The Major League Soccer expansion team in St. Louis has engaged in preliminary conversations with local brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev about a possible partnership.
Last August, MLS awarded its 28th franchise to the midwest US city, whose team will begin play in 2022 in a planned 22,500-seat downtown stadium. The team, which will be MLS’s first female majority-led franchise, is led by Carolyn Kindle Betz of the Taylor family that founded and runs the Enterprise car rental empire.
“I don’t know how you can have any kind of professional sports team in St. Louis without having discussions with AB InBev,” said Betz, the team’s co-owner and chief executive, at a MLS media day in New York. “So far it’s been a great partnership – they have a lot of product to offer and we have a lot of places we can sell them so we’ll have just have to work out the details on that one.”
Betz added that the local business community in St. Louis is keen to align with the team.
“We have to refine the stadium design to see what we can offer [companies]. But what we’re most excited about is all the corporations, big or small, want to support us: whether that’s naming rights, suites…we’ll take it all,” she said. “But when we really sit down to think about our founding partners, that will probably take a little bit of time. We just want to make sure we can all get the details right.”
The forthcoming St. Louis stadium, part of a larger mixed-use development in that part of the city, will be built mostly with private funds after voters in the city three years ago defeated a referendum that would have directed $60m in new sales tax revenue toward a new soccer stadium. A groundbreaking for the project is expected in the spring.
Betz added that she has been heartened by the early success of XFL team St. Louis BattleHawks, which drew a league-record 29,554 fans for their home opener at the Dome at America’s Center last weekend.
“I was at the game on Sunday, the game was so exciting. People were like, ‘Can you imagine what this is going to be like in 2022 when you have your kick-off?’ It was a great showing of St. Louis fans: we’re loyal, we’re dedicated. I think it really reinforced everything that we’ve been saying,” she said.