Year In Brief: After Rams flee St. Louis, soccer efforts kick into high gear

Despite efforts by city and state officials to keep the Rams in St. Louis, including a plan to build a new $1.1 billion riverfront stadium and aldermanic approval of public financing for the stadium, the NFL team owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke announced in January that it was relocating to Los Angeles. 

The Year in Brief offers a look at the business stories that were most important to Missouri in 2016, and that will continue to shape the state in 2017 and beyond.

The move stirred emotion and anger among fans and local leaders, who aired grievances and called for action following the decision. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said the city was finished dealing with the NFL, while U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill began drafting a bill to recoup public money given to professional sports teams that move to new cities.

The Kansas City Chiefs, now Missouri’s lone NFL franchise, saw an opportunity to scoop up disgruntled Rams fans, and St. Louis retailers unloaded leftover merchandise.

The Rams left town with St. Louis still on the hook for more than $144 million of debt and maintenance costs for the Edward Jones Dome.

Almost as soon as professional football left town, efforts to lure professional soccer to the city intensified.

In February, Major League Soccer officials began to search for a stadium site in St. Louis while planning for its financing and operations. SC STL, a group of St. Louis business and sports leaders, formed to explore bringing an MLS team to the city.

By spring, MLS Commissioner Don Garber was calling St. Louis a frontrunner to land an expansion teamand hints had begun to emerge about the possible location of a new soccer stadium.

In November, SC STL revealed plans for a $200 million stadium just west of Union Station that would seat 20,000 fans and enable St. Louis to field an MLS team by 2020 or 2021.

In December, Legislation was introduced before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen that would have city voters pay up to $80 million for the stadium. The Missouri Development Finance Board was scheduled to vote on $40 million in state tax credits for the project, but the request was postponed in the face of harsh criticism by Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, who called the proposal for public funding “welfare for millionaires.”

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