St Louis group, US Soccer meet, NWSL bid possible

The Equalizer Staff March 31, 2017 66

SC STL, the ownership group that is bidding to bring a Major League Soccer expansion franchise to St. Louis, held preliminary discussions with US Soccer earlier this week to learn more about NWSL. The group appears to be prepared to pursue an NWSL club as a companion club to an MLS side.

“If our group were to operate an NWSL expansion team, we feel strongly that the team must play downtown in the new stadium along with a companion Major League Soccer team that we hope to be awarded later this year,” Jim Kavanaugh, vice chair of SC STL, said in a press release.

There is a catch though. The group’s stadium deal is dependent on the passing of Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 next Tuesday. Proposition 1 calls for a .5% raise in sales tax and Proposition 2 calls for tax money to be used to fund a new downtown stadium which would be due in 2020. Proposition 2 is fully dependent on Proposition 1 and will not be implemented if Proposition 1 fails.

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“Without a stadium, none of it will happen,” Kavanaugh said. “But, it is fair to say that if we are successful on Tuesday, we will consider next steps as to the potential of bringing NWSL soccer to St. Louis.”

On the MLS side, St. Louis is one of a dozen cities bidding for an expansion franchise. The league is expected to add at least four new teams with two of them to be announced sometime the second half of this year.

“NWSL is proving to be both sustainable and promising,” Dan Flynn, secretary general and CEO of the United States Soccer Federation, said. “We have a number of success stories such as the Portland Thorns, who draw around 16,000 fans per game, and a new television deal and equity partner with A+E Networks. Recalling that our U.S. Women’s national team drew 35,000 fans to downtown St. Louis two years ago, I think an NWSL team in St. Louis would have potential for success in the new stadium.”

St. Louis dabbled in women’s professional soccer before. Saint Louis Athletica was a founding member of WPS. The club was undone by financial ruin and was forced to pull the plug in the middle of its second season. Their demise led to a new mandate that clubs provide escrow payments to assure their ability to fund the following season. No other teams folded during a season but the league was unable to survive.

NWSL has never made any specific statements about expansion plans but outgoing commissioner Jeff Plush has been constantly bullish regarding interest levels from ownership groups around the United States and Canada.

  • guest

    St Louis will care just as little as KC about womens soccer. West Coast, Denver, Vancouver, perhaps Austin TX could be good locations.

    • annie

      I hadn’t thought about Denver but it’s an interesting choice. Outside of California seems like a lot of good soccer players are coming out of the Denver metro area. Young relatively progressive demographic.

      • guest

        Denver, and increasingly Austin, are expensive. Then again, so is all of California.

        • Guesting

          I like Denver. Wonder why they have never actually shown any interest?

          • Steglitz49

            The Avalanches and Broncos are more than enough. Foppa and Ellway rule OK.

      • mockmook

        Progressive means what? Ever more centralized and onerous government? Ever more shrinking of civil discourse, ever more intolerance of other points of view?

        • Lorehead

          Someone’s in a bright and cheery mood this morning!

        • guest

          Oh please. Young people skew liberal. Liberals appreciate women’s sports more. Young people like soccer more than Boomers. It’s a trend I’ve noticed. Portland is a liberal paradise. Maybe you fall outside of the conservative trend since you post here, so more power to you for being a fan of woso.

          • guest2

            “Liberals appreciate women’s sports more.” That’s an awfully thick loaf of baloney, but here goes. In the liberal bastion of Europe, the FAWSL drew an average 1,128 fans to their games last year, while in the very conservative red state of Utah, the BYU soccer team drew 2,957 to college games. Even in the most progressive country in the world, Sweden, you probably can’t get 10 fans out to see the local club, including the GOAT , even though the tickets cannot cost more than $2, and they have the most well-developed public transport system in the world, so there’s no excuse not to attend the games.

          • Lorehead

            Applying American tribalism to Europe is a category error.

          • TsovLoj

            I think the flip side of the coin is that soccer skews white and wealthy in the US, and the primacy of the WNT over club soccer for women means the fanbase for women’s soccer in particular has a nationalist tinge. While there are ties between women’s soccer and the left, it’s pretty trivial to draw cultural ties to the right as well.

          • Steglitz49

            Judging by the composition of WNTs, European teams are more inclusive than the US. So is Canada for that matter.

          • Steglitz49

            Tickets to Swedish WoSo matches are comparatively expensive ranging between $10 to $15. Average attendances in Sweden is higher than in England and Germany. Tickets in England and Germany are considerably cheaper — $5 to $7 — but that is partly because of subsidies from the rich leagues and clubs.

        • Sherman’s March

          It seems ever since 1865 Johnny Reb has hated central (Yankee) government. But Johnny loves the Omnibus Highway Bill, the Pentagon, and communist crop subsidies.

      • guest2

        Ironically, a lot of the growth of the Front Range is due to people fleeing “progressive” California.

        • Lorehead

          Cite? The population of California has increased by five million since the last census. A lot of the growth of Portland has come from California too. To me, that suggests that California’s a big state that a lot of people are moving to and from, not primarily because of politics.

