With the Oct. 21 announcement that the Sacramento Republic will become Major League Soccer’s (MLS) 29th team, the timing is right for reflection in Elk Grove.
Six years have passed since then-Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis began promoting a project to attract the MLS to this city.
In 2013, he proposed a $100 million, 18,000 to 20,000-seat MLS soccer stadium for Elk Grove.
A professional soccer feasibility study, which was presented to the Elk Grove City Council on March 13, 2013, reviewed both the feasibility of both the MLS and the North American Soccer League (NASL) in Elk Grove.
That study notes that “the Elk Grove region can support either league’s annual operations, assuming that the city bears the capital costs related to the stadium.”
However, the study referred to Major League Soccer as a “higher-risk model,” and that a MLS stadium would cost four to five times more than an NASL stadium.
Davis, in a July 19, 2013 press statement, wrote: “I am excited about the prospect of the Sacramento Republic Division III (United Soccer League) team feeding into a Division I MLS team in Elk Grove.”
Elk Grove’s professional soccer stadium proposal moved closer to becoming a reality in 2014, when the city purchased a 100-acre parcel at Grant Line Road and Highway 99 for nearly $4.4 million. That September, MLS officials visited Elk Grove’s potential stadium site on that property.
It was also during that year that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, Sacramento Kings President Chris Granger and Warren Smith, minor-league soccer president, traveled to Portland to speak in favor of Sacramento as a viable MLS city.
However, in 2016, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced that Sacramento, not Elk Grove, was among the top candidates from this region to be considered for an expansion team.
Garber’s recent announcement that Sacramento was awarded the latest MLS expansion, comes with a plan to have a $300,000, 20,100-seat MLS stadium constructed on the historic rail yard property, north of I Street in downtown Sacramento. The team would begin playing in that stadium in 2022.
The city of Elk Grove still owns the 100-acre site once envisioned for a MLS stadium in Elk Grove.
Christopher Jordan, the city’s director of strategic planning and innovation, recently noted that because that land is outside of city limits, an annexation process through the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) began in 2015.
“We had to start with our Sphere of Influence (SOI) amendment,” he said. “That required a full environmental review.
“Part of that process (with LAFCo) in 2015 was they wanted to look at a broader area, so the boundaries of the sphere amendment and ultimate annexation had more logical components.”
Last May, LAFCo approved the city’s proposal to increase its Sphere Of Influence (SOI) – a decision that gave Elk Grove the authority to annex about 561 acres – south of Grant Line Road, between Mosher Road and Waterman Road and near the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
Also approved through the SOI was an amendment to include the 100-acre, city-owned parcel for its future development into a multi-sport park complex. The complex plan focuses on a community-use, recreational component, and does not include a professional soccer field.
Jordan mentioned that city staff is currently working on an infrastructure master plan for conditions required under the SOI approval.
After mentioning that he was not involved in Elk Grove’s proposal to bring MLS to this city, Jordan responded to the news that Sacramento won its bid to secure an MLS franchise.
“As a city, we’re excited for them,” he said. “We think it’s a great opportunity for the region. We fully support everything they’re doing.”