St. Louis Voters Choose Transit Over New Stadium

Residents are on board with an MLS team, but not with shelling out millions for its stadium. 

(Photo by Brian Holsclaw)

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In a Tuesday vote, St. Louis residents opted to direct funds from a tax increase toward public services rather than a privately owned stadium. Voters passed two tax increases, but turned down a proposition that would have funneled one of those taxes toward a new Major League Soccer stadium, St. Louis Public Radio reports.

Proposition 1, which passed with about 60 percent of the vote, puts a half-cent sales tax increase toward expanding public transportation and providing public safety equipment. Another increase on the tax that businesses pay on out-of-state purchases will go toward affordable housing, public safety and public health.

The second proposition, which was rejected by about 53 percent of voters, would have directed the roughly $50 million generated by the second tax and up to $10 million from the sales tax increase toward an MLS stadium.

In rejecting that proposition, voters essentially closed the door on bringing an MLS team to the city. The city is competing with 11 other cities for four MLS expansion franchises.

Supporters of the stadium poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into an ad campaign for the stadium, including visits by national soccer figures and TV and billboard ads.

Opponents spent little money against Proposition 2, but a number of prominent officials and activists vocally opposed the measure, arguing that it shouldn’t be a priority for a city facing economic and public safety issues, and that a team wasn’t likely to benefit lower-income residents or neighborhoods.

While MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who also lobbied hard for Proposition 2, essentially told the city, “no public stadium, no team,” some have questioned whether pouring taxpayer dollars into a stadium is the only path to attracting a team. Alderperson Megan Green pointed out that members of SC STL are all individually wealthy and could have come up with the $60 million themselves. The lead investor of SC STL’s MLS bid, for instance, is Paul Edgerley, former Bain Capital managing director, and the other owners’ backgrounds are also steeped in capital.

“So fans really need to be putting the pressure on them to come forth with the extra $60 million and say ‘we do want this,’” Green says. “We want to see a stadium here. We just don’t want to pay for it off the backs off affordable housing, public safety and public health.”

Voters in San Diego and the Seattle City Council also rejected publicly funding private stadiums recently, pointing to research that shows that stadiums are often a bad deal for cities.

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Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.

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Tags: st. louisstadium welfare

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