The Bee’s Ryan Lillis hosted a live chat about soccer and Sacramento’s chances to land a MLS franchise. To read the entire chat, go to sacbee.com/live.
Guest: Do you think the MLS trip to Sacramento will be substantive, or just part of the nationwide expansion tour that has included Las Vegas and any other city that wants a team?
I think it will substantive. MLS isn’t going to waste its time visiting cities it doesn’t think are serious. At the same time, Sacramento has a lot to do before that meeting, most notably coming up with specifics on a stadium plan. MLS knows how wild a soccer market Sacramento is with the success of Republic FC. But an MLS team would need a new stadium and the league wants to see something from Sacramento on that front.
ken_mastro: Elk Grove has quietly been working on getting an MLS franchise for four years through Northern California Soccer LLC and backed by former Assemblyman Fabian Nunez, who ... sits on the board of USA Soccer. What effect on Sacramento’s bid do you think this will have, considering competing groups in Minneapolis has reportedly been a distraction there?
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Great question. If you ask the mayor/Kings/Republic FC contingent, they might say having competing groups is a bad thing. But you’re right, Elk Grove has been working on this for a while. I asked Mark Abbott, the deputy commissioner of MLS, if he planned to visit Elk Grove next month and he said he didn’t know. I asked the question a different way, asking what his thoughts were on downtown vs. suburban stadiums and he said the league clearly prefers downtown stadiums. He cited Portland’s Providence Park, which is a short walk from downtown and has been a huge success.
Guest: When would we know if we are selected as an expansion city?
Sacramento could know as early as December, when the MLS Board of Governors meet at the MLS Cup. The Board of Governors, made up of the current team owners, could vote at that time on expansion.
matt: What are the odds that a downtown stadium will happen considering how difficult it has been to get a Kings arena built? How much does a soccer stadium cost to build and what percentage of these stadiums are typically publicly funded?
The price tag I keep hearing is around $100 million. I also hear that the public contribution could be around one-third of that, so about $30 million to $35 million. Then again, there does seem to be a sense that the city will expect a lot from the private contribution. Here’s a point that was made to me: If the stadium goes in the railyard, the public has already contributed to it by funding roads and infrastructure. Not saying that would be the end of the public contribution, but it could make up a lot of the pie.
Guest: As for the Kings ownership participation, do you see this as a strictly Vivek Ranadive move or does he bring then entire ownership team with him?
I don’t know. It seems the talks are with Sacramento Basketball Holdings, which is the entire Kings ownership group. I could see a situation where you have two arms to SBH – one that runs the Kings and one that runs Republic FC, with Warren Smith and his team running the show.
Jon: What size stadium would Sacramento need to have to optimize the chances of getting a team? I'm confident they can sell out 30,000.
At least 18,000, but I’m hearing it could be much bigger. Republic FC is averaging about 13,000 a game between Bonney and Hughes. The last few teams that jumped from USL Pro to MLS saw their attendance more than double, so there’s a sense Republic FC could draw in the 25,000 range, at least.
Travis: Do you think there is any chance the Sacramento group buys Chivas USA for the $60 million asking price and relocates them and “rebrands” them as Republic FC as opposed to waiting for expansion?
A lot of people are wondering this. MLS has been very clear they want to keep the team in Los Angeles. Abbott said they want a local group in L.A. that would build a stadium closer to downtown, perhaps on or near the USC campus. Does David Beckham give up on Miami and buy Chivas?
Guest: Does the one city, one team factor play into Sacramento’s case for expansion? The Kings and Republic FC seasons are opposite of each other and the Republic and River Cats have proven a couple times this year that both teams can sell out their parks on the same night.
Absolutely. MLS loves going into those markets. Portland, Salt Lake, Orlando. With Sacramento’s size, the city’s argument for MLS is that it is the most under-served market in big league sports.
Bradley: Are they contemplating other uses of the stadium? What other sorts of outdoor event might it attract?
I think concerts and other events are strong possibilities, especially if the stadium goes in the railyard. The city will want a year-round event center to anchor development in the railyard.
Brandon: What do you see is the likelihood of this all happening?
I stay away from predicting such things. I will say the Sacramento contingent felt very good after the MLS meetings and MLS had some very nice things to say about Sacramento.