ST. LOUIS (AP) — The NFL's Rams are gone, and attention in St. Louis now turns to soccer with an ownership group pursuing a Major League Soccer expansion team.
The effort includes plans to build a $200 million stadium downtown that would require millions of dollars in public funding.
The ownership group revealed Thursday is known as SC STL. Paul Edgerley, a partner at the investment firm VantEdge Partners, is lead owner and chairman. Among his partners is Dave Peacock, former president of Anheuser-Busch and a driving force behind the effort last year to build a $1 billion riverfront stadium for the Rams.
The football stadium plan died when the NFL in January approved Rams owner Stan Kroenke's request to move the team to Los Angeles. Since the departure of football, efforts to secure an MLS team have escalated.
The MLS is already adding two new teams to expand to 24 by the end of the decade, and eventually plans to add four more, league spokesman Dan Courtemanche said. St. Louis is among eight markets that have publicly expressed interest in the four additional expansion slots, Courtemanche said. A timetable for when those cities would join the league has not been determined.
Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement that league officials have had "very productive" meetings with Edgerley and his partners.
"With its rich soccer heritage, St. Louis has always been a market of great interest to Major League Soccer and SC STL is the ideal ownership group that will provide St. Louis the best opportunity for a future expansion team," Garber said.
The open-air stadium would have 20,000 seats with the ability to expand to 28,500. It would sit next to St. Louis Union Station and encompass about 24 acres on land near Interstate 64 currently owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The city has an option to buy the site, but the value is still being appraised.
SC STL said it would fund "much" of the stadium construction cost, but St. Louis voters in April would be asked to fund a significant share, up to $80 million, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Specific details on the public portion are still being worked out, but the spokesman for the ownership group, Jim Woodcock, said the stadium will only be built if the league approves a St. Louis team.
Getting it on the ballot is no sure thing. Though the NFL plan was eventually approved by city aldermen, the debate was often contentious. Alderman Sam Moore said at one meeting that some residents live in "Third World" conditions while taxpayers were paying for stadiums. Messages left for Moore on Friday were not immediately returned.
The ownership group said it also will work with the state for financial assistance related to site development and infrastructure.
The stadium would be within about a mile of two other downtown sports venues — baseball's Busch Stadium and the Scottrade Center, home of the NHL's Blues.
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