SACRAMENTO — Sacramento Republic FC and the City of Sacramento need to score fast, or their dreams of joining MLS will fall to the wayside.
“We are looking for a lead investor,” said Ben Gumpert, the team’s chief operating officer. “We’ve had multiple conversation toward that front. We are continuing those conversations, and MLS is incredibly excited about Sacramento.”
But are they really?
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said it wasn’t a question of if, but when Sacramento would be awarded an MLS franchise. But since the process started four years ago, the fee alone to join MLS has gone up $75 million.
Add to it an additional $30 to $50 million in stadium costs at the downtown railyards and it’s easy to understand the large funding gap.
Still, publicly the team and the city seem lockstep in sync on solving the problem.
“I’ll say that we are laser-focused on finding a lead investor, that is where the road goes through,” Gumpert said. “Toward that end, we are working closely with Mayor Steinberg, with elected, with the entire business community to figure out any and every possible avenue to get that done.”
“It’s time to be creative. Because the last thing we want is to not research and not look at models to benefit this stadium,” said Michael Ault with Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
Ault says his office fields a lot of calls in support of Sacramento getting a MLS team. But it won’t be a little nudge that gets the city over the finish line.
“If there are ways, public, private, to be looked at. Let’s address them,” Ault said. “Let’s look at them. Let’s get some community feedback on it.”
The Golden 1 Center was built with $212 million of the city’s money. So, would it make sense for Sacramento to create a subsidy and do it again for a much smaller amount?
“We are committed to finding any and all measures that makes sense for all parties involved to get a MLS team,” Gumpert said.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s office was also non-committal in regard to using some public funding to help Sacramento’s bid, giving the following statement, but making no mention of a public or private partnership: “We still have work to do on the ownership front to make our selection the no-brainer it should be. We continue to work with the Sacramento Republic to recruit new investors to bolster the strength and capacity of our local ownership group.”
Whether or not that means city officials now have a zero appetite for using public money remains to be seen.
“Nothing is off the table at this point, and I think we need to make sure we are being very clear to not only MLS, but we’re being clear to this community that soccer belongs here,” Ault said. “We want this franchise because it can help us continue the excitement and momentum we are seeing.”
Garber said last week he was hoping to have an announcement in regard to the next expansion team by mid-March. So, with about six more weeks to go, fans will have to see what the city and the Republic FC can come up with.