Sacramento has an ownership money issue. It isn’t that the owner of the cities lone sports team, the Sacramento Kings, is a bad person. But he doesn’t possess the billions that other cities have sitting in their ownership box. In fact, as the Sacramento Bee wrote this week, the Sacramento has no local billionaire’s. Their wealthiest local is the person who owns the Kings. This lack of money means that whenever the city is negotiating with the NBA or Kings or another sports team/league, the city will be forced to shoulder the considerable financial bill because the owner frankly can’t pay it all out of his own pocket. To be fair, there are many owners of sports teams with many billions of dollars in their bank who put little into their franchise, whether through salary or their home stadium. But having less of that money will mean that a city must be prepared to finance a larger percentage if need be.
Sacramento really wants an MLS team. Presently, the city has basically a minor league soccer team called Republic FC. The owner of that team, along with some others who formed an ownership group, have been trying to bring an MLS team to the city for years. In 2017, they tried and lost to Nashville in an attempt to get a new expansion team. In 2021, Major League Soccer announced Sacramento, California, would get an expansion team that was scheduled to begin play in 2023. But when the ownership group missed a deadline payment of $200 million for its expansion fee, questions began to come out about whether this ownership group had the required financial capital to own a sports team such as this. Then one of the owners pulled out of the deal citing COVID-19 and increased costs with a potential new stadium.
Instead of just outright stating that Sacramento had lost an expansion bid, MLS took the odd move of simply not talking about them or the ownership group for months. Or as one of my favorite movies says…
ESPN wrote an article after Sacramento lost this expansion bid and noted that the Sacramento group of owners had little to no ability to raise funds from their own pockets and that it was a struggle to find deep pocket owners in Sacramento. Speaking of a lack of deep pockets, I wrote an article yesterday discussing the financial struggles that the Sacramento Kings arena is having today and will have for the next decade or two. There is no talk of the Kings owner taking on more financial responsibility nor do I think he could financially shoulder anymore.
So with all of this said, I found it odd to read the mayor of Sacramento state that both he and the city “want more sports and we want more professional sports franchises”. He follows this up with the million-dollar question with this type of thought:
“The question is how to attract more major league sports in a way that is compatible with a limited city budget, a stressed city budget, and the rightful public insistence that we don’t use city general fund money to make it happen” – Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento Bee, 06/14/23
He doesn’t give us an answer but simply states that he is “optimistic about a new investor” coming into the city, as if a random local with billions of dollars will come out and start paying for a new sports team. That is similar to what the city is doing with a soccer stadium. Even with no professional team, they still intend to build a new stadium. The cost? $150 million….at least. Several months ago, despite losing yet another expansion bid, the ownership group decided that they are still “moving forward” with a stadium.
“Our focus continues to be on how Republic FC can be the best club it can be for the region, to continue to invest in our community, and play winning soccer. Yesterday’s announcement doesn’t change our plans and we’ll continue to march forward for the fans that have supported us for a decade. So I feel really pretty good about where we are at this particular point. But we just can’t afford to wait much longer because we’re missing opportunities on a much larger stadium with a bunch of other events that really help us and the community and the region. That’s the excitement of why we need to get a stadium built”– Sacramento Ownership Group & Republic FC owner Kevin Nagle, Sacramento Bee, 05/23/23
Did we mention that San Diego, the city who did win the expansion team, paid a $500 million expansion fee? That is three times what their proposed stadium was supposed to cost. Yikes. The mayor also seems to enjoy telling the public how much he is doing behind the scenes. He can’t just tell us because…he can’t. He told the Sacramento Bee that when it comes to whether Sacramento will get an MLS team, the mayor wishes that he “could tell you and the public everything, but I can’t”. What about possibly getting an MLB team? The A’s? He can’t tell us this either but know that he talked “with people who are very involved in these questions”.