Mayor Kevin Johnson sent a memo to the City Council on Tuesday, highlighting the opportunities for Major League Soccer (MLS) in Sacramento, and announcing that two top league executives have scheduled a visit to the city.
MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott and Special Assistant to the Commissioner Charles Altchek will be here September 18 and 19, according to the memo that was also provided to FOX40.
“We’re going to show them that we have an incredible market,” Ben Sosenko, Mayor Johnson’s press secretary, said in a Tuesday conversation with FOX40 while the mayor was out of town. “We all saw what we were able to do with the Kings. We have some of the best fans in the country. We have 2.3 million people in our region. We’re a top-20 TV market. And the passion from sports fans here is tangible.”
The region also has a proven fan base as evidenced by the Sacramento Republic Football Club, which plays at Cal Expo, setting minor league soccer attendance records this season.
Mayor Johnson’s preferred location for a new soccer stadium is the Downtown Sacramento railyards.
Elk Grove is also making an effort to lure MLS.
“We have a financing outline for what it would take to build a stadium,” Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis told FOX40 last week. “That puts us leaps and bounds ahead of, not just the Sacramento effort frankly, but cities all over the country that are trying to bring a team to their town.”
The MLS executives will visit Elk Grove during their trip to the region, according to former State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez who is the lead investor in the Elk Grove effort. The city recently purchased 100 acres of land along Highway 99 with a soccer stadium in mind.
“Being able to reach as far down as the northern part of Fresno, and all the way up to the tip of Sacramento County is important because obviously this is a region where a population is very supportive of professional sports,” said Nunez. “But you can’t do one site at the expense of the other. In other words, this has to be a regional approach…It can’t be competing forces going after various teams. It has to be a ‘one’ approach because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to jump ahead of the rest of the crowd.”
Sosenko said Mayor Johnson believes a Sacramento-based stadium and club would have positive regional impacts that could benefit Elk Grove, though details have yet to be worked out.
“We will pursue an MLS franchise in close collaboration with the ownership of Republic FC, led by Warren Smith,” Johnson said in his memo to the City Council.
According to Sacramento Republic FC vice president Erika Bjork, the team prefers Sacramento. All the financially successful MLS stadiums are in downtown cores, and the less successful stadiums are in the suburbs, she told FOX40.