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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

St. Louis Soccer Stadium Measure Fails; Voters Approve MetroLink Sales Tax Increase

Posted By on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 10:32 PM

A plan to bring Major League Soccer to St. Louis suffered a major setback last night. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • A plan to bring Major League Soccer to St. Louis suffered a major setback last night.

St. Louis voters said no to public dollars for MLS soccer tonight — rejecting a measure that would earmark $50 million in tax revenue to build a new soccer stadium near downtown.

Proposition 2 failed, according to complete but unofficial results, with 52.7 percent of city voters saying no and 47.2 percent saying yes.

The money was sought by a group of businessmen and investors who said it was necessary to land an MLS franchise for the city. But while city voters handily agreed to a tax increase to fund MetroLink expansion, they said no — just barely — to the related measure that would allocate a portion of the increased revenue to the soccer stadium.

The vote was close from the beginning and drew closer as the night wore on. With 54 percent of precincts reporting, soccer backers found themselves within striking distance — 51 percent opposed to to 48 percent in favor. But throughout the night, the "yes" on Prop 2 team never held a lead and ultimately failed to make it over the top; the final tally showed they lost by about 3,300 votes.

To win stadium approval, the ownership group needed "yes" votes on two different propositions on the ballot.

The first, Prop 1, was a sales tax increase to fund a MetroLink expansion, and that won approval with about 60 percent of the vote. Its passage also triggered an increase in a tax that businesses pay on out-of-state purchases.

But the second proposition, Prop 2, would have diverted $50 million of the business use tax to the soccer stadium — money joined with $10 million of TIF money wrested from a portion of Paul McKee's NorthSide development to give the team's owners $60 million in public funds. That needed separate approval, and that's where soccer supporters fell short tonight.

The campaign was hard-fought. Backers of the stadium spent a staggering $1.18 million to persuade voters to say yes to both Prop 1 and Prop 2, according to Missouri Ethics Commission filings. Even Joe Buck weighed in.

While plenty of city leaders declined to campaign for the stadium deal (even the bill's sponsor was officially undecided going into the final full week of the campaign, while the Democratic Party nominee for mayor, Lyda Krewson, said only she was "thinking" of voting yes), outright opposition fell mostly to Treasurer Tishaura Jones and the group of progressive activists who call themselves Team TIF.

A committee affiliated with that group, Friends of Matthew Carroll-Schmidt, reported spending $765 to fly a plane over Busch Stadium on opening day urging "City Services Not Stadiums — Vote No on Prop 2!" That appears to be one of the only few actual expenses incurred in the fight against the stadium; the rest of the work was done on Twitter, through earned media and via word of mouth.

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