Cal Expo soccer stadium delayed

An effort to construct a temporary soccer stadium at Cal Expo to house the newly formed Sacramento Republic FC has been delayed.

Still, team officials said Wednesday that they are optimistic the 8,000-seat stadium will be completed in time for Republic FC’s first home match in late April. The team is planning to play 14 league matches at the stadium, along with a series of “friendlies” against international and Major League Soccer teams.

The Cal Expo board of directors had been scheduled to vote on the plan to build the stadium at the board’s meeting on Friday. That vote will now likely happen at the board’s Jan. 31 meeting.

Ovations Fanfare, the company building the privately financed stadium, has asked for an extension of its exclusive negotiating agreement with Cal Expo “to allow for additional time to effectively continue the discussion,” according to a news release issued jointly by Cal Expo, Ovations and Republic FC.

“Although the timeline for strategic evaluation and project completion has been aggressive in an attempt to meet the Sacramento Republic FC 2014 season, all parties recognize the merit of engaging in a thorough and thoughtful process,” the news release read.

Warren Smith, president of Republic FC, said in the news release that the team has secured 2,700 season ticket packages from fans who “are excited to begin the seat assignment process in what could be a remarkable new asset.”

In an interview, Smith said he was “95 percent” sure the plan would be finalized by the January Cal Expo board meeting. However, he described that date as “kind of drop-dead for us” to get the plan approved in time to have the facility open for the 2014 season opener.

If the project is further delayed, Smith said, the team is still exploring the option of playing its home games at Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College. He said he plans to meet with college officials next week.

Officials with the Sacramento City College athletics department could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

“Even if we had to play a couple of games at Hughes Stadium, or even the first season, we’re still going to move forward with (the Cal Expo) facility,” Smith said. “We want to deliver sooner rather than later.”

If the stadium plan is approved by the Cal Expo board next month, team officials said they expect construction to be completed in two months.

Smith has set a goal of averaging 6,750 fans per home game for Republic FC, which will play in the lower-division USL Pro league. The team has also set a goal of being awarded an expansion spot in Major League Soccer in 2016.

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