MLS4TheLou upgrades stadium ambitions

The ownership group for Major League Soccer’s St. Louis team has upgraded and expanded its vision for the stadium that will house the expansion franchise, stating the new plans “will fuel the renaissance” of the downtown area of the city.

MLS awarded its 28th franchise to St. Louis back in August, with the team set to kick-off in the new stadium in 2022. The owners of the St. Louis club include Enterprise Holdings Foundation president Carolyn Kindle Betz and six other female members of the Taylor family, which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, making it the first female majority-owned club in MLS history, and one of few in professional sports.

In April, MLS4TheLou revealed its initial plans for a stadium, but these have now been substantially revised with yesterday’s (Thursday’s) announcement. The group has been working with both city and state officials, and in partnership with St. Louis-based architecture firm HOK and Julie Snow, co-founder of Snow Kreilich Architects.

The new plans expand the footprint of the proposed stadium site to approximately 30 acres, which is almost all currently undeveloped. Included with the immediate build of the stadium will be a Downtown West District of mixed-use retail, restaurants and gathering spaces that will be open and accessible to city residents and visitors beyond the 17 home games a year.

Seating capacity of the open-air stadium will be 22,500, with ability to expand to 25,000. Every seat will be within 120 feet of the pitch, and the closest 15 feet from the touchline, in an effort to create an intimate atmosphere, while a major entry plaza will serve as a pre-game gathering space for fan processions and post-game celebrations.

MLS4TheLou claims the stadium’s canopy design will provide the most extensive coverage in MLS and will heighten the sound and energy of the fans. The pitch will sit 40 feet below street level, creating what the group claims will be a unique urban footprint and one-of-a-kind MLS fan experience.

“Our vision is to create a district around our proposed MLS stadium that will get people excited to visit Downtown West, not only before and after games, but on non-game days as well,” said Kindle Betz. “We believe this district will not only be the heart of St. Louis soccer, but a special piece of downtown that will fuel the renaissance currently underway.”

The upgraded ambitions for the stadium will reportedly see the project’s price tag rise to over $250m (£193m/€224.4m). As part of the updated proposed stadium plan, the ownership group said it will assume all future risk for the development and own the stadium and practice facility.

The ownership group’s proposal is overwhelmingly privately financed, and the group said it has no intention of requesting citywide tax revenues or tax increment financing (TIF). The group said the city will also receive property tax on lands in which it has not received tax in decades.

Commenting on the new-look plan, MLS commissioner Don Garber said: “Since awarding Major League Soccer’s 28th team to St. Louis in August, it is obvious the MLS4TheLou ownership group has been working hard to create a world-class stadium along with adjacent training fields and team headquarters in a single downtown location, which is unprecedented for MLS.

“While there is work to be completed, we commend all who have been engaged in this process and we believe this comprehensive stadium plan will not only deliver great benefits to St. Louisans for years to come, but also serve as a model for future professional sports teams in the US.”

Images: MLS4TheLou