This is my first post as a member of Indomitable City Soccer so I feel I should first give a little information about myself. I have followed Sacramento Republic FC (SRFC) since I first graduated college in 2014. Although our team is quite young, my passion for this newly founded futbol club is just as strong as it is for my beloved hometown Sacramento Kings. I was there when Roderigo Lopez scored a free kick in the final minutes against LA Galaxy II in the semifinals and I watched with great pride as our new futbol club team took the trophy home the following game. Although prideful, I never expected this team to become anything more than what it was; a minor league team.
As the year 2016 approached, the idea of Sacramento’s minor league team going pro became a reality. Our young team was proven to be successful and had the foundation of a perennial playoff team in the USL. With the construction of the new Golden 1 Center, and plans for a downtown revival, Sacramento’s market instantly became more attractive. With Sacramento becoming one of the fastest growing cities in the country, having a top 20 sports media market, and a passionate fanbase, SRFC became a favorable option in the expansion. Although cities like Miami and Atlanta were chosen ahead of Sacramento, I never doubted we’d soon become the next MLS team. Now here we are in 2017 and Sacramento is now considered the frontrunner in the next MLS expansion. All of the boxes have been checked and so now our city waits for our name to be called so we can start building the stadium.
However, we may start building sooner than you think….
Town Hall Meeting - SRFC Store
I arrived at the store with my roommate (a passionate fan and season ticket holder since day one) and as silly as it sounds, i felt as if I was surrounded by relatives when I saw all of the Republic fans sitting around waiting eagerly to see the presentation and ask questions. Although I have been a fan for 3 years now, this is the first time I even set foot in the actual store. Surrounded by the rustic brick walls, metal benches, beer on tap, and SRFC scarves I couldn’t be more psyched about this town hall meeting. I was ready to participate in this MLS #BringItHome campaign. I felt like I was Leslie Knope, although I knew that as a freelance writer I would have to just sit back and listen to what my fellow fans wanted.
Led by Warren Smith, president of SRFC, the staff went over a couple quick takes on where the organization was in regards to landing the MLS slot. They reassured us that SRFC was the frontrunner and that there was absolutely no reason why we wouldn’t be accepted into the next group in. Although there have been 12 bids, SRFC is the only one that has checked all of the boxes while other cities fail to develop stadium plans or are being constantly delayed by local governments. Shortly they brought up how Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, was a large part of the investment club and how MLS has been wanting her business for a long time. They also discussed how the construction drawings are 30% complete and we are still are ready to build whenever necessary. However, in order to be a part of the MLS, the stadium needs to be completed by the 2020 season which means SRFC may need to start the building procedure this year even before getting the MLS nod in order to guarantee the stadium will be built in time.
Like a fox hearing the rustling of prey in the distance, my ears perked up once I heard the vision for the new stadium: Dortmund. The staff emphasized the word "intimidating"; in fact, I’m pretty sure they said the word a total of 23 times throughout the discussion. They provided an image which showed a steep well of seating behind one of the goals which they labelled as "the wall of fans" and compared the idea to that of Borussia Dortmund’s futbol stadium. The concept of the Tower Bridge Battalion so close to the action, screaming with confetti, flags, and smoke made my eyes water up. Not kidding, my heart soared with pride knowing our fans would easily be one of the best in all of MLS due to our irrational love affair for our professional teams. I mean, if we can support the Sacramento Kings with this much heart, imagine the intensity of the crowd with a new, successful team in a growing sport across America.
The presenters also described other aspects of the stadium such as 4 separate and different types of seating round the arena. Tower Bridge section, the wall of fans, family friendly seating, and the casual fan area. There are even standing areas where you can stand above the Tower Bridge Battalion section and participate without having to be an actual club member. The marketing team even asked a couple kids for some ideas for what could be placed within the stadium that would be fun for them. One of the suggestions was a petting zoo, which although unrealistic, still seems pretty cool. I mean, imagine having a giant bear on display and allowing kids to pet it. Nothing more intimidating than a city that allows its children to pet bears.
We were also asked a series of questions as to what we want when watching a SRFC match. What was it about the games we enjoyed most? How can we make the stadium better or amplify the enjoyable aspects of an SRFC game? Basic answers were given such as making the environment family friendly, keep the social aspect alive, put cup holders in the seats, make sure the food is great quality...etc. However, there were 3 very insightful ideas that were mentioned that couldn’t be more true:
Tradition will be developed.
