Extra time on Sacramento soccer bid

Mayor announces new lead investor in Republic FC

Since becoming Sacramento’s mayor, Darrell Steinberg has made a habit of making news at the annual State of Downtown event.

At his first one in 2017, he proposed a new plan for expanding the Sacramento Convention Center but also investing in other attractions to make Sacramento a bigger visitor destination. In 2018, he called for aggressive action to build more housing for the homeless, not merely manage the crisis.

On Tuesday, he did it again. The mayor announced that Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle will become lead investor in Sacramento Republic FC, which should boost its bid to get a Major League Soccer franchise. Burkle, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, previously was a “whale” investor who tried to buy the Sacramento Kings.

Sacramento’s MLS hopes took a big hit last year, when it didn’t get an expansion team. This year, Sacramento is expected to have to compete with Detroit, St. Louis, Phoenix and other cities for the final available franchise.

Steinberg also said that Burkle will buy the potential site in the downtown railyards for a 20,000-seat soccer stadium, plus 14 surrounding acres, to create an entertainment district. The mayor again promised that there will be no direct public financing, but he proposes that the city waive development fees, partner with Republic FC on new electronic sign revenue and establish an infrastructure finance district in the railyards.

The soccer stadium is supposed to be an anchor for the railyards, a 240-acre site that is as big as the central business district but has been mostly vacant for nearly three decades. Another key piece for railyards development is a state-of-the-art, 1.3-million-square-foot medical center planned by Kaiser Permanente, which also announced Tuesday that it is finalizing its land purchase. Last year, the state appropriated $460 million to build a new Sacramento County Courthouse on the edge of the railyards.