Tuesday, April 18, 2006

St. Louis getting ready for MLS?

MLS wants to put a team in St. Louis in 2008, but they have no idea where they might play.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the issues facing the area as it bids for a professional soccer team. The good news is they have a group of investors which includes Michael Huyghue, a former general manager of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, and currently the president of a sports entertainment company, Axcess Sports, and is also an entertainment agent who represents among others, Snoop Dogg.

Their problem area is the stadium and more exactly, where to build it. The MLS requires stadiums to hold 20,000+ for games. With this in mind, the group approached St. Louis University about expanding their soccer stadium, which seats about 6,000, but the University decided against it.

So now they might have to jump the Mississippi River and move over to Metro East, Illinois (these are the Eastern suburbs of St. Louis). One of the main reasons behind the state switch might just be the differences in tax laws between Illinois and Missouri. Illinois laws allow the state to back bonds to construct public buildings.

Dan Courtemanche, the league's senior vice president for marketing and communications, explains how they decide on markets for teams.

"First and foremost, we look at a specific market. Is it a passionate sports market, does it have the potential to draw television viewers, what it's history for soccer events, and we do research into the soccer audience. Second, they need to have an ownership group with the appropriate resources and business acumen to be a success and they need to have plans for a stadium, generally a soccer-specific stadium."

St. Louis has a great soccer history that should allow it to draw in a nice number of fans. They also seem to have people interested in owning the team. Now they just need to sort out the last part and MLS Commissioner Don Garber will probably be only to excited to finally make the long awaited announcement about a Midwest team joining the league.

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