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He was the Kings arena subsidy’s biggest critic. But he loves Sacramento’s new soccer deal

Here’s what they said about downtown soccer stadium deal

Sacramento Republic FC and city officials announce an agreement on $33 million in incentives to boost the team's plans for a downtown stadium and MLS franchise Friday, April 5, 2019, in a historic shop building at the downtown railyard.
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Sacramento Republic FC and city officials announce an agreement on $33 million in incentives to boost the team's plans for a downtown stadium and MLS franchise Friday, April 5, 2019, in a historic shop building at the downtown railyard.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s pitch for Major League Soccer won a surprise backer on Friday.

State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, an outspoken opponent of the city’s investment several years ago in a new Kings arena, said he has no problem with the $33 million incentive package the city expects to offer to boost a soccer investment group’s plan for a downtown stadium.

“This is a very fair proposal,” McCarty said Friday at the downtown railyard, standing beside Steinberg as the mayor announced the deal. “This is a much easier pill to swallow for the critics.”

The city and a group led by soccer investor Ron Burkle, a Beverly Hills supermarket magnate, announced this week they have agreed to terms on a deal that they hope will put Sacramento in position to win a Major League Soccer expansion franchise as early as this month.

If the city succeeds, the new team will replace the existing lower-tier Sacramento Republic FC, playing under the same name in a 22,000-capacity stadium to be built east of Seventh Street in the railyard.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the preliminary deal Tuesday. Steinberg said he is hoping for unanimous support.

Under the deal terms, the soccer investors will privately pay for a $252 million stadium on land they will purchase.

The city would offer the team roughly $5.4 million worth of development fee waivers and tax rebates, and would set up a special infrastructure financing district on site to capture tax revenue to pay for up to an estimated $27.2 million in infrastructure around the stadium.

The team would build that infrastructure, which includes streets in the railyard, pedestrian walkways, a sewer line and a light rail station. The city would then rebate future increased property taxes from the site back to the team to cover those costs.

Four years ago, serving on the City Council, McCarty strongly opposed the partnership between the city and the Sacramento Kings to build the $558 million Golden 1 Center. In that deal, the city contributed $255 million in cash and real estate. The Kings, in turn, are making annual rent payments to the city that are expected to cover the majority of the city’s investment.

McCarty said he remains skeptical about that deal, saying “we won’t know for years” how well it will work out.

He lauded the soccer deal, however, saying it protects taxpayers. He pointed out that the $27 million rebate the city will make to the team for building public infrastructure adjacent to the stadium would come from new property taxes the city wouldn’t have if the soccer group didn’t build the stadium.

“It focuses on infrastructure and lets the team do the heavy lifting,” McCarty said. He also called soccer a more affordable sport for fans to attend than major league basketball and baseball.

The MLS board of governors will meet in Los Angeles in two weeks to discuss adding a 28th team to the league. Sacramento and St. Louis are the front-runners, league Commissioner Don Garber told The Sacramento Bee.

The local soccer group would build the stadium only if the the league grants it an expansion franchise.

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