St. Louis’s Hope For Expansion

St. Louis’s Hope For Expansion

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 13, 2007

The hope of professional soccer in St. Louis comes down to a vote in a near by suburb today. St. Louis Soccer United will present a property development proposal to the city of Collinsville, Ill., which includes a state-of-the-art 18,500-seat soccer-specific stadium and urban development with retail, office and residential space.

The hope is to pass the stadium vote and get a team in place for the 2009 season.

“There is no city in the United States that is more deserving of Major League Soccer — and more ready for it — than St. Louis,” said Jeff Cooper, chairman of St. Louis Soccer United. “As important, we’d be the ideal expansion site for MLS with our central location, population base, media market size and passion for soccer at all levels. It’s a perfect marriage, and it’s waiting to happen.”

The team would play in Collinsville, which is located some eight miles east of downtown St. Louis. The 400-acre plot of land that St. Louis Soccer United is looking to develop is nestled within the intersection of Interstates 55-70 (east-west) and Interstate 255 (north-south).

The stadium development is estimated to cost around $100 million, some of which would be paid for by the city of Collinsville. It would take approximately $20 million in bonds sold by the city to get the project rolling. Today, Cooper will officially present St. Louis Soccer United’s plans to the city council, which is then expected to vote on Sept. 10 on the project.

St. Louis has a long been considered as a soccer hotbed. Its a market that Major League Soccer would love to tap into in the country’s heartland. There are many players already in the league who have emerged from St. Louis, and there are some 300,000 youths participating in the game locally now.

In order for the proposed stadium to be ready in time for the 2009 MLS season, Cooper told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that construction would need to begin by this November.
The approval of the stadium plan would make St. Louis a primary candidate for MLS expansion in 2009 or 2010. Many of us soccer bloggers and writers have always stated that getting a soccer stadium in place for a new club is the quickest way to the expansion deal with the MLS. Having a stadium in place is one of the best bargaining chips a potential club can have with the MLS anymore. That’s how Toronto got in this past year, they had a deal for a stadium and it easily helped land a club in the process.

I have to say that St. Louis is more than a capable market for the MLS. I really wish this had been a market that the league originally had gone to back in 1996 when the league had started. This club would instantly have some great rivals in Kansas City and Chicago, something both clubs really need.

The thing is, if this deal passes and the stadium vote goes the way St. Louis Soccer United is hoping, which city will St. Louis knock out for the next expansion club? Would this hurt the Pacific Northwest chances? Or would it ruin the chance of Philly getting a club in the next couple years? It will definitely delay the hopes of one city, that much is for sure.

But either way it is a good deal for the MLS to be in St. Louis if there is a stadium in place for a new club to start in. Plus, look at the stadium designs, not bad really, very European really. I like it.