Missouri governor-elect rules out any funding for MLS stadium in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens is standing firm on his decision to not support state funding for stadiums, including the proposed $200 million soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis.

"To be very clear, I have completely ruled out state funding for stadiums," Greitens said Monday.

Greitens, a Republican, will take office next Monday. His comments make it increasingly unlikely that a request for $40 million in tax credits for the soccer stadium project will be approved.

The investor group SC STL is seeking up to $80 million in city funding, in addition to the state tax credits, in hopes of building a stadium that will attract a Major League Soccer expansion team. A spokesman for SC STL on Tuesday declined immediate comment.

Greitens' hard-line stance cast some doubt about the future of the project.

"I was hoping to get to the point where this proposal made sense for St. Louis, but I'm feeling that less and less," Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ingrassia is sponsoring a bill putting the city's funding share on the April ballot.

Mary Ellen Ponder, chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay, called support from Greitens "critical."

"It will be tough to get this done without the state's support," Ponder said.

Greitens said he still looks forward to meeting with SC STL leaders "to see if there's a way for them to bring private-sector funding to bring a soccer team to the state of Missouri."

"We are not going to use money from the people of the state of Missouri for what I believe is corporate welfare," Greitens said. "We've got far too many core priorities of government that have to be invested in."

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon appointed most of the members of the Missouri Development Finance Board, which was scheduled to approve the tax credits on Dec. 20. Greitens announced his opposition a day before that meeting and SC STL investors asked that the proposal be tabled until they could meet with Greitens and try to sway him.

The 22,000-seat stadium would sit near Union Station. The city would own the stadium and lease it to the MLS franchise for 30 years. SC STL would pay about $80 million of the stadium cost and cover the $150 million MLS expansion fee.

A deadline is approaching. MLS commissioner Don Garber has said the league would name two expansion teams this year, with ownership applications due by the end of January. The new teams would begin play in 2020.

St. Louis moved among the top contenders to join MLS in January when the NFL's Rams decided to move to Los Angeles earlier this year.