Considered an MLS expansion favorite for some time, St. Louis took a significant step forward Thursday evening with the unveiling of an ownership group that plans to launch a club in the the River City. Led by Boston-based investor Paul Edgerley and St. Louis FC owner Jim Kavanaugh, the SC STL group plans to build a $200 million soccer-specific stadium in downtown St. Louis.
The league has had its eyes on St. Louis. The country’s 21st-largest media market is home to a long-standing soccer tradition that goes back to U.S. Open Cup winners in the 1920s and 30s and includes a massive youth and college soccer culture.
“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,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a joint statement. “We have had very productive meetings with lead investor Paul Edgerley and his partners and will continue to do so as they work to bring an expansion team to St. Louis. Their downtown site is the ideal location for a new stadium and we look forward to helping them make it a reality.”
St. Louis's MLS expansion stadium plans
The 24-acre stadium site is just west of the St. Louis Union Station, about one mile from Busch Stadium and 1.5 miles from the Mississippi River. SC STL holds an exclusive option to purchase the land through an agreement with the city. Local architect HOK already has been hired to design the facility, which will be built to accommodate 20,000 fans and eventually could expand to 28,500 seats.
SC STL said it will fund “much of the construction” but also will seek some public money via a popular vote in April. The city and state were ready to commit around $400 million in an attempt to keep the Rams from leaving for Los Angeles.
Edgerley, who hails from Kansas City, most recently was an executive at Bain Capital and is a minority investor in the Boston Celtics. He will be the St. Louis club’s lead owner and chairman. Kavanaugh, the new vice chairman, is the CEO of World Wide Technology and the owner of the city’s USL club, which plays in suburban Fenton.
The SC STL ownership group plans to take over St. Louis FC and the World Wide Technology Soccer Park, which also is home to successful youth club St. Louis Scott Gallagher.
SC STL also includes Kansas City-based investor Terry Matlack and Dave Peacock, the former president of Anheuser-Busch who serves as the chairman of the St. Louis Sports Commission.
There is a second group seeking to secure an MLS team for the city called Foundry St. Louis. Led by CEO Dan Cordes, a former pharmaceutical executive, Foundry reportedly intends to build a stadium west of downtown near Saint Louis University. Not much more is known about the group, and they’re not expected to surpass SC STL.
The MLS Board of Governors is expected to meet in December to begin laying out the official application procedure and timeline for the next round of expansion. The league has pledged to add at least five more teams after Los Angeles FC joins in 2018, including David Beckham’s Miami outfit. Sacramento and St. Louis are the clear leaders for the first two spots.