St. Louis is premiering into Major League Soccer in March 2022 with a currently-unnamed team. Announced in October 2019, the owners released plans for a new stadium to be built in downtown to house the St. Louis team.
The team is owned by MLS4TheLou, the Taylor family, owners of Enterprise and the Enterprise Center, and CEO of World Wide Technology, Jim Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh’s net worth exceeds $2 billion. Enterprise Holdings’ had a $24.1 billion dollar revenue in 2018.
Soccer fans and St. Louis citizens have questioned why the empty former stadium for the St. Louis Rams was not being fitted for the MLS team. In response, it was reported that the Dome was unfit for housing the MLS team. Retrofitting the Dome for the MLS team would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Building the new state of the art stadium on land used for a major highway will cost $200 million.
Furthermore, St. Louis is slowly undergoing a $100 million renovation of the Enterprise Center, home of the Blues. The Enterprise Center is owned exclusively by St. Louis City, meaning it is paid for entirely by taxes and revenue. The center was built in 1994.
MLS teams are set to host 17-20 regular-season games annually and three exhibition games, meaning the stadium will not be in use by the MLS 342 days a year.
In the documentary Throw a Billion Dollars From the Helicopter premiered at the St. Louis International Film Festival, director Michael Bertin exposed the corruption backing the 21st-century stadium boom. Though the film centered on the politics behind the new baseball stadium in Arlington, Texas, Bertin highlighted the immediate impact of the expanded Cardinals Stadium in St. Louis.
With the expanded stadium, customers and fans increasingly make their purchases in-house instead of outside the venue. With business and revenue given to the stadium, local small-business owners suffered. Bars and restaurants in downtown St. Louis closed.
In most cities, taxpayers pay for multi-million dollar stadiums that profit the wealthy the most. When asked to comment on the stadium plan for MLS4TheLou, Bertin said in a Q&A that the plan “wasn’t too bad.” Bertin elaborated that the owners, instead of taxpayers, were paying for the direct construction of the stadium. However, there are systems in place for the MLS4TheLou owners to keep their money.
Stadiums often get gigantic tax cuts. The St. Louis MLS stadium is no exception. As reported by David Hunn of STL Today:
“[The owners] would also get a full tax exemption on stadium construction materials, free use of land just west of Union Station on Market Street, and as much as a $30 million tax break from the state, according to the documents.”
The ownership group has requested tax exemptions from sales tax for in-house purchases, city amusement taxes, property taxes, construction taxes, and other tax exemptions. The city is losing money in order for billionaires to set up a multi-million dollar stadium nearly void of taxes. The stadium is set to pay property taxes for 25 years. The value of the tax paid for this 25-year period is the value of the land prior to breaking ground. The land is currently a highway ramp surrounded by grass and is owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The value of the land will undoubtedly increase exponentially once the stadium is built.
One of the only taxes paid by billionaires to set up a multimillion dollar stadium that will accumulate millions annually is the 25-years’ worth of a property tax of a highway ramp.
As Bertin alluded, tax evasion for stadium construction isn’t just St. Louis politics, billionaires getting tax cuts is a national phenomenon.
MLS4TheLou has announced that “they will maintain open lines of communication with key civic, community and business leaders to help build a more equitable and vibrant St. Louis.” However, how can a company and a business uplift equity without paying taxes they can afford? City taxes of property, revenue and sales contribute to services that support the city and everyone that lives in it. Tax funds pay for education, transportation, administration, fire departments, the police, and so many other services that citizens depend on. The infrastructure in downtown St. Louis is crumbling. Services are stratified towards the wealthy who have access to private resources. Police are unjustly acting as judge, jury, and executioner to Black citizens. Public education is severely under-funded. A lack of resources exponentially hurts low-income St. Louisans who rely on public services the most.
These services need money to perform better and to keep people alive.
Taxes do not work if people do not pay them and they do not help if the white and wealthy evade them.
MLS4TheLou must do better and pay the “world-class” city that they are set to exist in. It is void of ethic to take wealth from citizens without providing anything in return.
Push MLS4TheLou to pay their taxes. Tweet about it.