          • Guest

            Taxes and Traffic!!

          • Lorehead

            Traffic and a lack of affordable housing are both problems caused by a lot of people wanting to live in California. It’s likely that people who move from there to a red state are an unrepresentative sample.

    • Terry Lash

      Vancouver and Denver look promising. And, I would add Salt Lake City, where soccer is popular and is more affordable (I think).

    • anon

      St Louis is bigger and a bit more progressive than KC. I don’t think it’s the best choice for an expansion team, though.

      • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

        Isn’t St. Louis shrinking faster than Detroit?

        • anon

          It can’t be doing worse than KC. Every midwest/Rust Belt city is struggling with brain drain

          • TsovLoj

            Minneapolis here, speak for yourself; we’re doing just fine. I swear, people on the coasts think there’s nothing in between but barns, meth labs and abandoned factories. There are large, vibrant cities in Central Time, man.

            I think St. Louis has promise. It’s got a lot of soccer history, and they had huge USWNT attendance the last time the team came through.

          • anon

            I consider Minneapolis to be one of the more stable midwest cities. I’m from Pittsburgh which has undergone somewhat of a revival but the future is still uncertain.

          • Lorehead
          • Lorehead

            Unfortunately, the St. Louis Fed doesn’t have the data for the Kansas City MSA in its handy online graph tool, but its population is growing. It was 2.16 million in 2015, 2.01 million in 2010 when the population of St. Louis was at its lowest, 2.04 million in 2007, before the recession, 1.81 million in 2000 and 1.61 million in 1990. If you plotted those numbers on the graph I posted elsewhere, 2007 is the year I picked to be 100%, and 1990 would be 80% of the 2007 population, 2000 would be 90%, 2010 would be 99%, and 2015 would be 106%.

            That’s about the same growth rate as the national average.

        • Lorehead

          No. It shrunk in the last recession, but less than Detroit, and has been growing since 2010. Detroit has been losing population dramatically for decades, while St. Louis’ long-term trend is upwards. Here’s a graph of the populations of the St. Louis metro area, the county Detroit is in, and the US, scaled as a percentage of their populations at the start of the last recession.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/78326ad5c6b22353ff18b11a23fa8b1cb413a4734310f991fd42b7bb97e47449.png

    • Guesting

      Attendance for KC is not because there is not a market for women’s soccer, but because of the previous owner’s poor stadium locations and ineffective marketing. It didn’t help having to play at three different locations in their first 3 years. In their first year they were able to draw the 2nd best attendance numbers in the league. Another good indicator is how well they did with the two games played at Sporting Park the past two seasons, drawing over 8000 each time. Not at all impressed with the current ownership so not expecting much to change on attendance.

      • Guest

        Glad to see that ownership group go. Too many poor business decisions. Unfortunately, I don’t see much of an improvement with the new ownership. Why they didn’t schedule a few of their games at Sporting Park, at least one where they could have gotten national TV exposure.

    • FlyingSquirrel42

      I grew up in St. Louis and I’d say it’s something of a “soccer town” by American standards. I doubt anything will ever eclipse the St. Louis Cardinals as the city’s first love when it comes to sports, but given the lack of NFL and NBA teams, there ought to be some room in the sports market. The USWNT drew a big crowd there in 2015, and the fact that Sauerbrunn and Chalupny are both from the area added a “hometown” angle to the local coverage. (And to the extent that the stereotype of Europeans as huge soccer fans is legitimate, the large Bosnian community there should help add to the pool of potential ticket-buyers.)

      • TsovLoj

        I’m similarly optimistic for those exact reasons.

        You wonder with the Bosnian connection if they’d be thinking about poaching Vlatko…

        • Steglitz49

          Vlatko is of Macedonian extraction not Bosnian.

  • another guest

    “There is a catch though. The group’s stadium deal is dependent on the passing of Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 next Tuesday. Proposition 1 calls for a .5% raise in sales tax and Proposition 2 calls for tax money to be used to fund a new downtown stadium which would be due in 2020. Proposition 2 is fully dependent on Proposition 1 and will not be implemented if Proposition 1 fails”

    public voting to approve a new tax to fund a stadium – is a rather large catch.

    If public approves tax for stadium
    If MLS selects St Louis for expansion
    If stadium actually gets built
    lot of ifs to get thru before any consideration of also adding NWSL expansion team

    • disqus_hj8dHnhlYK

      If numbers 1 and 3 don’t happen I have a hard time believing number 2 will happen much less an NWSL team landing there.

  • tonysocref

    OT;
    More BS from JE.
    Today she called into camp another 16 year old. Sophia Smith.

  • Bruce

    OT: Rumor mill fodder from Orlando City CEO:

    https://twitter.com/alexleitao/status/847905579267960834

    • DNG

      Not that Marta won’t help but to me they are still a piece or two from a playoff team with her

      • Bruce

        Yea. I’ve got them at 7th without her, 5th with.

