Sacramento becomes contender in fight for MLS team

About 600 miles north of Sacramento, a fight over MLS teams took center stage at the All-Star game.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Sacramento Kings President Chris Granger and Sacramento Republic FC President Warren Smith met with the league to try to convince them to make the Republic a MLS team.

Unfortunately, there's only one spot left in the league for another team -- with Austin, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and San Antonio all vying for a team.

"I'm very, very encouraged," said Johnson from a Portland hotel after the meeting. "I think the big news for us today is [MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott] is committed to coming out, bringing his team to Sacramento so we can talk about what it would take for Sacramento to become an expansion site."

Granger made the trip because the Kings' ownership has expressed interest in buying a part of the Sacramento Republic FC.

"We're still having conversations with Warren and the Sac Republic," Granger said. "First and foremost from the Kings' standpoint and Vivek's standpoint, we do love soccer. But more than anything else, we're fans of Sacramento."

MLS made it clear for Sacramento to be considered three things must be in place: fan support, an ownership group and a stadium. Two of the three seemed to be checked; the new stadium is the last obstacle.

News10 media partner the Sacramento Business Journal reports the railyards site is the first choice.

"It's begging for development proposals," Sacramento Business Journal reporter Ben van der Meer said. "And it has the aspect they didn't even have with the (Kings) arena, where there's an existing use on the site they have to remove. Here you have a clean slate."

The southeast corner of the railyard site is the same place the city had a plan to build the new Kings arena. That plan was abandoned when the Maloof brothers opted out of the deal.

MLS has criteria for the stadium: it needs to be close to public transit and bars and restaurants.

The railyards meet that criteria, but one concern is the environment issues the site may pose. However, cleanup is underway.

"What I've heard is that's supposed to be finished by the end of 2015," Van der Meer said. "And realistically, you're not developing a stadium for a couple of years out. So the timing might be ideal."

A second option for the stadium would likely be the Township Nine Park development, north of Richards Boulevard between 5th and 7th streets.

The Sacramento Republic FC has seven games left this season. Attendance has been great, selling out Hughes Stadium and Bonney Field several times.

"I've been in conversations with [the MLS] for three years," Smith said in Portland. "The conversations have been deeper, they're going longer and they're asking us more questions. When they're not asking questions, that's a problem."

Abbott talked publicly about Sacramento Tuesday during a media briefing. quoted Abbott saying, "Obviously, there are a lot of really wonderful things going on in Sacramento. The market itself is a really great market. But what's been happening with Republic has been a really good news story."

He added, "There are significant people in Sacramento who have an interest in seeing MLS come there, including the mayor, who has been quite vocal about that. He's really an advocate. We have great respect for what the new Kings ownership group has done with the Kings. And when you look at what Warren has done with Republic, I think that's a really great story."


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