Stadium Finance

The St. Louis Soccer Stadium Scam Goes On Unabated

New information shows just how audacious these clowns really are

Stadium Finance
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Mar 31, 2017 at 12:20 PM ET

Next week, St. Louis residents will head to the voting booth and determine whether or not the city will bequeath $60 million in taxpayer dollars to a consortium of very rich dudes who want to build a soccer stadium.

There’s very little available polling that has been conducted, but a poll from mid-February showed voters still were opposed to a publicly funded stadium by a narrow three-point margin with a big chunk of voters still undecided. It’s worth noting that the pollers used what might appear to be neutral but is actually pro-stadium language.

The pollsters asked if voters would be willing to support a tax on out-of-state business purchases that would go towards the stadium. That is how Proposition 2 works, but it makes it seem as if the money isn’t still coming from the public coffers. (It is.) When asked if they would support building a multipurpose stadium at all, 49 percent opposed and only 34 percent were in favor.

Close race or not, SC STL’s ownership group isn’t taking any chances. They’ve pumped a million dollars—which could have gone towards paying for the stadium, but who’s counting—into an aggressive and often misleading advertising campaign and the creation of a political action committee, AspireSTL. One talking point they’ve been hitting hard is the claim that if the stadium becomes a reality,  the city of St. Louis will net $77 million in tax revenue over the next 30 years. (It will not.)

They’ve also flooded voters’ inboxes and held public rallies, all to gin up support for the measure and threw some spare change towards creating a “community benefits” program. As part of that program SC STL pledged to spend $5 million over the next 20 years to encourage more people to get into soccer, as if those expenditures would benefit anyone but SC STL. Really.

They even hired the chief of staff to exiting Mayor Francis Slay to run their full-bore get-out-the-vote effort, and dragged MLS Commissioner Don Garber down to St. Louis on March 27 to attend a rally and lend his full, vocal support and basically state that a no vote means MLS would tab a different, more-easily suckered city as one of two upcoming expansion teams.

“I’m here because I’d like an MLS team in St. Louis,” said Garber. “But we can’t make that decision until we know whether there is going to be a stadium.”

(One fun fact from Garber’s spiel: he did let slip that when a municipality pays to upgrade the infrastructure, give away the land, or pay for added transportation, it does count as public money being spent on a stadium. Remember that the next time an owner tries to claim he footed the bill all by himself.)

So who are these fine gentleman with enough desposable income to set up a PAC? Jim Kavanaugh has largely served as the public face of SC STL, but the Riverfront Times did some digging and cobbled together a nifty interactive map showing all the bespoke Caucasians who are involved as both owners and investors and the network of businesses they’ve got their tentacles in.

Poring through their portfolio reveals billions in hedge funds, investment firms, oil and natural gas companies, and other sports teams, including the St. Louis Blues, and a serious stake in Bain Capital. And yes, the resulting graphs by Riverfront Times do kind of look like Hydra’s logo!

But the larger point is this:

None of the owners lives or pays taxes in the city of St. Louis, the only jurisdiction directly affected by the passage of propositions 1 and 2.

St. Louis’s proposed 2018 ST budget projects a $20 million shortfall. Earlier this month, Moody’s downgraded the city’s credit rating.