Renewed effort begins for St. Louis MLS franchise, stadium

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis is back in the hunt for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise after the family behind the rental car company Enterprise Holdings announced a bid that calls for a new stadium built mostly with private funding.

Members of the Taylor family said Tuesday that the franchise would be majority-owned by women, a first in MLS and a rarity in professional sports. The group also includes Jim Kavanaugh of St. Louis-based World Wide Technology.

The announcement rekindles hope that St. Louis could become a three-sport town for the first time since he NFL's Rams left for Los Angeles in January 2016.

"We view an MLS team as a lasting legacy to the city we love," Carolyn Kindle Betz, granddaughter of Enterprise founder Jack Taylor and senior vice president at Enterprise, said at a news conference.

St. Louis was considered a front-runner for an expansion team last year until voters in April 2017 turned down a ballot measure that would have used tax money to help fund a new 22,000-seat stadium.

The new plan would seek the same plot of land, near Union Station on the western edge of downtown, currently owned by the Missouri Department of Transportation. But this time, only minimal public assistance would be sought. The ownership group said it is seeking a break on the city's 5 percent amusement tax charged for tickets to sporting events. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen could approve the tax break without a public vote.

The group also would seek state tax credits in 2018 and 2019 to help prepare the site for development.

A 20,000-seat stadium would be expected to cost around $250 million. Plans call for the city's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority to own the stadium and lease it to the MLS team.

Major League Soccer is expected to eventually add two more franchises, bringing the total to 28. It isn't clear when the additional expansion teams could be announced.

MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said in a statement that the league is impressed by the ownership group's commitment and looks forward to learning more about their proposal.

Jack Taylor launched Enterprise with a fleet of seven cars in 1957. Enterprise Holdings today is listed by Forbes as one of America's largest private companies. It operates Enterprise Rent-A-Car as well as National and Alamo car rental companies. Jack Taylor died in 2016.

Enterprise also has naming rights to the arena for the NHL's St. Louis Blues, and the Taylor family and Enterprise have donated hundreds of millions of dollars over the years to cultural and charitable institutions in St. Louis.

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