Prospective Major League Soccer Ownership Group Calls for Competitive Process

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Foundry STL render 2

Will St. Louis become a Major League Soccer city? As the Rams fled, a new group, with surprise – largely the usual suspects – was formed to get the job done. Their self-assigned task? Identify ownership groups and stadium sites, as well as assess funding options and overall viability of an expansion St. Louis MLS franchise.

FoundrySTLNow a prospective ownership group is asking the MLS to conduct a “competitive, sealed-bid process” to evaluate expansion team efforts in the city. In a letter acquired by nextSTL (full text below) and addressed to Mark Abbott, President & Deputy Commissioner of Major League Soccer, the group Foundry Saint Louis makes its case for full consideration of local efforts.

Since the MLStoSTL effort was announced in February, little has been learned. In mid-July we were told a “legitimate ownership group is emerging” and that the city and league had decided on a downtown stadium, with an exact location yet to be determined.

The latest leak of information came last week when we were told that an undisclosed ownership group had narrowed its focus to the 22nd interchange site immediately west of Union Station for a stadium…or that it might consider the north riverfront site, or maybe a site near Saint Louis University. And another possible ownership group was looking near SLU as well.

While MLS2STL was not explicitly formed as an ownership group, it appears that it may be set to select a single ownership group. No one would be surprised if the group points to itself. So there’s been quiet progress, we’re told. That’s understandable. No one should expect direct democracy here.

And yet, it’s been possible to be underwhelmed by even low expectations. The official MLS2STL Twitter account has a total of five Tweets since it was started in February and is following just three others (MLS Works, U.S. Soccer, and Major League Soccer).

Still, regardless of promises and the final financial terms, this about St. Louis, the community, and its soccer fans. This spring MLS commissioner Don Garber stated St. Louis, along with Sacramento, were front runners for an expansion franchise. This is because St. Louis is a viable market, because it’s believe fans will support a team, especially with the Rams gone.

Renderings (top and below) appear to show conceptual stadium design by Foundry Saint Louis:

Foundry STL render 1

Too often in St. Louis we acquiesce to a last name, to a “civic” leader who seemingly disregards, or expresses contempt for the citizenry. Plans are made out of view of the public and then residents, or the Board of Aldermen may get a chance to rubber stamp the effort, or kill it, with nothing in between, no other options.

What if NorthSide, the Arch grounds, or the latest NFL stadium efforts had not been given over to one man? What if there were an effort at broader community engagement? Bringing a new major league sports franchise may seem an unlikely place to start, but it’s as good as any. And if it’s a community connection, a true love of a team that the city and league desire, perhaps a private search for the deepest pockets isn’t the best way to go about it.

This appears to be what Foundry Saint Louis is formally asking of Major League Soccer, that the behind the scenes, take it or leave it, usual suspects way of operating being opened up. That we at least consider that there may be a way forward for a region of 2.8 people that isn’t predetermined, that doesn’t rely so heavily on 0.000003% of the population. That idea is easy to support.

The danger is that Major League Soccer is modeling itself after the National Football League. Community matters less than a single deep pocket owner. Vision, creativity, real civic engagement are all impediments to be brushed aside by a single ready-baked, fully programmed individual vision.

The danger, especially in St. Louis is clear. A franchise rises and falls at the whim of an owner. What is bestowed on the city and its residents and taxpayers is whatever the owner decides. Kroenke and the Rams are clearly front and center, but DeWitt and Ballpark Village shouldn’t be too far out of mind either.

That residents, the fans, those who will ultimately pay for a soccer team, be brought along in the process, that an open-as-possible competitive process be sought and supported, is the promise made possible with this opportunity. But what if those possibilities are whittled down, pre-selected, presented as a fait d’accompli in the St. Louis fashion? The city may get a franchise, but miss out on something greater.

What if another group would have formed a sports medicine research collaborative with a local university? What if another group would have crowdfunded part of the franchise, giving fans the change to be actual owners? What is an ownership group would have invested in transit? What if a serious effort were made to provide space for sports-related startup companies onsite? What if another small group of anointed leaders once again fails to achieve something greater for St. Louis?

Here’s hoping that Major League Soccer and MLS2STL does better. Here’s hoping they make the extra pass and commit to a beautiful process for the beautiful game.

Foundry Saint Louis_MLS letter_Page_1 Foundry Saint Louis_MLS letter_Page_2

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  • Kevin

    Maybe the red and white checkerboard means Purina is involved.

  • Gus

    This group is also an establishment group. They’re just competing with others and trying to look like they are bottom-up. Foundry name makes me think they are tied into the developers of the Ikea adjacent parcel.

    As the poster below pointed out, the Croatian color scheme is terrible for St Louis.

