MLS Expansion News – Six Markets, Part Two – 2/9

News from six markets competing for an MLS expansion spot: Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, Tampa, and Indianapolis.

drum

Last week, Orange and Blue Press released an article that covered MLS expansion updates for Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh, Sacramento and Indianapolis. This article features updates from the remaining six markets, including Cincinnati.

The expansion landscape across twelve cities is complex, dynamic, and several markets have a reasonable chance for a successful bid. Cincinnati is covered last in order to review how news from other markets affects the Cincinnati bid.

Looking for more information on the basics of MLS expansion? Check out MLS Expansion 101.


Saint Louis

800px-flag_of_st-_louis_missouri-svg
Saint Louis, Missouri

Summary: St. Louis’ embattled stadium proposal has been stuck in government red tape for several weeks. Despite the challenges, the SC STL ownership group submitted its MLS application on January 31st. The proposal passed the full board of Alderman in early February and is on its way to an April ballot for the St. Louis public to approve.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/26 – It took two votes, but the stadium proposal passed the Aldermanic Ways and Means committee 5-4 and progresses to a decision by the full board of Alderman. [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/31 – The SC STL ownership group submits their MLS application on January 31st. [St. Louis Today]
  • 2/3 – The stadium proposal passes the full board of Alderman and will go onto an April ballot as long as a circuit judge approves. [Herald Whig]
  • 2/4 – St. Louis voters may not support the stadium proposal on the April ballot. The article cites a January survey whose results suggest voters are opposed to the use of public funds to help build a stadium. [Soccer America]

Link with details of St. Louis’ TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


San Antonio

flag_of_san_antonio_texas
San Antonio, Texas

Summary: San Antonio’s ownership group (SSE) plays their cards extremely close to the vest, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on behind the scenes. Brian Straus released his MLS expansion profile for the city in late January, giving everyone a little peek behind the curtain. SSE submitted their MLS application on January 31st along with the other 12 markets. Today, San Antonio FC announced an affiliation agreement with NYCFC.

Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/25 – San Antonio MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/31 – SSE submits MLS application on January 31st. [KVUE San Antonio]
  • 2/1 – Renovations to Toyota Field could cost upward of $100M, but the stadium is already built so San Antonio believes it has an advantage. [KSAT 12 San Antonio]
  • 2/2 – A local news outlet gives the San Antonio MLS bid long odds to secure a spot. [My SA]
  • 2/9 – San Antonio FC announces 2017 affiliation with New York City FC. [San Antonio FC]

Link with details of San Antonio’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


San Diego

1024px-flag_of_san_diego_california-svg
San Diego, California

Summary: Don Garber visited San Diego to publicly accept the ownership group’s application aboard the USS Midway. Since the bid went public with plans on 1/23 and submitted their MLS bid on 1/30, San Diego has been relatively quiet. There is still a lot to work through on the stadium proposal, specifically regarding acquiring land and getting city / public approval for the project.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/27 – San Diego’s ownership group has ties to the Sacramento Kings (former), Qualcomm, and the San Diego Padres. [Soccer Nation]
  • 1/30 – San Diego formally submits its MLS application with a ceremony including Don Garber aboard the USS Midway. [SD Union Tribune]
  • 2/6 – Acquiring the land to build the stadium could be problematic. The ownership group will likely try to avoid a public vote. [Voice of SD]

Link with details of San Diego’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Tampa / St. Petersburg

flag_of_st-_petersburg_florida
St. Petersburg, Florida

Summary: Lead investor Bill Edwards made quite a spectacle when he delivered Tampa’s MLS application. Edwards, a former Tampa mayor, and a supporters group traveled to NY to drop off the application. They also sponsored an electronic #MLS2STPETE billboard in Times Square to add to the fanfare. A key vote on the stadium proposal is scheduled for May.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/28 – An Orlando article explores Tampa, Miami, and Orlando and how they are at different stages of the MLS expansion lifecycle. Orlando City SC CEO calls the Tampa bid “very premature.” [Orlando Sentinel]
  • 1/30 – Bill Edwards travels to NY to deliver the MLS application in person amid fanfare. [Tampa Times]
  • 1/30 – The Tampa presentation at MLS HQ featured dancers in sequin, crates of Florida oranges, and Rowdies Pete, their pelican mascot. [Empire of Soccer]

Link with details of Tampa’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Phoenix

phoenix
Phoenix, Arizona

Note: Complete market details are included for Phoenix because they recently joined the expansion race.

