With Sacramento’s sports scene energized by both the Republic FC’s soccer expansion and the new Sacramento Kings arena, a tantalizing new possibility is on the horizon: the Arena Football League.
Mike Sophia, director of the Sacramento Sports Commission, confirmed Wednesday that officials have had discussions with the AFL’s San Jose SaberCats about playing two end-of-season games in Sleep Train Arena in August if the team’s regular playing field in San Jose is unavailable.
Sophia declined to comment on whether there have been discussions about having the team permanently move to Sacramento to play in the Kings arena, currently under construction at the former Downtown Plaza mall.
“I can’t really comment on whether that’s part of the discussion or not,” Sophia said. “From my standpoint, I’d like to see all the sports business we can get in town.”
SaberCats, Arena League and SAP Center officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the Sacramento Kings, which would have a large say in whether to seek – or purchase – an Arena Football League franchise was also unavailable.
But an Arena Football League team in the new Kings arena holds the potential of producing a stream of revenue during much of the NBA’s off-season.
The SaberCats’ current schedule comprises 18 regular-season games, from late March through August, as well as the potential for playoffs and the Arena Bowl, the league’s championship game.
Sophia said the sports commission has talked with SaberCats officials about the possibility of a playoff game on Aug. 22 and the Arena Bowl on Aug. 29 at Sleep Train, if necessary, because of scheduling conflicts at its current home, SAP Center at San Jose.
Sleep Train’s calendar shows those dates open, although they could be filled before August. The SAP Center calendar does not show those dates as booked. Sophia noted that it is still too early to say whether the SaberCats would need to schedule playing time on those dates; the team, which was founded in 1995, has played only two of its current 2015 season games so far.
“It’s just really early in the process,” he said. “At this point, we’re talking about a postseason site. They’d have to win their division and the conference for the right to host” postseason play.
Sacramento had a previous – and brief – tenure as an Arena Football League city. The Sacramento Attack played at what was then called Arco Arena for one season in 1992. The team was owned by the Sacramento Kings and coached by former NFL quarterback and UC Berkeley coach Joe Kapp, but folded after a 4-7 season, despite sometimes drawing more than 6,000 spectators to the high-octane offensive events.
Even after the Sacramento Attack folded, officials attempted to revive the league here in 1996 but the effort failed.
Arena Football is played indoors in 12 cities nationwide, including Phoenix, Portland and Spokane, and typically features games that are fast-paced and high-scoring. The league was founded in 1987 and its games currently are broadcast on ESPN2 and the CBS Sports Network.
Sacramento’s professional sports scene has changed radically in recent years. The Kings’ new ownership ended talk of having the team moved to Seattle and describes the new arena set to open in the fall of 2016 as one of the most technologically wired modern in the world.
The city’s Sacramento Republic FC expanded seating at its current playing site at Bonney Field at Cal Expo and is eyeing a move up to Major League Soccer status and a new arena in the railyard downtown. That team also has drawn new investment from both the Kings and owners of the San Francisco 49ers.
The Sacramento River Cats kick off their season Thursday as a new affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, a switch from years as an Oakland A’s farm team, and a move that River Cats officials hope will draw new fans.
The region also continues to draw other large sports events, including the 10th annual Amgen Tour of California bicycle race, which begins in Sacramento on May 10, and the 2015 U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club in June.
Call The Bee’s Sam Stanton, (916) 321-1091.