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Aldermen give final approval to MLS redevelopment bills

CITY HALL – Major League Soccer scored the winning goal in St. Louis on Friday, when the Board of Aldermen gave final approval to redevelopment bills making a half-billion-dollar downtown stadium project.

The bills enabling construction west of Union Station on both sides of Market Street passed 22-1, with only First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus voting no. She has said she’s not against soccer but is voting against the project as a protest against the lack of redevelopment activity in north St. Louis.

“I am just so overwhelmed,” Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said after Friday’s meeting. “We’re happy that we’ve got it all passed.”  He said a number of things made the project possible. 

Among them was the willingness of the ownership group, MLS4THELOU, to work with the city. The ownership group is made up of the Taylor family of Enterprise and the Kavanaugh family of World Wide Technology, both of which are known for their contributions to the community.

In redevelopment projects, aldermen often have to work hard to make a good deal, Reed said. But it wasn’t that way with this one. 

“I know there’s a notion that this team ownership had to be beaten into submission, and we had to force them to make these changes. It was not like that at all,” Reed said. “They said, ‘What works out best?’”

According to figures released early in February, the whole project, including property acquisition, construction and other expenses, will cost $532 million. The bill contains $34.5 million worth of incentives.

The 34.7 acres of the project includes about 23.4 acres of Missouri Department of Transportation property that has been used as an entrance and exit to Interstate 64.

A financial impact report on the project set the fiscal benefit for the city over 20 years at $20.5 million and for the St. Louis Public Schools at $6 million.

The package calls for paying real estate tax on the land of $230,000 a year. There would be no real estate tax on the new construction for 25 years. Fans would pay 1 percent sales taxes for the project for each of three special taxing districts, a Community Improvement District and the St. Louis Port Authority. The boundaries of the port authority would be expanded to include the stadium area.

Reed said much of the credit for the success of the project went to aldermen who voted for Resolution 180. That document, passed in November 2018, set forth a structure the board followed for making a deal.

“It gave an opportunity for the team ownership to apply to [Major League Soccer] to even be awarded a team,” Reed said. 

Reed said that right now, the city got only about $33,000 in taxes for the whole property. He said he had started work on redeveloping the property in 1999, when he represented the Sixth Ward. That’s the ward where the project is situated. 

The 22,500-seat stadium would be ready for a home opener in March 2022.

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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