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  • John

    It will be wonderful to have Major League Soccer (MLS) in St. Louis without the taxpayer burden. We can definitely support MLS with the right PRIVATE FUNDING and our strong, solid community of regional sports fans.

    St. Louis deserves a world-class soccer team, especially after the financial devastation left by NFL Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, who should be pursued to return funds to St. Louis taxpayers. As Terry Crouppen said in his Super Bowl TV commercial, “Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.” Stan Kroenke was wrong, and Kroenke will reap what he sowed. Kroenke owes St. Louis an apology and financial restitution.

  • Don

    More community involvement is always better, but there are practical limits. What MLS wants is someone with *very deep* pockets that can guarantee the financial viability of the team in the face of operating losses for several years. Group money without a single very deep pocket in such ventures is less desirable because cracks can develop and the group collapse. People willing to make such a commitment will have certain demands of their own regarding control. In the face of this, when government is asked to be an investor, they need to behave like any wise investor, steel their spine, have firm parameters within which to work and demand any public investment be protected and backstopped. Leaders must walk away from a bad deal. We sold our soul to get the Rams with a deal that didn’t protect the public investment. The Rams got an out clause that should have never been agreed to without an exit fee to retire stadium debt. This happens when people become desperate for a deal. So today we’re paying for a stadium to house a team located in Los Angeles.

    I very badly want an MLS team playing in a new soccer stadium in the city and I understand a public investment will be necessary but that investment must be guaranteed by serious long term commitments and penalties for non-compliance. No freebies on the public dime. We’ve lived this long without an MLS team, and will survive without one in the future.

  • Roger Wilco

    I don’t think that crest would go over well in St. Louis…

    • Will M

      I disagree. The logo would probably go over well, maybe a fluer de lis instead of a soccer ball. The name “foundry” tho? idk about that. not awful, definitely unique, certainly odd. Makes me think there is some association with the city foundry project, perhaps geographic preference for a stadium nearby? Like the land just north of Pevely or something

      • dr

        Thinking maybe Roger was referencing the similarity to the Croatian flag in a heavily Bosnian area?

    • m

      Love the crest! Reminds me of Croatia. Anything without the stars and strips. Also, instead of a star in the middle, put a fleur-de-lys.

  • Zorro

    That’s not the official Twitter. Do some research.

    • DCWind

      Instead of chastising someone for providing incorrect information and leaving it at that (especially an insignificant piece of information at that), it would be both helpful and considerate if you would note the inaccuracy and then provide the correct information or a method by which to correct the mis-information.

      Complaining about the problem and providing no helpful, relevant or alternative information is all too common and easy, and worse, it nearly always pulls focus away from the main idea being presented. In this case, the article is about how an organization has an opportunity to bring to St. Louis not just a new MLS franchise, but the kind of civic partner that could really make a difference within the city, all while fostering a tighter knit, constructive relationship with the potential MLS and the franchise ownership group. The article is not about MLS2STL’s twitter account. Let’s try gratitude and constructive criticism first, not disdain and finger-pointing.

      • Zach

        It seems like you’re the one chastising and complaining here…

        • DCWind

          Dually noted…my effort was only to provide commentary on how to keep comments both relevant and constructive. To me, Zorro’s comment was neither.

      • Gus

        If someone posts an article about this issue, the research is up to them. Could have easily tweeted the account to find out more

    • Alex Ihnen

      You’re right. It’s been corrected.

  • David

    It is a nice thought, but when you get together people to put in between $120 and 200 million in a business venture there is only so much community control that will occur. The city can certainly demand things for approval and all the other requirements, but the city wants the revenue too as we have seen.

    So, appealing to MLS to ask them to require more community involvement is one way to go about it I guess. But, the league is probably more worried about who is putting in the big money. Just like Fenton probably isn’t the best place for St. Louis FC, but it is where the facility and ownership are, any new MLS team will depend on the ownership and the actual best sites for the stadium based on money and demand.

    If St. Louis made laws or ordinances now as a community stating requirements for future teams in the in area there might be some chance, but we all know that might just start regional infighting and we would end up with a stadium in Illinois or something similar.

    MLS has many cities competing for franchises, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis will be right there waiting if we don’t win it. That doesn’t mean the community can’t make demands or should sacrifice the well being of the city for a team, but we should be aware of the limitations of community leverage for demands so it is used widely. While I would love to see a Green Bay style ownership for any St. Louis MLS team, the greater likelihood is we will have a group of millionaires who are making decisions about a business and we will have to negotiate with them like we do most large businesses.

    TL:DR – The community isn’t in a position to make huge demands when they aren’t putting up the hundreds of millions.

    • Marcus Brutus

      David…David Peacock…is that you?…

    • ebo

      So you’re saying this will be 100% privately funded? That’s great news!