With Sacramento Republic fans and others kind of sifting through the wreckage of the city’s “confirmed” MLS expansion bid that turned out to be nothing of the sort, after billionaire Ron Burkle abandoned the project last week, the people who can do something about it may be getting to work to figure out how to fix it.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg vowed the night the devastating news dropped that he would continue to fight for it, while the departure of Sac Republic president Ben Gumpert doesn’t necessarily give a positive sign the expansion reversal can be re-reversed quickly, if ever.
While the stadium project at the Railyards has gotten full approval and is merely waiting for the money (and now, a major league team to call it home), Greater Sacramento Economic Council president and CEO Barry Broome spoke to 93.1 KFBK this week to assess next steps.
Broome discussed several steps that he believes needs to take place to get Sacramento in MLS for real this time, but the most notable was his endorsement that the Railyards stadium project needs public funding to allay costs.
“I think we’re going to have to look at the stadium package,” Broome said. “I think the original ownership group, they set a goal that they wanted to finance the stadium without any public dollars. I think that’s something we’re going to have to reset and have an honest conversation about. I think what we really need to realize is from a community standpoint, look what Golden 1 [Center] did for this community, look what it did for the downtown. And I think Major League Soccer will do every bit as much for the downtown as Golden 1.”
The purported reason that Burkle pulled out of his verbal commitment was rising costs associated with the stadium, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic shrinking revenue opportunities for a year.
Broome seemed to say it was necessary for public funds to be used to subsidize a stadium project for that reason.
“We need to offset some of the costs on this stadium, because construction prices have gone up,” he said. “We have to cement our fanbase as committed to MLS. We need local corporate sponsors on suites and naming rights. We can probably use a couple local investors to join Kevin Nagle’s investment team. And we need to march forward with confidence and open our eyes to the financial value of this. If it takes $50 or $100 million investment package on the stadium to pull this off, we need to put that on the table, because it’s all about returns.”
Broome called “both basketball and soccer the sports of the future,” and said in part the MLS bid needed to be revived to help revitalize the Railyards area of Sacramento.
“This isn’t just about the soccer team, it’s about getting the Railyards developed, it’s about elevating our reputation as a region,” he explained.
It’s unclear if first, Sacramento will find new investors to get a new expansion quest off the ground in earnest, and second, if the city would be willing to pitch in money for a stadium deal. We’ll see what happens.
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