Monday, April 3, 2017

St. Louis Should Definitely Build a Soccer Stadium

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 6:20 AM

click to enlarge Let's do this, y'all. - SHUTTERSTOCK/EFKS
  • SHUTTERSTOCK/EFKS
  • Let's do this, y'all.
A city’s most important responsibility is providing people with opportunities to watch local sports. St. Louis failed in this duty by losing the Rams. So now we owe the region another pro sports team, which means we have no choice but to publicly finance a new stadium. It’s hard to limit ourselves to just eight reasons why it is a great idea for St. Louis to spend $60 million on a new soccer stadium, but here are eight.

1. We’ve solved all other problems. Our schools are pretty much fixed. Ditto crime, economic development and infrastructure. Can you even think of how we’d spend $60 million in new tax revenue on something other than a soccer stadium? We sure can’t. The only problem left to solve in the city of St. Louis is the one we’ve been talking about ever since the St. Louis Steamers left: Not having a professional soccer team.*

2. It would be a great gift for St. Louis County. When you’re the city of St. Louis and you have the 33rd highest per capita income in the state, it’s hard to pick a gift for a municipality like St. Louis County, which has the second highest per capita income. What if we accidentally get them something they already have? Well, one thing they definitely don’t have is a pro soccer stadium. But we can’t ask them to dedicate any of their own tax dollars, because then it’s not really a gift.

3. We’ll be punching above our weight. Greater St. Louis is the 20th largest city in the country, just behind Denver. But St. Louis city — the only municipality that would be on the hook for the new stadium — is the 60th largest city in the country. We’re right behind Riverside, California. Well, guess what Riverside doesn’t have? Three pro sports teams. In your face, Riverside! St. Louis’ new slogan should be “Riverside might be bigger than us and growing much faster, but we spend more money subsidizing professional sports.”

4. It will drive economic growth. Study after study funded by professional sports teams shows that cities that publicly finance stadiums reap economic benefits. And don’t even talk to us about the independent experts whose studies pretty unanimously disagree, like the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Because you know what we say to that? Nerds. Those economists are a bunch of nerds.

5. It will help arrest our population decline. The population of the city of St. Louis went from around 850,000 in 1950 to about 315,000 today. And, as everyone knows, the kind of flight from cities to suburbs that began in the 1950s is caused by one thing and one thing only: Not enough sports! Admittedly, we’ve tried to lure people back to the city by building Busch Stadium in 1966, then Scottrade Center in 1994, then the Dome in 1995, then another Busch Stadium in 2006. But these efforts failed, because they weren’t for soccer. Why, nearly every day, we meet a St. Charles County resident who says, “I’d love to move to St. Louis City...if only it had a professional soccer team!”

6. It will revitalize neighborhoods. Think of some cities where people live, work and play downtown. What do these places have in common? That’s right: vast urban parking lots and garages that are empty except on game day. I don’t know why, but people just love to open businesses and rent apartments near giant empty parking lots. That’s why building Busch Stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, and the Scottrade Center turned their respective neighborhoods into the bustling retail and residential districts they are today. You probably go shopping in the bustling neighborhoods around Busch Stadium all the time, right? Us too!

7. St. Louis is Soccer. In every St. Louis neighborhood you can think of — from St. Louis Hills to Southampton to The Hill — everyone loves soccer. It’s in our blood, because of our German and Italian and Irish and Polish ancestors. So it’s only fair that everyone in the city chips in to support the sport we all love. But of course, we won’t actually need to chip in because…

8. City residents will pay zero unless they visit the stadium. We can spend $60 million on a new stadium without any residents having to pay, through the magic of new taxes on businesses. But will businesses pass those increases on to their customers by raising prices? No way! They’ll just accept lower profits, because they are dreaming big, about soccer.

Sure, there are skeptics out there who might whine, “The city has a $20 million budget hole. If we raise taxes and use the revenue on a new stadium instead of balancing our books, won’t we just have to raise more money from residents through a different tax or fee, or else risk having our credit downgraded yet again?” That’s a good question, and we would love to answer it for you. But first, we just have to go get something out of our car.

[sound of car peeling away]

* We're sorry if we blindsided you with an emotional sledgehammer by mentioning the dark day we lost the St. Louis Steamers. Or the day we lost the Stars. Or the Storm. Or the Ambush. Or the Steamers again. Boy...when you think about it, we’ve really lost a lot of pro soccer teams over the years! But this time will be different. Believe us.

Editor's note: We updated this story a few hours after publication to remove reference to the Arena. As a reader wisely pointed out, the Arena was built in 1927, not 1977 as we originally asserted. We regret the error.

J.D. and Kate Dobson are humor writers and candlemakers in south city; their book Hottest Heads of State will be published by Henry Holt & Co. in January 2018.


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