    • Lorehead

      Abby’s coming out of retirement! And off the roads in Portland.

    • guest

      Marta can’t save Orlando as long as they have Pressley in their back line.

      • Steglitz49

        Maybe it is another player with an M, like Miyama or Maruyama?

        • TsovLoj

          Maybe they’re just getting a goat.

          • Steglitz49

            Touché!

      • Guest

        Hopefully she will be far down in the pecking order considering they will have Krieger, Monica, Catley, Kennedy, Alleway

  • Ando91881

    For anyone interested, here is a new article about Toyota Park and its business future over the next few years. Article goes into detail about a 100 room Hampton Inn being built a half block away and a couple of restaurants.

    https://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20170331/ISSUE01/170339990/bridgeview-seeks-to-rename-its-debt-ridden-soccer-stadium-toyota-park

    • guest

      article also notes how costly this stadium deal has been for local gov and taxpayers. hopefully, new naming rights deal and hotel etc will produce a better financial deal for the local gov as well as some businesses near stadium

      • Bruce

        It’s hard to imagine any retail business setting up shop nearby. There simply isn’t any other draw to Bridgeview.

        I wonder what the City’s basis of revenue projections were initially. This just seems like a site that was doomed to fail.

        • Lorehead

          Very few stadium deals make money for the city they’re in. Providence Park is one that has: it’s in a good central location and the city struck a harder bargain during the recession. There aren’t the concerts that were expected, but the Thorns have been enough of a success to make up for it. Staples Center in LA, which has multiple teams playing a lot of home games there every year, made money for the city as well. But other than that, not many examples.

          • Bruce

            No argument that most stadiums don’t provide taxpayers with decent ROI. That stated, it’s hard to state just how bad a location Toyota Park is in to serve as a motor of economic development.

            There are virtually no existing commercial storefronts around the stadium, and almost all of the surrounding area is locked in. That rail yard in the image below isn’t going anywhere and the large buildings surrounding the stadium are large, active manufacturing and distribution facilities that are the principal employers in Bridgeview. It’s not an attractive area.

            Add to that the fact that there are no public transport lines from downtown to within a mile of the stadium and it’s a no brainier to say that this site was doomed from the start to be a big loser.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5a83dbf3eaa7736daf8d4f27bb89932546bf70a6ec3a783de465735fb073dad5.png

    • guest2

      “Bridgeview taxpayers are on the hook for $241.2 million in long-term debt,” or about $15,000 for every man, woman, and child, and property taxes doubled between 2009 and 2013. The stadium hosts 75 “major event nights” per year, but that’s not as many as had been expected.

      In an effort to pay off the debt, they’re building a hotel, restaurants, and an indoor soccer pitch nearby. Can anyone say “Christen Press’ practice field”? What about a Christen Press theme park next door, and retail space selling Christen Press-related merchandise? The mind boggles to think of all the possibilities.

      • Bruce

        “The stadium generated $3.6 million in revenue in 2015”

        That’s almost 70 years to pay down the debt even in the unrealistic case when there are no additional costs related to re-financing.

  • Try new markets

    Hey, I want every city to have a team, but why think St. Louis has changed. Its rich soccer tradition has never translated into supporting pro clubs. The same is true of Miami so I don’t get the effort there either.

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    • Bruce

      I haven’t seen any push for Miami. Source?

      • guest

        i think he was referring to the long-rumored mls team in miami which seems to have stalled.

        • Lorehead

          MLS officially says it’s a go, so it’s not a rumor, but David Beckham still does not have a stadium.

          • TsovLoj

            So it’s like, an official rumor.

          • Lorehead

            Not to quibble over word usage here, but this isn’t secret, speculative or word-of-mouth at all. It is an open, confirmed, acknowledged fact that MLS approved a bid, fronted by David Beckham, to start a MLS franchise in Miami. It is also a matter of public record that Beckham has been in negotiations for years to buy land in Miami and build a stadium there. It’s not a rumor. Also, like just about every recent bid to build a soccer-specific stadium in the US with taxpayer money right now, the revenue projections assume a NWSL team that’ll be somewhere between the Pride and the Thorns in popularity, plus a whole bunch of concerts, and maybe a D2 men’s team and Major League Lacrosse. The bill of goods in Indianapolis even expanded the NWSL season from 20 to 30 games a year, or maybe they have a way to sell that many full-price tickets to ten friendlies.

            Now, there’s a lot of doubt that Beckham will actually pull it off. But it’s not a rumor that MLS approved the bid.

          • Steglitz49

            Does Beckham still have that much clout?

            If it was Man City or Barcelona or Bayern Munich backing this bid, it would be a walk in the park.

          • TsovLoj

            I recognize the literal truth of what you’re saying. I just have very little faith it’s going to happen.

          • Lorehead

            Fair enough.

  • USMNTfan4life

    Didnt previous WoSo team, St. Louis Athletica, fail? Why St Louis again…

    • mockmook

      Didn’t the WPS and the WUSA fail? Why try pro woso again?

      • Steglitz49

        Because the USSF has to.

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