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #12
Team: Phoenix Rising FC – USL (formerly Arizona United FC)
Venue: A proposed privately funded, climate-controlled stadium on a 45 acre site in south Scottsdale
Money: Ownership group led by Burke Bakay, (Kona Grill and Phoenix Rising FC)
Summary: Phoenix announced its bid less than a week before the application deadline. Phoenix is late to the game, but its large market size, Southwestern location, and privately funded stadium will be attractive to the MLS expansion committee. The Phoenix application was submitted on time on January 31st.
Recent News & Resources: 

Link with details of Phoenix’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Cincinnati

flag_of_cincinnati-svg
Cincinnati, Ohio

Summary: The Cincinnati bid submitted its application on time, but true to form, released very little information about its contents. FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding stated that it “satisfied all the requirements,” and is “far stronger than people think.” The city’s USL team continues to receive exceptional support, recently surpassing the 10,000 season ticket holder threshold. The most recent news involves speculation about the location and architecture of a potential new stadium.
Recent News & Resources:

  • 1/31 – Cincinnati bid submits expansion application to MLS. [Cincinnati Business Courier]
  • 2/1 – Cincinnati MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 2/3 – Northern Kentucky could be a location option for the new stadium. [River City News]
  • 2/6 – Mayor doesn’t see public funds being used for a new stadium. [Enquirer]
  • 2/7 – Architect Hints at FC Cincinnati Stadium Design [Cincinnati Business Courier]
  • 2/8 – FC Cincinnati passes 10,000 in season ticket sales for 2017 season. [Enquirer]

Link with details of Cincinnati’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


How does news from other markets affect the Cincinnati bid?

Cincinnati’s application is in and all 12 markets are moving on to the interview process. MLS’ plan was to announce two of the four winning bids by the third fiscal quarter of this year. However, MLS President Mark Abbot recently stated that it could take until the end of the year to make those selections.

As of early February, here’s how the picture has changed.

Cincinnati started its expansion quest with a lot of competition, and now there’s even more. Phoenix is a western market and is competing more directly with other regional markets rather than Cincinnati. While not a favorite for the top four, Phoenix’s market size and southwestern geography make it one to watch as the year plays out. As a mid-sized midwestern market, Indianapolis is more directly competing with the Queen City. Indy Eleven is a good organization and has compelling fan support, but the ownership groups, TV markets, and stadium plans of St. Louis and Detroit present bigger threats. So yes, there are two more markets, but the strongest bids were probably already in play.

Several strong markets have cleared significant obstacles recently. Saint Louis, Detroit, and Charlotte have all recently made progress on bids that rely on public/private funding. St. Louis’ stadium proposal is on to an April vote. Detroit is close to securing the Wayne county jail site for their stadium complex. Sacramento recently avoided an ownership coup that would have changed the expansion race in the west. So far, the big bids are getting by, if just barely. It certainly would help Cincinnati’s cause of one or two strong markets fell by the wayside.

It’s difficult to handicap the Cincinnati bid with the level of confidentiality around the application. That’s also clearly how the organization wants it. The only bid of the 12 that is more tight-lipped is San Antonio. Many Cincinnati fans have a healthy sense of belief in the team’s management and ownership after year one. I believe Jeff Berding when he says the bid is “far stronger than people think.” The city’s fan support can be a differentiator, but only if every other facet of the bid is spot on. #MLS2Cincy supporters will have to lean on that belief as the year plays out, because they’re not likely to get much more compelling information to chew on.

Only the MLS expansion committee has anything close to the full set of facts. So the rest of us will argue, worry, cringe, and celebrate as the race unfolds and the lens focuses ever so slowly on four winning markets.

