Republican Governor-elect Eric Greitens may have thrown a wrench into the future of a sports franchise before even taking office.
Last month, a state board delayed its decision on whether to grant the city of St. Louis’ request for $40 million in tax credits to help finance a downtown soccer stadium after Greitens criticized the plan.
This week in Dellwood, he emphatically announced his policy against releasing the funds.
“To be very clear, I’ve completely ruled state funding for stadiums” said Greitens. “We are not going to use money from the people of the state of Missouri in what I believe is corporate welfare. We’ve got far too many core priorities of government that have to be invested in.”
Before his comments this week, the group planning to bring a Major League Soccer team to St. Louis was hoping to meet with Greitens to secure his support for the funding.
The board which determines whether the tax credits will be granted is made up of appointees by the governor. It was set to approve them before Greitens announced his opposition the day before they met last month.
The board, known as the Missouri Development Finance Board (MDFB), is currently composed of appointees by outgoing Democratic Governor Jay Nixon. Nixon says the issue of the soccer stadium has become political.
“I think people that folks have wedged into a site preparation Missouri Development Finance Board thing and tried to politicize that. I think in St. Louis, it’s really important to redevelop downtown and I would hope that this is a site that’s going to have to be cleaned up. It’s probably going to have to be cleaned up by a MDFB resolution with these exact tools used in the future.”
While ruling out the distribution of state money for stadiums this week, Greitens expressed an interest in obtaining private financing for the project. “I look forward to meeting with the leaders of the MLS project to see if there’s a way for them to bring private sector funding to bring a soccer team to the state of Missouri.”
Major League Soccer, or MLS, has actually had a presence in the state for 21 years with the Sporting Kansas City franchise, which began as a charter member of the league in 1996 under the name Kansas City Wiz.
SC STL, the investment group trying to bring a team to St. Louis, requested the postponement of the Development Finance Board decision last month after Greitens called the plan “nothing more than welfare for millionaires.”
The St. Louis mayor’s office says building the stadium will be difficult without support from the state.
In an email statement to Missourinet, Chief of Staff Mary Ellen Ponder said “We’ve remained committed to working with SC STL to develop a financing plan that makes sense for the City of St. Louis and includes a vote of the people. Having said that, the state of Missouri and Governor-Elect Grietens are critical. It will be tough to get this done without the state’s support.”
As the market with the largest population base of ten cities with groups vying for an MLS expansion team, St. Louis has been considered a favorite to be awarded a franchise.