Mayor Johnson Assembles Team to Help Secure MLS Bid

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Sacramento’s Hopes of an MLS Team

File photo of Republic FC fans.


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced on Monday his plans for successfully bringing a Major League Soccer team to Sacramento.

Mayor Johnson plans for Think Big Sacramento, the initiative focused on promoting job creation and economic development projects throughout the Sacramento area, to join in the city’s efforts to bring Sacramento its second major league franchise.

As part of Monday’s announcement, Mayor Johnson appointed Chris Lehane to serve as Executive Director, Dan Barrett as Special Consultant, and Benny Aziz as Project Manager. The three will work very closely with the Mayor, Sacramento, and Sacramento Republic FC to help secure an MLS expansion bid in 2014.

“I’m thrilled about the dream team coming back together,” explained Mayor Johnson. “Think Big Sacramento
played a key role in our fight to save the Kings and build a new entertainment and sports complex. This time
around I have tasked them to help us prove to MLS that Sacramento is a major league city with a great market,
strong ownership group, and a clear path to a brand new soccer stadium.”

Chris Lehane, a national political consultant, was the group’s Executive Director during the city’s fight to keep the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, and he will get back into the driver’s seat to oversee Think Big’s strategy and operations.

“The fact that the Think Big band is being put back together reflects the fact that Sacramento is in position to take a shot at the goal of securing an MLS bid in 2014,” said Lehane. “This is an opportunity to capitalize on Sacramento’s rich soccer marketplace to continue the transformation of downtown and the entire region. And this is a community that has made clear it is more than capable of thinking big, being big and acting big.”

Dan Barrett, who will serve as Special Consultant, brings extensive experience with MLS projects, including market and financial feasibility, as well as stadium lease structures. His MLS clients have included the league office, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, New York Red Bulls, and Philadelphia Union.

Benny Aziz previously served as Director of Strategic Partnerships for Think Big, and will now be managing the team’s collaborative efforts with other groups in the city.

The think tank believes Sacramento to be an excellent location for a Major League Soccer team because of Republic FC’s loyal following and great ticket sales, as well as the historically excellent ticket sales by both the Sacramento River Cats and the Sacramento Kings. Sacramento is also the nation’s 20th largest television market.

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They also have a lot of faith in the team’s new, local owner Kevin Nagle.  Nagle is the largest local shareholder and executive voting member of the Sacramento Kings. He had a big hand in preventing the Kings from moving to Seattle.

Think Big will initially work to prepare presentations to MLS officials during their visit to Sacramento on Thursday, September 18 and Friday, September 19, including providing specific data on the unique strengths of the Sacramento market.

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