The city can be “good partners” when it comes to a new Sacramento MLS stadium, but Mayor Kevin Johnson says Republic FC owners should expect no public funding of a new facility.
Johnson, the former NBA star who led a bruising fight for public funding of a new Sacramento Kings arena, clearly wants to avoid another fight at a time when city and state budgets are still tight. And while the city can help out when it comes to land acquisition, zoning issues and perhaps infrastructure, Sacramento won’t be in a position to contribute anything to the direct construction costs, per the Sacramento Bee:
“I do not have an appetite to provide tax dollars to build a soccer stadium,” the mayor said. “Can it be built without it? It’s possible. Other cities have privately financed soccer stadiums.”
Johnson’s comments were echoed by City Manager John Shirey and City Treasurer Russ Fehr, both of whom cautioned that the city’s capacity to take on significant new debt is extremely limited. The city is financing more than half the project cost for a $477 million arena for the Sacramento Kings under construction downtown and is studying whether to build a new performing arts center to replace the Community Center Theater.
That a solid soccer community exists in Sacramento is not in doubt: Sacramento Republic FC sold out every single seat during its inaugural season in both small and large venues, and World Cup rating were very strong in the region. That success has led to interest by Kings officials in investing or even buying Republic. And Johnson doesn’t necessarily speak for the entire city; Councilman Steve Cohn says the city may be in a position to pay up to $35 million toward a new stadium, in addition to land at the 240-acre downtown railyard, which has already been prepped for development.
Sacramento is one of several cities — Minneapolis, El Paso, Las Vegas — seeking an MLS expansion team. League officials will be making the rounds in September to evaluate stadium sites and ownership groups.
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