A new stadium could bring Major League Soccer to Sacramento and boost development of the downtown railyard.
Here’s what would make it even more attractive – if it didn’t require any public money to build.
Mayor Kevin Johnson and top city officials are right to press for private financing of the soccer stadium that could cost $100 million, particularly given other important civic projects competing for tax dollars and the city’s already sizable debt. And they were smart to lay down a marker before plans got too far along.
Johnson said Tuesday that he has no appetite for a city subsidy. City Manager John Shirey and City Treasurer Russ Fehr said the city doesn’t have much money available anyway, especially since it is financing more than half of the planned $477 million downtown arena, the new home of the NBA Kings.
In fact, local taxpayers have already done their part to lay the groundwork for a soccer stadium in the railyard. Of the $251 million spent so far on roads, bridges and other infrastructure to prepare the 240-acre site, the city says $61 million came from local sources, including Measure A, the half-cent sales tax increase first approved by voters countywide in 1988.
It’s up to the owners of Sacramento Republic FC, the wildly successful new minor-league club that hopes to move up to MLS, and of the Kings, who are considering partnering in the team.
Warren Smith, Republic FC’s president, told The Bee that he believes private financing can happen and that he and the club will “do everything in our power to make it work.”
One avenue is naming rights. Another is ticket fees. If fans here are as enthusiastic about soccer as they seem, they shouldn’t squawk too much.
Perhaps they’d even be willing to pony up for seat licenses to get the right to buy season tickets. That financing method has been used to build several pro sports venues, including Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers. Fans paid $20,000 to $80,000 for seat licenses, generating more than $400 million of the $1.2 billion price tag.
As the mayor pointed out, privately financed soccer stadiums are not uncommon – the new home being built for the MLS San Jose Earthquakes, and the StubHub Center in Carson, which hosts two MLS teams, the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA.
A soccer stadium could be a real boon for Sacramento. But the biggest beneficiaries – the owners and fans – should pay as much of the bill as possible.