Although our city is unique, it’s not seen by many to be special. The only national attention we receive are from the media covering California politics and the Sacramento Kings. Both of which are seen as negatives from most of the country. Those outside of the city who speak of Sacramento’s behalf only say negative things even though they haven’t visited in 20 years (i.e. Danny Ainge). Most people are unaware of the growth of the city and how special a place it truly is. Although San Francisco residents are starting to notice how cheap and amazing this place is. The city is 3rd in trees per capita, is labelled as the farm-to-fork capital of the world, rising in the coffee industry, one of the more in shape cities outside of Colorado, home of the most technically advanced arena in the world, and has hardly scratched the surface of its true potential. Our city needs to represent our city well, whether it be with a giant train horn after every goal or with trees growing within the stadium itself. Rest assured, the stadium designers already have some ideas in mind.
One man brought up how the environment needed to reflect intimacy amongst the fans and its team. I couldn’t agree more. Sitting up high in the bleachers with my family and friends are some of the more memorable times of my life. Whether it be at Papa Murphy’s (formerly Bonnie) Field, Oakland Coliseum watching my Broncos pound the Raiders (Please keep reading. Don’t hate me), Allen Fieldhouse watching my Jayhawks, or even Arco/Golden 1 Center to watch my beloved Kings, I can honestly say those are my best memories because I always go to those events with the people I love most. I also love that whenever SRFC scores a goal the concept of being strangers flies out the window in less than a millisecond. High fives, hugs and smiles are exchanged in an instance even though we all came in separate cars/groups. A city’s team brings its citizens together, so it is important to keep everyone close to one another. Especially those in the Tower Bridge Battalion and Wall of Fans sections.
The city also has this weird pride in having a love affair with its teams. An important part of the new stadium plan is it brings the seats in as close to the action as possible. The lower seats are practically on the field itself while all of the higher level seating is as steep as a canyon; bringing fans closer to the field. A woman at the meeting mentioned how special it was for the kids to be able to go down to the bottom of the bleachers at the end of games in order to meet the players. The players don’t have to go out onto the field after games and talk to the kids and interact with them, but they do. It’s simple things like this that keep the relationship of the players and the fans alive. The genuine love the players have for the crowd is special and only a city like Sacramento could express love and intimacy like this to/from a minor league soccer team.
A man at the meeting, whom they called Pastor Briggs (how could I forget that name?) chimed in on a conversation about cheers and songs. His input was special due to the fact that he was from Scotland and grew up in a sports environment we hope to replicate here in the states. He mentioned how he grew up just knowing the unique chants of his favorite club, and that we need to be patient because over time, tradition within the community will form. He said that in time, the chants we have now aren’t unique (not new information), but eventually unique ones reflecting our city will come. He preached patience; overtime our community will form its own traditions, chants, and queues during matches. Although I agree that eventually our club will develop its own traditions, I have a hard time seeing our crowd do cheers as well as fans do in European/South American Leagues. Fans in the United States just scream and make loud noises throughout the game. The only chants that occur are at college sporting events, but even then there are only 2-3 chants that are said maybe once or twice throughout a game. In Europe, the fans sing the entire match. I can’t imagine that happening here in the States anytime soon, but maybe when he said "patience" he meant 30 years.
After the meeting, I was able to have a quick conversation with Warren Smith himself. I was quite nervous but as soon as I shook his hand I calmed down quite a bit. He’s a very approachable man and one I could hold a long conversation with given the time. Before I left I wanted to be sure to tell him how much I appreciated what he has done for the community, but I also wanted to ask him a question:
What is it that you visualize or want to see when entering a stadium for a sporting event?
"Honestly, that doesn’t really matter to me. What I want and look forward to are the memories with my friends, family and loved ones. When I look back on the games I have attended, it’s usually not the score that I remember, but the fun times I had while being there with people I care about."
Great answer. Great man. We’re lucky to have him.
Sacramento Republic FC is on the verge of becoming the next big step in the growth of Sacramento. The confidence of the staff and president give me reason to believe that I will be in my season ticket seats come 2020. Although I am 2% nervous the universe will rip our hearts out because it allowed us to keep the Sacramento Kings in miracle fashion. MLS will have to make its decision to go ahead with SRFC eventually and come December we will know for sure whether or not we have a professional futbol club.