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St. Louis, Please Don’t Miss This Shot


Anyone familiar with the game of soccer knows well the simplicity and the intensity of a penalty kick. Penalty kicks should be the easiest part of soccer. As a shooter, you are tasked with kicking a ball smaller than nine inches in diameter a distance of 12 yards, in order to hit a 192 square foot target. At that distance, with those odds, your only obstacle, a six-foot tall goalkeeper, should be almost a non-factor. The PK ought to be a breeze, a walk in the park; the easiest shot in soccer.

And yet, estimates say that as many as one in four FIFA penalty kicks (or more) are missed. Why is that? Because when every eye in the stadium is on that penalty mark, and the shooter knows that the fate of the game may well rest on his foot, things aren’t so easy anymore. When the pressure is on, even the simplest of tasks can become incredibly difficult.

In my opinion, the St. Louis MLS Stadium Proposal, and the upcoming vote on Propositions 1 and 2, which directly affect it, are sort of like a penalty kick. It looks so simple, like (to borrow a term from another sport) a slam dunk, and yet, the pressure is on.

There can be little doubt (because MLS has effectively said as much) that if these propositions pass, MLS will be coming to St. Louis. That means that the fastest growing sports league in America will be pouring its resources into our town, to build an amazing new experience as it has done most recently in Minneapolis and Atlanta.

But there are challenges. To build the stadium, the MLS2STL group that has proposed it needs roughly $50 million in public support. This is why we need the ballot measures. These propositions are related and inseparable, as far as the stadium is concerned. Here is a quick-and-dirty breakdown:

Proposition 1 proposes a half cent sales tax increase that is projected to generate roughly $20 million per year in new revenue. The bulk of that revenue will go towards creating the north south MetroLink extension (another significant need of the city). IF Prop 1 passes, there will ALSO be a half cent increase in the city use tax, which itself is expected to create $60 million or more in new revenue.

This is where Prop 2 comes in. Proposition 2, if passed, would stipulate that the increased revenue from the use tax be used primarily to pay the public/municipal burden of the new soccer stadium.

Here are a few important things to consider:

  • Proposition 2 will not matter if Proposition 1 does not pass. Prop 1 can stand without Prop 2, but not the reverse. If you want a soccer stadium, you must vote yes for both.
  • A use tax is not a burden for an individual consumer. Use taxes basically tax the use of products that are purchased outside of the city. As St. Louis Alderman Jack Coatar explained to St. Louis Public Radio: “If a business in downtown St. Louis has a product they use that they purchase in Paducah, Kentucky, in lieu of paying sales tax on that product, they pay a use tax.” Moreover, he reiterates: “An increase in sales tax means corresponding increase in the use tax.”
  • Therefore, the direct burden on the consumer of Proposition 2 is nothing. If the sales tax increase for MetroLink passes, the use tax will increase automatically. Proposition 2 only determines the purpose of that use tax revenue, not its existence.

Now that’s the legal information. Consider some financial estimates. The Economic Impact Study produced by Missouri Wonk (a silly name for a serious organization) suggests good news. Two highlights are the roughly 1,000 one time and permanent jobs that will be generated by the project (450 one time, 428 permanent), and, impressively, the $406 million in labor income and $556 million revenue for the City of St. Louis that were estimated over the 30+ years studied. These are undeniable benefits, though, to be fair, some will say that they are exaggerated.

So now we have covered the financial reasons why Props 1 and 2 make sense. And that would be all well and good if this were simply a fiscal and legal issue. Unfortunately, there is much more going on here.

Like a recently jilted lover, who isn’t sure if she’s ready to “get back out there,” the city of St. Louis is still licking fresh wounds. This city is still recovering from betrayal; from the insatiable greed of a sleazy, local conman who swore up and down that he wanted what was best for our city. That man (whose name is well known) and his corporate, NFL henchmen, hatched a plan to stab this city in her back, and did so, moving on to brighter, greener, and richer pastures on a faraway coastland.

As a once-loyal supporter of those St. Louis Rams, believe me, I understand this city’s pain. And I understand our collective hesitance to jump into bed with the next new stadium deal in town. And while it may be cliché to say this will be different, I still have to say: this will be different.

The NFL is a greedy hydra, and like a cancer, it is eager to devour everything in its path, unaware that its greed will eventually kill its host, and in turn, itself. MLS, by contrast, is growing, and eager to invest in and enliven new markets that can expand its exposure. Now, we would be naïve to assume that MLS is not every bit as concerned with its own welfare as is the NFL, but if that is the case, we should be even more impressed that the MLS has shown such unabashed interest in the St. Louis market.

Literally the day after the Rams left St. Louis, I remember seeing MLS share a video on Facebook, asking league managers and owners about their interest in the St. Louis market. To a man, they each said that St. Louis was one of the most historic cities in America for soccer, and that it would be an incredible opportunity for MLS expansion.

So yes, this time is different. With the Rams, we were a city desperate to keep a league that did not want us, at any cost. With SC St. Louis, we would be a city making a small investment (the $50 million in question here is a pittance in comparison to what we would have spent to build a new NFL stadium) to open our city to a league that desperately wants to be here.

If you remain unconvinced, I have one last plea, this time coming from a local soccer legend, Taylor Twellman. In a recent press conference for MLS2STL, Twellman sat in silence for most of an hour as league and ownership officials discussed the fiscal and legal impact of this proposal. But then he was asked a simple question: “why would St. Louis and Major League Soccer be a good fit?” Twellman’s response is passionate and profound, and should rest as the final word on why we must pass Propositions 1 and 2 on Tuesday, April 4th.

St. Louis, the ball is on the penalty mark. The goal is there for the taking. As a County resident, I cannot vote on these issues next Tuesday. But those of you who can have the opportunity to put aside the recent pain of the Rams, to consider the history of soccer in this city, to analyze the financial impact of these propositions, and to make a decision. I sincerely hope that decision is yes. MLS has helped to energize every city it has touched. St. Louis has the opportunity to join that list. Please, go to the polls on Tuesday and make it happen!

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