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St. Louis takes step closer to MLS


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According to outside sources, St. Louis could now be the 2nd MLS entry in the Western Conference of MLS. At one point, it was expected that Seattle was in the lead, but not anymore. There's even talks that MLS will add 3 more teams by 2010. Perhaps, it is here where Vancouver, Montreal and Seattle stand a good chance of getting an MLS franchise.


St. Louis takes step closer to MLS

Tuesday September 11, 2007

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. (AP) -- A Metro East attorney's push to bring professional soccer to this community has taken a big step forward with the city's plans to negotiate for land on which an 18,500-seat stadium would be built.

The City Council voted 4-1 to formally launch negotiations between the city and Jeff Cooper's St. Louis Soccer United group by agreeing to begin talks on annexing farmland for the stadium, as well as housing and retail development.

The $572.9 million project also calls for 240 hotel rooms, several youth soccer fields and nearly 500,000 square feet of office and retail space.

The city's cost for the project would be an estimated $3 million a year over the next 25 years, though officials believe the project will generate $5.7 million a year. Collinsville would sell $30 million to $35 million in bonds to pay for the project, but the exact amount won't be final until the deal is complete, City Manager Bob Knabel said.

"There has to be a benefit coming back to the community in order for us to do this," he said.

Cooper, who hopes to have a team on the field by 2009, has said the stadium deal would vaporize if he fails to get a team. But Monday's development, he said, "is great news" for Collinsville and area soccer fans.

In casting the lone dissenting vote Monday, Councilwoman Lisa Ciampoli said she wanted more guarantees that Collinsville schools wouldn't be burdened by an influx of students coming from an expected 1,600 homes included in the project. She said she also wanted the city protected in case Cooper doesn't get a team or if the team is sold and leaves town.

"I want the stadium, I really do," she said. "I just want to make sure we're protected."

The city also would help pay for some infrastructure, including roads and water lines, through a tax increment financing district that would collect all new property taxes at the complex and reinvest them in that area.

Taxes in a TIF district typically go back into a specified area and not to the school district, worrying the Collinsville school district that it would gain students from the housing development without accompanying tax funds.

"The use of TIFs to support residential development is bad public policy and unacceptable," said Mike James, a lawyer for the district. "It's unfair to kids, students and taxpayers of the district.

"You're building a soccer stadium on the backs of schoolkids."

Major League Soccer, with 13 teams in the U.S. and Canada, looks to add three more by 2010, spokesman Dan Courtemanche has said recently. San Jose already has been tapped to join the fold next season, leaving St. Louis and 10 other potential markets vying for the other two expansion spots that could be announced by this year's end, Courtemanche said.

One catch: The market must have a soccer-specific stadium or a plan for one, Courtemanche said.

Cooper's group had made a bid for Utah's Real Salt Lake franchise to move that MLS team to St. Louis. But that pursuit was dashed earlier this year when Utah lawmakers approved a financing package that kept the team in Salt Lake City.

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Stadium vote 'sends message' to MLS

By Tom Timmermann


Wednesday, Sep. 12 2007

Late Monday night, after the Collinsville City Council had given the go-ahead

for a massive development project that would include a soccer stadium, Jeff

Cooper was on the phone. The man behind the bid to bring a Major League Soccer

franchise to the St. Louis area called MLS President Mark Abbott, who oversees

business matters such as expansion, to give him the good news.

"Collinsville and our group sent a message tonight,'' Cooper told Abbott.

The stadium approval means Cooper's effort to bring outdoor professional soccer

back to the St. Louis area has entered a new phase, with the last of the major

hurdles cleared. Cooper and the league now have to sort out some financial

issues, but Cooper said Tuesday he is "very confident" the league will give St.

Louis a team, and at this point he doesn't foresee any obstacles. Cooper spoke

with Abbott again Tuesday and will have discussions with him again later this


Cooper said he expects a decision on a team could come in 60 to 90 days, which

on the short side would put the announcement right around the time of the

league's championship game, MLS Cup, on Nov. 18. An expansion team would need

to be approved by the league's board of governors. The St. Louis bid got a

positive reception when members of the board were briefed on it at the All-Star

break. Abbott said that while the Board of Governors could meet by conference

call, a decision as important as expansion would preferably be done in person.

The next scheduled meeting of the board is in conjunction with MLS Cup. If

that's the timing, Cooper believes the team can begin play in 2009.

But before MLS can act, Cooper has to finalize the ownership group, which the

league will have to review and approve. At present, the group consists of just

Cooper and Michael Huyghue, a former NFL executive who runs a sports management

firm. Cooper said he is in discussions with other parties he can't name and "is

slowly adding folks," though he has previously said that even without other

investors, he and Huyghue have enough money to run the team.

St. Louis seems to meet the league's three criteria for an expansion franchise:

  • a committed local owner with resources;
  • a market that has shown support for soccer and professional sports in the
    past and a market that is attractive to corporate America and sponsors;

  • a plan to build a soccer-specific stadium or have a stadium in place.

With a commitment in place for a stadium, St. Louis is at the head of the pack

among markets seeking a team. "It's a very key development, having a stadium,''

Abbott said of the vote. "We're really pleased with the result of last night's

meeting, and we'll continue discussions with Jeff on the ownership side. I

think it will be a process of continuing the positive momentum that resulted

from the vote."

The league has 13 teams and will add a 14th in San Jose next year. Commissioner

Don Garber has said he expects to add a 15th and 16th team by 2010 — Abbott

said the timetable is to announce those teams by the end of the year — and then

hold off on further expansion for a few years. But recently, Garber has said

the league could go to 18 before stopping because of the number of markets — 12

— seeking teams. The league wants to expand in even numbers because of the

scheduling headaches that come with an odd number of teams, which could mean

two in 2009 and two more in 2010.


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In fact guys, I was hoping for Seattle as better choice for the Western Conference. There's so much soccer history in that town. Just today I was watching NASL oldies through YouTube. Seattle was certainly a soccer town during those days. What I'm hoping to happen in these next 7 years is the establishment of the old Northern Pacific rivalry between Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers.

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Honestly, St. Louis is one of the best soccer cities in America. Seattle or Portland would make a good choice too but if St. Louis gets a stadium, they are deserving of a team. Plus, it will create a very good mid west rivalry with Chicago and KC.

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