Do you know of recent news or key facts about these MLS expansion contenders not mentioned above?  Let us know in the comments section.

drum

MLS Expansion News – Five Markets, Part Two

MLS expansion news from five more markets including recent updates from Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa / St. Petersburg.

mls_updates_2

On Sunday, Orange and Blue Press released an article that covered MLS expansion updates for Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh, and Sacramento. This article will cover updates from the remaining five expansion markets, including Cincinnati.

Looking for more information on the basics of MLS expansion? Check out MLS Expansion 101.

For each market, the TV market size, existing team, venue, and investment group are listed along with a summary of recent developments. This information is followed by links to relevant news articles and resources. It’s important to note that the existing team in a market does not necessarily become the MLS team if a bid is granted, particularly if the team’s ownership is not part of the MLS bid.


Saint Louis

800px-flag_of_st-_louis_missouri-svg
Saint Louis, Missouri

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #21*
Team: Saint Louis FC – USL
Venue: A proposed $200M 20,000 seat stadium relying partially on public funds to be built near historic Union Station
Money: The SC STL investment group led by Paul Edgerley (Bain Capitol) and Jim Kavanaugh (Worldwide Technology / Saint Louis FC)
Summary: St. Louis’ bid has been regarded as an expansion frontrunner for some time, but has run into problems recently with a stadium proposal that relies partially on public funding.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 11/18 – St. Louis stadium proposal is revealed. [Fox 2]
  • 12/19 – Missouri’s governor elect Greitens is critical of the stadium proposal calling the public funding requested “welfare for millionaires.” [SI]
  • 12/23 – Saint Louis MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/5 – Counterpoint to “welfare for millionaires” [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/10 – Saint Louis Stadium public funding bill is thought to be dead [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/18 – Revived stadium bill calls for less tax money but more state-granted land. The decision on whether to put on April ballot has been postponed. [KSDK]

San Antonio

flag_of_san_antonio_texas
San Antonio, Texas

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #31*
Team: San Antonio FC – USL
Venue: Toyota Field would be expanded to at least 18,000 seats, possibly larger (plans not yet public). The stadium was originally built for NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions (dissolved), and is now owned by the city of San Antonio. Expansion would be funded publicly by San Antonio and Bexar County.
Money: SSE (Spurs Sports & Entertainment), ownership group of the San Antonio Spurs
Summary: If the stadium expansion funding is approved, this bid has several pieces in place including a top notch ownership group and a USL team with solid first year fan support. SSE plays their cards extremely close to the vest, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on behind the scenes. The vote to approve funding for stadium expansion will not occur until November at the earliest. It’s difficult to see how that fits with MLS’ decision time frame, especially for expansion spots 25 and 26. Spots 27 or 28 are more likely targets for this bid.

Recent News & Resources: 

  • 10/3 – San Antonio FC’s successful first season in USL. [Soccer Stadium Digest]
  • 12/15 – Bexar County is exploring funding for Toyota Stadium expansion. [Business Journal]
  • 1/15 – Report that discusses the implications of the San Diego Chargers move on San Antonio and questions the price tag of public funding for the stadium expansion. [Rivard]

San Diego

1024px-flag_of_san_diego_california-svg
San Diego, California

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #28*
Team: Albion Pros – NPSL – Both USL and NASL are rapidly trying to stand up franchises in SD.
Venue: A proposed $200M stadium that could be shared with San Diego State University at the site of the existing Qualcomm Stadium
Money: Investment group led by Mike Stone (FS Investors) and Steve Altman (formerly Qualcomm)
Summary: Although the San Diego bid is behind others in terms of organization, the departure of the Chargers leaves a sports void that some believe is a game changer for the expansion picture in the West. Today the investment group announced their plans, a stadium rendering, and an aggressive timeline.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/6 – USL and NASL rumored to be starting franchises in San Diego [Soccer Nation]
  • 1/12 – San Diego Chargers leave for Los Angles, leaving void in San Diego sports market. [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/13 – Garber speaks to San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer about expansion after departure of the Chargers [MLS]
  • 1/15 – Not everyone in San Diego wants MLS…”soccer is never, ever going to be the answer. It’s soccer.” [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The ownership group (previously unnamed) was confirmed and they report plans to build a privately funded $1B multi-use complex, with a $200M stadium that an MLS team could share with San Diego State University.  [San Diego Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The investors would purchase the land at market value from the city and the city would agree to share maintenance costs. An urgent adoption of the plan by the city is requested by January 31st. [NBC7 SD]

