This is the second of two sports related favorites from 2016. The first was the Cardinal/Cordish proposal for a mixed-use development at Ballpark Village.
The next is the potential for MLS soccer in our fair city. The league is expanding and they indicated that St. Louis is one of the top cities under consideration for a team.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Thursday that Teams 25 and 26 will be announced during the second or third quarter of 2017, at an expansion fee of $150 million each, and begin MLS play by 2020. Teams 27 and 28 will be announced at a later date, at a price delivered in conjunction with the timeline.
The league acknowledged ownership groups from 10 markets have publicly expressed interest in securing an MLS expansion team: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
Interested expansion owners must submit applications by Jan. 31, 2017. After review, a series of in-person meetings will take place during the first and second quarters of 2017.
2017 is going to be a critical year for St. Louis when it comes to this burgeoning sport.
Let me first say, I love sports. Really all sports, but I'm not an MLS soccer fan to date. That would change if we got a team. My kids love soccer. They are into it, they understand it, they play it in the CYC and SLPS. They would beg to go to games just as they do to Blues games.
Secondly, I have had the pleasure of working with people from all around the world. Argentinians, Colombians, Mexicans, Chileans, Belgians, Spaniards and Brazilians, they all have hard core fans. I've never seen such devotion to a team or a sport. It is infectious to be around. It is exhilarating just to be around them and hear them talk about their teams. The chanting, the songs, the colors, the pride...it is like nothing we have here...maybe college football, but Illinois and Missouri aren't those kind of teams.
I think soccer is one of the growth sports for the next century in the U.S. MLS in the most international sport and could help retain and grow our Latino, African and Eastern European populations. I think it could help to attract and retain the next generation of people who will consider living and working in St. Louis.
If any of these owners actually live in St. Louis, I apologize, but my guess is they are County residents who are not being asked for public $ at the city/county level and not expected to own the stadium if the team decides to pull a Arizona Cardinals/Los Angeles Rams move.
Now remember, some of these same well-meaning folks were behind building a second NFL stadium for the Rams. No offense, but they don't understand what people who live in St. Louis need. It is not stadiums, it is $ for schools, neighborhood stabilization, potholes, and cameras, cops, investigators and prosecutors to combat the out of control crime we have to deal with. It's always easier to spend someone else's money.
The group includes St. Louis Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh, prominent hotelier Bob O’Loughlin, UniGroup President Jim Powers, St. Louis Blues CEO Chris Zimmerman and former NFL task force co-chairman Dave Peacock.
Jim Woodcock, global sports co-lead and senior vice president at FleishmanHillard, said the group — which is dubbing itself MLS2STL — came together naturally as several of its members, including Woodcock, began asking about MLS ownership following the departure of the St. Louis Rams. (source)
But the pretty pictures and potential for the city were a bit tarnished by the need for massive adjacent and on-site surface parking lots that are not needed 348 days out of the year, and financial support of public tax money from St. Louis only. No St. Charles, St. Clair, Madison, Jefferson or St. Louis County support has been asked for to date, just good old money bags St. Louis. Yeah right. We are broke and need the money more than any city in the region. But we're supposed to bankroll this thing for 17 professional sports games a year (more if you make the playoffs). The Blues bring 41 games and the Cards bring 81.
Oh, and they want the city to own the stadium. Remember how this works Rams fans? It is not smart investment.
I want MLS soccer here, but we should not be the only city paying for it.
However, I expect in any negotiation the first offer is the one that most benefits the party making the offer. This is how most negotiations work. It is now up to the leaders in the city to pass the napkin back across the table with a better offer.
And hopefully the voters can decide if the public money from St. Louis should go to another sports stadium that we own.
Remember how this played out with the Rams? It is happening again.
As a citizen and voter in St. Louis, I am willing to pitch in some for this team. The terms have to be reasonable and the ratio of public funds should match the wealth of the region. If it does, this could be a great regional effort to bring a popular and growing sport to St. Louis.
The region can play together nicely and bring a team here. St. Louis would be a great location, we just need to not get completely screwed over financially.
It can work, but will it? Look no further than Great Rivers Greenway or the Zoo Museum District to see the amazing things we can do when we pool our resources.
It will be fun to watch it all play out in 2017.
Viva St. Louis.