Looking to complete a successful bid, Sacramento MLS expansion backers are working with city officials to finalize some details on a new stadium project.
MLS has 24 teams competing this season, with the number set to grow to 27 in the coming years as Nashville and Miami begin play in 2020, followed by Austin in 2021. The 28th spot remains up for grabs, and MLS commissioner Don Garber indicated this week that Sacramento and St. Louis are the current front runners in the expansion race.
Sacramento has a few advantages in its push, including a track record of strong fan support for USL Championship’s Sacramento Republic FC and plans for a new $300 million stadium as part of a larger downtown development project. Its biggest flaw had been the lack of a deep-pocketed investor, a void that was filled with January’s announcement that billionaire Ron Burkle had joined the effort as a lead investor.
Despite those advantages, backers of the Sacramento bid–which include Burkle, with film producer Matt Alvarez also on board as a partner–are not taking anything for granted. Their focus right now is on working with city officials to finalize some key aspects relating to the downtown stadium/development project, and Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg is among those hopeful that the agreements will be approved soon. More from the Sacramento Bee:
Alvarez was in town on Wednesday to negotiate a “term sheet” or business agreement with city officials. Under that agreement, the city would set up an infrastructure financing district for the 31-acre stadium site east of 7th Street in the downtown railyard. The financing district will allow the developers to bond against future tax revenue on the site.
The city also would waive some stadium development fees and allow the team to build several digital billboards. Steinberg, whose staff has been in talks with the soccer group, said he hopes to have a deal in hand to bring to the City Council for its approval before the MLS board of governors meets.
“We are very close and I intend to bring this to council on April 9 and recommend strong support,” Steinberg said on Wednesday. “Then it is a full pivot toward the league to not only make our case, but to say we have stepped up big time.”
Steinberg said the project will help kick-start development of the railyard into a major new section of downtown. “This is about soccer, but it is about so much more,” the mayor said. “Ron and his team are interested in Sacramento. That is a great thing as we continue to grow and build.”
MLS could make its decision before the end of this year, but the exact timing remains unknown. Sacramento has a formidable competitor in St. Louis, which features an effort led by members of Enterprise Holding’s Taylor family and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh and includes a plan for a new downtown stadium. One of that group’s biggest priorities will be building corporate support, with backers of the bid likely looking to drum up interest in major partnerships for aspects such as stadium naming rights and jersey sponsorship.
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