Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Would $80 Million Derail MLS Expansion in St. Louis?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: Would $80 Million Derail MLS Expansion in St. Louis?

Article excerpt

It appears that local citizens and sports fans will have to answer the $80 million question while SC St. Louis proceeds as the only expansion effort Major League Soccer considers for the Gateway to the West.

As SC St. Louis makes its pitch for partial public financing for a soccer-specific stadium, team officials will claim that they expect to lose money during the franchise's first few years.

SC St. Louis Chairman Paul Edgerley said Tuesday that MLS expansion here might not be possible if voters don't approve the estimated $80 million needed in public financing to build a $200 million stadium.

"My belief is that without public funding it would be hard to get an MLS franchise in St. Louis, whether it's us or someone else," Edgerley said. "It's the honest truth. I think that where the league is in development, I think economically there needs to be a partnership between the community and whatever ownership group would come in."

According to Forbes, MLS franchises are worth an average of $185 million, with a high of $285 million for the Seattle Sounders. Forbes estimated that only seven MLS teams were valued over $200 million. Sporting Kansas City, which is a close model to what would be expected in St. Louis, was valued at $195 million as the eighth highest MLS team on Forbes' list.

By comparison, Forbes estimated that the average Major League Baseball team is worth $1.3 billion, with a high of $3.4 billion for the Yankees. Forbes estimates the Cardinals' value at $1.6 billion.

MLS has not publicly stated what the expansion fee would be for a St. Louis franchise, but some have estimated it as high as $200 million. That figure seems a tad high considering that Forbes values 13 of the established teams in the 21-year-old league under $200 million.

Nonetheless, Edgerley's ownership group clearly understands what it would cost to pay the expansion fee, build a stadium, fund a roster of players and develop a club infrastructure.

We cannot blame them for asking for public funds. …

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