If Sacramento promises to build it, will Major League Soccer come?: City to vote on Republic FC stadium term sheet tomorrow

Republic FC owners and city leaders are hoping for some Field of Dreams magic tomorrow, when council is poised to approve construction of another downtown home for a local sports team. 

But unlike the Kings arena and its north-of-$300 million public subsidy , the Republic’s proposed 25,000-seat stadium would be more or less privately financed—save for infrastructure contributions by the city and what appears to be a $100,000 drop-in-the-bucket carve out to pay for project consultants.

This non-binding Republic FC soccer stadium term sheet was released just five days ago, the day before Thanksgiving, and is scheduled to be voted on tomorrow, December 1. That’s not a huge amount of time to marinate on the deal, so here’s a quick rundown on Sac’s soccer stadium scheme:

So, taxpayers really aren’t going to pay for a dime of this new stadium? 

Sort of. The stadium’s footprint is estimated at 16 acres, and $2.9 million in “public infrastructure benefits” (think roads, traffic lights, sewer systems) paid for by the city, state and federal governments already has been spent on each acre. That means, technically, the city pitched in $46 million of the stadium’s proposed $226 million price tag. The remainder, $180 million, will be privately financed of the team’s operating group, called Sac Soccer and Entertainment Holdings LLC.

Is that construction price tag realistic? 

It’s actually more than the going price of an MLS stadium.

Minnesota United FC was granted an expansion team this past year, ahead of Sacramento, and estimates for the construction of its new stadium in Minneapolis are around $120 million.

In nearby San Jose, the Earthquakes moved into Avaya Stadium this year, which cost $100 million to build.

How much money will the stadium bring in for the city? 

No clue yet. The city of Sacramento will take in 50 percent of the stadium parking revenues, for 6,500 spaces, but won’t have to operate the lots during soccer games, concerts and other outdoor events. The city estimates that it will make its investment back from new taxes, fees and development kickstarted by the stadium, which will be located at the northeast end of the vacant Railyards lot.

A city staff report stated that the typical MLS franchise and stadium operation crew equals anywhere from 75 to 120 jobs. The construction-related jobs vary from 900ish to just more than 2,000.

An economic study paid for by SSEH projects a total economic output from the stadium at $153 million locally and $341 million regionally/statewide during the construction period alone.

OK, is Sacramento getting a pro soccer team or what?

MLS will only grant Sacramento an expansion team if there’s league-approved stadium in the region. There isn’t. Hence, council was poised to approve a term sheet outlining the basics of construction a new downtown stadium. The term sheet is, again, non-binding. But it’s the framework of a deal, presumably in good faith, between the city and SSEH. And it’s also the final piece of Mayor Kevin Johnson and the team’s “Operation Turnkey,” a marketing strategy to persuade MLS that Sacramento can handle a pro team. The goal is to open the new stadium in March 2018.

The catch is that MLS already has a full expansion roster set for 2020, when it will jump to 24 teams in the league from 20. Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Miami are the four new squads—although Miami has yet to lock in a stadium deal.

Earlier this month, a major partner in the effort to bring MLS to Miami told the Miami Herald that he was “nervous” about the prospects of MLS in Miami. He said this because property owners are driving up prices on the heels of his group’s interest in purchasing land for a new soccer stadium.

And now, this afternoon, the Miami group announced that it is abandoning its stadium effort.

Meanwhile, in San Antonio, the city and county recently purchased an existing stadium in hopes of nabbing an expansion team. That’s not killer news for Sacto soccer fans.

MLS board of governors will be meeting this weekend before the MLS Cup final match to discuss the expansion process. There’s been zero public comment by MLS regarding the addition of more than 24 teams.

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