Major League Soccer Ownership Group, Stadium Plan Unveiled for St. Louis

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The drama that’s been mounting for months is over. With rumors and leaks springing with increasing frequency, the hushed MLS2STL group tasked with identifying a Major League Soccer franchise ownership group for St. Louis has broken its silence.

A league-endorsed ownership group with plans for a downtown St. Louis soccer-specific stadium was announced with a press release on the USL St. Louis FC website. Preliminary renderings of a stadium design by HOK show a 20,000-seat (expandable to 28,500) venue immediately west of Union Station.

The site is currently owned by the Missouri Department of Transporation. Once planned as the interchange for the never-built I-755, MoDOT has entered into an agreement to sell the land at market price to the City of St. Louis. In turn, SC STL has an exclusive agreement with the city to purchase the site. The land deal was first reported on nextSTL.

4_sc_stl_downtown_site_plan_credit_hokmodot-22nd-street_1{outlined area approximates MoDOT land holdings adjacent to Union Station}

The ownership group identified and endorsed by MLS and the City of St. Louis is led by Paul Edgerley, formerly of VantEdge Partners. According to the press release, Edgerley was raised in Kansas City and will serve as lead owner and Chairman of SC STL. Edgerley spent 27 years at Bain Capital, becoming a managing director before leaving the firm in 2015. Edgerley is a limited partner in the Boston Celtics ownership group. Public records show Edgerley has sold more than $3B in stocks over the past year, and recently purchased a $34M home in Palm Beach, FL.

Edgerley is joined on the SC STL’s Executive Committee by three other officers who include Jim Kavanaugh (Vice Chairman), founder and CEO of World Wide Technology, Terry Matlack (Vice Chairman), founder of Tortoise Capital Advisors, and Dave Peacock (Executive Committee Member), past president of Anheuser-Busch.

Both Kavanaugh and Peacock were widely expected to be part of a potential ownership group. Peacock was the public face of the failed effort to build a new stadium for the now Los Angeles Rams NFL team. Kavanaugh played soccer for Saint Louis University, on the United States Olympic Team, and professionally for the Los Angeles Lazers and St. Louis Steamers. Kavanaugh is also chairman and founder of Saint Louis FC, which plays in the United Soccer League as an affiliate of the MLS Chicago Fire.

Another potential MLS ownership group in St. Louis, Foundry St. Louis, made a very public play for a team last month, unveiling renderings of a Midtown stadium at Grand Boulevard and Chouteau Avenue. The effort was clearly in parallel with the league and city anointed MLS2STL group. Today’s announcement would seem to make an end to Foundry’s effort.

MLS stadium_Cannon Design{the proposed Foundry STL stadium at Grand and Chouteau – rendering by Cannon Design}

The newly formed ownership group, known as SC STL, now takes over the process begun by MLS2STL. It is proposing a $200M stadium, which it says will be largely private-funded. The group has pledged that any public funding will be subject to a public vote in the city, planned for April 2017.

The public vote pledge almost certainly does not pertain to the city’s purchase of nearly 30 acres of land from MoDOT, and perhaps not other related infrastructure costs. While efforts as securing public funding were not detailed, the group has been in discussions with the state and city regarding the use of “traditional economic development tools”. Plans call for the city to own the stadium itself, allowing access to lower cost financing and giving some control over use. The fact the site sits within the NorthSide Regeneration development footprint could be a complicating factor, but is unlikely to delay or alter the effort.

The SC STL group believes that it has assembled the necessary proven business leadership, experience in professional sports, a viable stadium plan, capital resources, the endorsement of MLS, and an agreement to “acquire and integrate Saint Louis FC of the USL into a single soccer organization. The release stated that SC STL will fund the entire MLS expansion fee and the acquisition of the Saint Louis FC USL team, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club and World Wide Technology Soccer Park.

8074647001_c3731e0e66_z{mock-up of MLS stadium at Union Station – from nextSTL 2012}

The proposed stadium site was first explored on nextSTL in 2012 after LHM, owners of Union Station, considered the potential for a stadium in the area. Bob O’Loughlin, chairman and CEO of LHM, is part of the SC STL ownership group (full list below). The plan released today would cover 24 acres. A site plan shows the stadium would leave existing buildings, including the Drury Inn and Maggie O’Brien’s standing. More than 1,400 surface parking spaces would be added surrounding the stadium.

Major League Soccer has repeatedly stated that St. Louis is a strong candidate for the next round of league expansion. The 20-team league is expanding to 24 in 2018 with the addition of Minnesota, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and possibly Miami. Sacremento is expected to be awarded a franchise in the next round of expansion, and along with St. Louis, Detroit, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin, and Cincinnati have been mentioned as candidates as MLS reaches its planned 28 teams.

So what’s next? While securing a stadium site and forming an ownership group are perhaps the most challenging steps to bring an MLS franchise to St. Louis, a long process remains. MLS still needs to detail its expansion process. St. Louis has not yet been awarded a franchise. But things are now moving fast, publicly. With the league and SC STL planning public events in St. Louis next month, and having clarity on public funding in the spring, the path for St. Louis to become an MLS city has never been clearer.

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Earlier this evening we posted the SC STL announcement, read it here.

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The SC STL ownership group:

Paul Edgerley, partner at VantEdge Partners
Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, founder of Saint Louis FC
Terry Matlack, co-founder of Tortoise Capital Advisors
Dave Peacock, former Anheuser-Busch president
Bob O’Loughlin, chairman and CEO of Lodging Hospitality Management in St. Louis
John Sherman, vice chairman of the Cleveland Indians and former CEO of Inergy LP
David Gross-Loh, a managing director at Bain Capital
Robert Hermann Jr., Saint Louis University’s soccer stadium bears the family name
Jim Powers, president and CEO of UniGroup (United Van Lines)
Steve Maritz, chairman and CEO of Maritz Corporation
Thomas Roberts, managing director of Summit Partners

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