priorities of the people of the state of Missouri. I look forward to meeting with the leaders of the MLS project to see if there’s a way to bring private sector funding to bring a soccer team to the state of Missouri.
“We’ve remained committed to working with SC STL to develop a financing plan that makes sense for the City of St. Louis and includes a vote of the people,” said Mary Ellen Ponder, Chief of Staff for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who supports of the stadium effort. “Having said that, the State of Missouri and Governor-Elect Greitens are critical. It will be tough to get this done without the state’s support.”
Greitens plans to meet with members of the SC STL ownership group this week.