Tampa / St. Petersburg

flag_of_st-_petersburg_florida
St. Petersburg, Florida

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #11*
Team: Tampa Bay Rowdies – NASL
Venue: The Rowdies current venue, publicly owned Al Lang stadium, would be expanded from 7,800 to 18,000 seats and renovated with private funds. The city would then pay infrastructure costs and continue to lease the waterfront stadium to the Rowdies.
Money: Investment group led by Bill Edwards (Tampa Bay Rowdies owner, former real estate executive)
Summary: Tampa’s bid is strong because they are the largest TV market of the ten and their stadium plan is simple relative to other bids. The Tampa City Council will vote on the plan on May 2.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 12/6 – Tampa / St. Pete Announces MLS bid and stadium expansion plans [WFLA]
  • 1/4 – Tampa Bay City Council Meets to discuss stadium renovation proposal. [Tampa Bay Times]
  • 1/4 – Cincinnati Enquirer’s Pat Brennan explores Tampa Bay’s Al Lang stadium and bid for MLS expansion, labeling them “silent assasins.” [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 1/9 – Tampa Bay / St. Pete MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/10 – St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce is creating a special council to promote the Tampa bid. [Tampa Business Journal]

Cincinnati

flag_of_cincinnati-svg
Cincinnati, Ohio

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #36*
Team: FC Cincinnati – USL
Venue: Currently sharing the 35,000 seat Nippert Stadium with the University of Cincinnati, but are looking to secure a site for a soccer specific stadium
Money: Investment group led by Carl Lindner III (Great American Insurance)
Summary: Garber’s visit in late November bolstered local hopes for an MLS future. Cincinnati’s bid has been quiet relative to many since the December MLS announcement though. Ownership and management are believed to be working hard behind the scenes on a privately funded stadium plan, but details are sparse.
Recent News & Resources:

  • 11/29 – Don Garber visits Cincinnati for Town Hall [O&B Press]
  • 12/15 – FC Cincinnati GM Berding says team is looking for 20 acre stadium site between Ohio river and University of Cincinnati [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 12/23 – Columbus article sites Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt’s possible reluctance (in July) over competing with another Ohio team. Precourt is one of a five member MLS expansion decision committee. [Columbus Dispatch]
  • 1/19 – Brief update on MLS expansion from FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding (VIDEO) –  [Local 12]

Summary

Cincinnati’s bid continues to be strong. A convincing plan for a privately-funded soccer specific stadium is the missing piece of the puzzle. That plan, combined with the current ownership, management, team, and fan support would give the plan credentials to compete with the best bids in the nation.

A few things become clear when looking at expansion updates from other markets.

First, the competition is strong and there is a lot of it. As Alexi Lalas stated in an Enquirer interview, “this is a gold rush”, with many of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen trying to stake a claim. Almost every bid has a billionaire level ownership group with professional sports expertise on staff. Each bid is looking for areas where it can differentiate itself.

Second, getting a stadium deal done is difficult and time consuming, especially if you are looking for help from the local public. The red tape and decision timeframes involved with public funding could be the demise of some of these bids.

Finally, the landscape of the expansion race can change very quickly. The Chargers left San Diego in early January, and overnight that market became dramatically more attractive. San Diego is the MLS expansion darling this week. Who will be next?

Expansion applications for all ten markets are due on January 31st. A decision on who gets the next two expansion slots is expected in the third fiscal quarter of 2017. A lot can change between now and then. Buckle up, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.

*NOTE: Nielsen DMAs are referenced in this article for TV market size information. DMAs seem most relevant to television advertising, but which market size ranking to use is debatable. Some argue that these markets could be combined with other nearby markets to create a larger market (i.e.: Cincinnati/Dayton). Because DMA’s combine surrounding areas already and there is no clear evidence that MLS is evaluating any markets as combined, this series of articles will not do so.

mls_updates_2