This is what the new Sacramento Republic FC stadium will look like at downtown railyard
As Sacramento and St. Louis vie for Major League Soccer’s 28th franchise, The Gateway City feels good about its chances, whether a decision is made at Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting in Los Angeles or not.
St. Louis’ push is supported by social media campaigns and it’s being followed closely in a city that lost its NFL team in 2016, when the Rams moved back to Los Angeles.
“The MLS opportunity really isn’t just about the sport,” Andy Taylor, a key investor in St. Louis FC, said last year. “It’s about redevelopment, and being part of the resurgence that is happening in St. Louis. And boy, oh boy, it’s happening, it is for real.”
Those 2018 levels of optimism seem to have faded a bit, at least in the eye of sports media and some of the soccer-loving public.
The phrase “MLS4TheLou” is the branding for St. Louis’ bid, as well as a Twitter handle with more than 8,300 followers and a hashtag trending with increased ferocity as some believe the league could soon make its official decision. An independent St. Louis FC fanclub, “St. Louligans,” is also closely monitoring progress and updates.
A report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday claimed, based on reports by MLS officials and insiders, that the decision is unlikely to be made at this week’s meeting. If that were the case, wrote reporter David Hunn, it “may well be good for St. Louis, loaning the city’s bid – which has in recent weeks fallen behind a crush of news from Sacramento – a few months to catch up.”
How far do fans believe St. Louis’ bid has fallen behind? Some St. Louligans are worried.
Wednesday’s story in the Post-Dispatch documented the roller coaster in stadium news. MLS Commissioner Don Garber in March said St. Louis’ bid had “fantastic and remarkable” corporate support, but warned St. Louis it needed to work toward tangible progress on its stadium and jersey sponsorship deals.
After Republic FC unveiled updated renderings of its potential stadium, MLS4TheLou responded April 10 with a tweet that it would release its first stadium renderings “in the next few weeks.”
St. Louis FC stakeholders had hoped to fund the stadium in part by expanding port authority citywide to make use of an extra 1 percent sales tax at the venue. The port authority bill died when it was not brought up for a vote by the city’s Board of Aldermen on Monday, the final meeting of the board’s 2018-19 session.
Sacramento, meanwhile, has a new billionaire owner in Ron Burkle. Burkle and partner Matt Alvarez have a deal in place that would erect an MLS-ready stadium on a 31-acre plot of land at the long-vacant downtown railyard. MLS officials showered Sacramento with praise after its city council unanimously approved a $33 million incentive package, paving the way for the downtown railyard stadium.
The St. Louis bid has some unique advantages, though. As St. Louis Public Radio reported earlier this month, the bid’s ownership group has a majority of women and is led by Enterprise Holdings Foundation President Carolyn Kindle Betz. No current MLS franchise has a female-majority ownership.
St. Louis also has a rich soccer history.
In response to a reader who’d asked, “Has St. Louis messed up its MLS bid?” Post-Dispatch columnist Ben Frederickson wrote Tuesday: “It’s a competition. Sacramento has gained ground. And the MLS continues to hold its cards close. Some still wonder if MLS might announce the next two expansion teams at the same time. There will be news soon on the STL renderings everyone is dying to see.”
Here’s a sampling of some of the Twitter chatter among St. Louis fans.