MLS ownership group announces $200 million stadium plans downtown

18 November 2016

Voters could be asked to help pay for a $200 million Major League Soccer stadium as owners look to field a team here by 2020 or 2021.

The ownership group, SC STL, includes former Anheuser-Busch President Dave Peacock and other members of a group known as MLS2STL that began efforts in January to bring professional soccer to St. Louis. The group’s chairman is Paul Edgerley, formerly of Bain Capital and currently a partner at VantEdge Partners, a firm that invests in web-based startups.

Private investors would cover at least 60 percent of the stadium costs, and the facility would be owned by the city of St. Louis, said Jim Kavanaugh, vice chairman of the ownership group and founder of the minor league soccer club St. Louis FC.

Voters could be asked to put $80 million in public money toward a 20,000-seat stadium, not including a potential land purchase west of Union Station. That amount could be lower depending on financial assistance from the state, Kavanaugh said.

The issue could be on the municipal election ballot April 4. Terms of the ballot proposition would have to be vetted by public commissions and ultimately voted on by the Board of Aldermen, the ownership group said.

“That vote would likely need to be taken before being awarded a team,” Kavanaugh said Thursday by phone.

The stadium would sit on 30 acres owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation, north of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) near 22nd Street and just west of Union Station. In September, the city of St. Louis entered a deal with the state for a two-year option to potentially buy the site, although an appraisal is still in the works.

Mayor Francis Slay said in a statement that “this is a moment St. Louis has to seize.”

“I cannot imagine a better stadium setting anywhere in MLS than the one we envision west of Union Station, and I am very appreciative that Commissioner Garber and his staff are willing to work with me and our ownership group to make it happen,” Slay said.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber is supportive of the group, members said, and other league executives have also been involved in discussions for the group to bring a team to St. Louis.

In a prepared statement, Garber said he is pleased with the investment group and that “the possibility for MLS expansion to the city and region is promising.” MLS officials are expected to visit St. Louis in December to discuss the group’s plans further, according to a news release.

“Their downtown site is the ideal location for a new stadium and we look forward to helping them make it a reality,” Garber said in a news release.

Garber’s statements likely mean another hopeful ownership group, Foundry St. Louis, is on the outside looking in as plans develop.

The SC STL ownership group would cover the entire expansion fee MLS charges new teams. It’s not immediately clear what that amount would be, but a league statement released in August said it could be as high as $200 million.

Kavanaugh said the stadium would be built to hold 20,000 but designed in a way that could expand to more than 28,000.

Kavanaugh, a member of the St. Louis Blues ownership group, said it’s possible the investor group could grow over time, specifically to involve more local investors. SC STL did not provide a complete breakdown of its current investors, but Kavanaugh said the commitments are firm and MLS officials have seen the financials.

St. Louis Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority executive director Otis Williams, whose agency negotiated the land purchase option with the state for the stadium site, said a traffic impact study is still being done nearby for a proposed expansion of the interchange at Jefferson Avenue and Highway 40.

The results of that study could affect the group’s stadium plans, but SC STL officials are confident it won’t present hurdles.

SC STL spokesman Jim Woodcock said the soccer stadium would create a downtown corridor of “sports, culture and entertainment” by being near Union Station, the Peabody Opera House, Scottrade Center, Ballpark Village and Busch Stadium, Kiener Plaza and the Gateway Arch.

“The corridor will be completely walkable and accessible by three current Metro Link stations, with more than 1,400 new parking spaces planned for the stadium to complement ample parking options that already exist nearby,” according to a news release from SC STL.

Last May, the potential owners met with Garber and toured stadium site options, which at one point included the riverfront stadium site where a new football stadium for the Rams had been proposed. National Football League team owners voted in January to let the Rams move to Los Angeles.

Other investors with SC STL include:

• Terry Matlack, co-founder of Tortoise Capital Advisors. Matlack also serves on the Kansas City Regional Market Board for US Bank and various Kansas City area boards.

• Bob O’Loughlin, chairman and CEO of Lodging Hospitality Management in St. Louis.

• John Sherman, vice chairman of the Cleveland Indians and former CEO of Inergy LP.

• David Gross-Loh, a managing director at Bain Capital.

• Robert Hermann Jr., whose family is the namesake of college soccer’s Hermann Trophy and whose family name is affixed to the St. Louis University’s on-campus soccer stadium.

• Jim Powers, president and CEO of UniGroup (United Van Lines).

• Steve Maritz, chairman and CEO of Maritz Corp. and a member of the St. Louis Blues ownership group.

• Thomas Roberts, managing director of Summit Partners.