Undead rising from grave

We’re far from Halloween, but some really scary things are already rising from the dead—in particular, the effort to subsidize a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in downtown Saint Louis, which supposedly flat-lined just last week. Now, SC STL, the ownership group pushing for the subsidies, has put a new proposal before Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, who’s sponsoring the deal. Instead of $80 million, SC STL is now asking the city for a ‘mere’ $60 million. Before we accept this as a genuine concession to overburdened taxpayers, a closer look is in order.

The chart below compares the old and new funding proposals.

Funding Proposals from SC STL
Costs
 NewOld
Stadium design/construction$140,000,000$150,000,000
Land/site work$45,000,000$45,000,000
MLS expansion fee$150,000,000$150,000,000
Other costs$0$10,000,000
TOTAL COST$335,000,000$355,000,000
Revenue
SC STL$245,000,000$230,000,000
State of Missouri$30,000,000$45,000,000
City of Saint Louis (via new, dedicated use tax)$60,000,000$80,000,000
TOTAL REVENUE$335,000,000$355,000,000
% Privately funded (expansion fee and stadium)73%65%
% Privately funded (stadium alone)49%39%

Note that the new funding proposal only modestly reduces the level of public funding. While the old proposal was set to be 65% privately-funded, the new proposal is only 73% privately-funded. And when we exclude the MLS expansion fee, the share of private funding has risen to just 49% from a previous 39%.

In short, while the new SC STL proposal has reduced the public cost of their project, it still calls for $90 million in subsidies. Just because spending $125 million in taxpayer money on a stadium was a bad idea, it doesn’t mean spending $90 million is somehow a good idea. Plus, the City’s Budget Director admits the deal as it’s currently crafted could require more money than the new use tax would provide, requiring the city to dip into the general fund.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of it. The new 50-page SC STL proposal was announced less than a week before the city’s Board of Aldermen needs to vote on whether or not to put it before voters. The proposal will be heard by an aldermanic committee once more next Monday morning.

Alderwoman Ingrassia, who’s sponsoring the deal, even admitted she isn’t clear on what’s in the new deal, or if it makes sense. But if our policymakers aren’t clear on legislation that would place a $90 million burden on taxpayers, should they be moving that legislation forward as quickly as the SC STL proposal appears to be?

Many public needs are competing for attention and dollars across the state and in the City of St. Louis especially. Shouldn’t we focus on addressing those needs before spending tens of millions more on corporate welfare?

Graham Renz

About the Author

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Graham Renz
Graham Renz is a policy researcher at the Show-Me Institute.