MLS stadium tax breaks get first-round approval

MLS stadium tax breaks get first-round approval

CITY HALL – As some aldermen spoke of the wisdom of holding out for a better deal, the Board of Aldermen gave initial approval on Friday to a package of $34.5 million worth of incentives for a $532 million Major League Soccer stadium.

The board voted 26-1 in favor of two redevelopment bills for 34.7 acres on either side of Market Street west of Union Station.

Much of the $150 million for property acquisition would be used to buy about 23.4 acres of Missouri Department of Transportation property that has been used as an exit and entrance to Interstate 64. Construction is set at $242 million and other costs at $140 million. Completion of the 22,500-square-foot stadium is expected by March 2022, in time for that year’s Major League Soccer season.

The bills call for exempting construction materials from sales tax and abating (exempting) the property from real estate taxes on improvements, among other things. 

Sixth Ward Alderwoman Chistine Ingrassia thanked her colleagues who pushed back against an earlier package to get a better deal. They were First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus; Eighth Ward Alderwoman Annie Rice; Ninth Ward Alderman Dan Guenther; 15th Ward Alderwoman Megan Green; and 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro.

“We were the ones who moved this to a much more fiscally responsible project for the city of St. Louis,” Ingrassia said.

The group was committed to providing a prevailing wage and union jobs, Ingrassia said. It also got a commitment that administrative offices and practice fields should be in St. Louis. And the team will own the fields. 

Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed recalled his own connection to the location of the project. 

“As the former alderman of the Sixth Ward, I started working on this piece of ground back in 1999,” said Reed, who is the prime sponsor of the two bills. Aldermen will vote on final passage of the bills at the Feb. 28 meeting. 

 “Today was an exciting day for soccer fans and our city. Over the past 14 months, a collective effort of every branch of government have worked diligently to ensure a great project for the city. We are one vote away from sealing the deal,” Reed said. 

“The ownership group of MLS4THELOU has proven to be outstanding stewards for our community,” he said. “And they are doing the same for this project. It’s going to be a great day when Major League Soccer is played in St. Louis.”

The one person who voted against the bills was Tyus. She said her vote was a protest against the lack of projects for the north side, when downtown and the central corridor get tax breaks for development.

 “My vote is not against the stadium so much, but against the policy of exclusion,” Tyus said. “If the white mayor in Room 200 [the mayor’s office] does not vote for north St. Louis, then I am not voting for anything that comes before us that does not include us.”

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