MLS commissioner Don Garber plans visit to St. Louis regarding expansion
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber is coming to St. Louis next week to discuss the potential for an expansion team that would play at the NFL stadium planned for the riverfront near the Gateway Arch, the league and leaders of the stadium task force said Wednesday.
Plans call for Garber to meet with business leaders, public officials and members of St. Louis' soccer community on Tuesday. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay are among those who will meet with the commissioner, along with task force co-leaders David Peacock and Robert Blitz.
The day will include an event at Ballpark Village near Busch Stadium, where Garber will speak with fans. The task force asked fans to wear their favorite "soccer colors" to show support.
Maggie Crane, spokeswoman for Slay, called St. Louis a "soccer town." The city has been home to several professional indoor soccer teams while outdoor exhibition games involving professional and international teams have drawn large crowds in recent years. Saint Louis University has won 10 NCAA men's soccer championships, though none since 1973.
"There is such an appetite" for soccer, Crane said. "I think the MLS took notice of that. They've seen the incredible work happening surrounding our stadium."
The St. Louis Rams play in the outdated Edward Jones Dome. Team owner Stan Kroenke is part of a task force planning a new $1.8 billion stadium in suburban Los Angeles, leading to speculation he plans to move the team from St. Louis after next season.
Nixon in November appointed Peacock, a former Anheuser-Busch executive, and Blitz, an attorney, to head the stadium task force, with the goal of a new stadium that would either be home to the Rams or lure another NFL team.
From the outset, the plan has called for a stadium that could also be used for soccer.
The stadium would cost nearly $1 billion and sit along the Mississippi area in what is now a blighted area north of the arch. Funding would be a mix of private public funds, with the NFL team owner and the league expected to pay about $450 million of the total.
The MLS currently has 20 teams, with commitments for four more by 2018. League officials have said they intend to develop additional expansion plans by late this year.