Even if you’re not a soccer fan, there’s much to cheer about an MLS team in Sacramento

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MLS & Sacramento

Click the arrow below for more coverage of Major League Soccer’s announcement of an expansion team in Sacramento.

A large and loyal fan base is reveling in Sacramento Republic FC’s apparent rise to the big leagues. It’s a triumphant moment for the city that will touch the lives of people throughout the region whether they consider themselves soccer enthusiasts or not.

Even if you don’t like soccer, here are some things to look forward to:

Railyard transformation

The announcement that Republic FC will join Major League Soccer sets in motion a sequence of events that will reshape the city’s landscape and bring premier outdoor events to Sacramento for years to come. The construction of a privately financed $252 million soccer stadium will transform the downtown railyard and the addition of a second major professional sports team further legitimizes Sacramento as a city capable of supporting big-league teams and attracting big-time events.

The stadium project will add another jewel to the crown of downtown Sacramento following the 2016 opening of Golden 1 Center. Republic president Ben Gumpert has said the stadium project, which is expected to be complete in 2022, might “catalyze all of downtown development.”

The 20,000-seat stadium will be on the northeast corner of the property with an adjacent entertainment district. The plan to transform the area around the stadium with a Kaiser Permanente medical center, office buildings, residential housing, shops and restaurants will take years to complete, but the stadium itself will immediately enhance sports and entertainment options for people across the region.

Outdoor concerts, world-class talent

You want to watch some of the world’s best soccer players in America’s premier professional league? You want to hear Ariana Grande sing beneath the stars in a spectacular outdoor concert venue? You want to howl at the moon while Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus perform “Old Town Road”?

Republic’s move to MLS might make that possible.

Orlando was awarded an MLS team in 2015. Orlando City SC opened $155-million Exploria Stadium in 2017. The venue has been used for international matches featuring the United States men’s and women’s national teams, NCAA Women’s College Cup games and other sporting events. The stadium hosted the 2019 MLS All-Star Game and a college football bowl game.

The San Jose Earthquakes, Sacramento’s new Northern California rival, opened Avaya Stadium in 2015. MLS held its All-Star Game there in 2016 and the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams have played there as well.

Those venues are used exclusively for soccer, but Toyota Stadium, the home of FC Dallas, has hosted numerous concerts over the years. Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Kiss, Ed Sheeran and Imagine Dragons have all performed at the 20,500-seat outdoor soccer stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Affordable entertainment

The Republic’s new stadium will provide Sacramento with a state-of-the-art venue for outdoor sports and entertainment and dozens of opportunities each year for family fun. The team has drawn well in the United Soccer League over the years in a community with about 100,000 youth soccer participants, many of whom attend Republic games through organized team and league outings.

A family of four can attend a Republic game for about $60, although prices will likely increase when the team moves to MLS. Most tickets for the Earthquakes’ game against FC Dallas on June 8 in San Jose range from $25 to $32.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed stadium in Sacramento depicts an open-air palace with 360-degree circulation and lookout points offering views of the river and the downtown skyline, perfect for a night out in the heart of the city.

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Jason Anderson is an award-winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He started his journalism career at The Bee more than 20 years ago and returned to cover the Sacramento Kings in September 2018.