Mayor Steinberg announces big news for Republic FC, Sacramento's MLS bid

Mayor Steinberg announces big news for Republic FC, Sacramento's MLS bid

When I was a young councilmember back in the early 1990’s, one of the first things I remember doing was visiting the offices of Southern Pacific in the railyards. I have vivid memories of SP’s lawyer showing me an impressive three-dimensional model of what Southern Pacific planned to build. It showed high-rise office and residential buildings stretching across an area as big as our current downtown. Exciting stuff.

 Back then, in 1993, SP predicted construction could start in a year. I left the City Council in ‘98, served six years in the Assembly, and eight years in the Senate, and virtually nothing happened. Governor Schwarzenegger used to tease me all the time in our endless budget negotiations, ‘Steiny, when am I going to see something great when I come in to your city Monday mornings from the airport.’

Republic FC’s Kevin Nagle (left) and Ben Gumpert (right) with Mayor Darrell Steinberg

Republic FC’s Kevin Nagle (left) and Ben Gumpert (right) with Mayor Darrell Steinberg

 Other big proposals came and went. In 2007, it looked like the railyard was again poised to take off. Developer Stan Thomas said it would be “a vibrant place to live, eat, sleep and work” with 12,000 residents. In reality, the closest we ever came to an actual tenant in the railyards back then was a Bass Pro Shop. And we didn’t even get that.

 It’s January 2019. All those days of dreaming are over.

Today, we’re celebrating Kaiser’s announcement that it has purchased the land for a new hospital in the Railyards -- building on the company’s recent investments in a new medical office complex and a sports medicine facility around Golden 1 Center. Kaiser will serve as one of the major anchor tenants for the Railyards -- and the significance of this announcement cannot be overstated.

 The hospital will join a new $460-million superior courthouse that we successfully lobbied to have included in the state budget this year. Combined, these two facilities will create thousands of jobs.

They join the new Powerhouse Science Center under construction nearby on the waterfront.

 These developments are a real, substantial, and exciting beginning of an expansive downtown vision, not just impressive three-dimensional models.

 I want to thank all the partners who made this progress happen, including our dedicated and persistent City team Councilmember, Jeff Harris, who has represented the Railyards tremendously over the last four years, and Councilmember Steve Hansen, for leading downtown through its current Renaissance, and all my other City Council colleagues – Eric Guerra, Angelique Ashby, Rick Jennings, Larry Carr, Jay Schenirer and Allen Warren -- who are my full partners in leading this city...I especially want to thank the Kelleys, Larry and Denton, and the entire LDK team. They are the first developers to make something real happen. They deserve our deep appreciation for sticking with it.

 Today’s Kaiser news alone would be plenty to make a darn good State of the Downtown speech in 2019. But good enough is not good enough.

 For I’ve got something else to tell you today.

 Remember Major League soccer? In 2018, Sacramento’s fight may have been off the public radar, but it was quietly front and center in my office at City Hall.

You remember that back in December 2017, we came close to a big announcement. Kevin Nagle, the Republic FC owner, his team, and I flew back to New York to make our case.

The league told us we had nearly all the pieces in place for MLS. We had the design for a first-class stadium, we had a passionate fan base, and we had that fighting spirit.

 But the league wanted one more thing: a well-capitalized partner to help Kevin and the local Republic ownership group pull off their ambitious plan. Kevin, Republic President Ben Gumpert and the whole Republic team have done a great job and continue to do right by the Sacramento Republic and our community. Kevin has spent tens of millions of dollars of his own hard-earned money betting big on Sacramento. He certainly deserves our deep gratitude and thanks for keeping our MLS hopes alive.

 We have spent a year together quietly searching for and vetting potential partners to realize our dream. We have worked with all the right people to develop a true public-private partnership to put us in the best position to win. I have approached these discussions over the year with excitement, urgency, and always with the interests of the tax-paying public forefront in my mind.

2019 will be the year of breakthroughs on many fronts. Here is breakthrough number one.

I am thrilled to announce that investor and philanthropist Ron Burkle has agreed to become the lead investor in the Sacramento Republic, and that TOGETHER we will make our case for Sacramento to become the next Major League Soccer Franchise.

 Ron is renowned for his business acumen. He has served as chairman and controlling shareholder of such familiar grocery chains as Ralphs, Fred Meyer and Food4Less.

 He is also a successful real estate investor, and he isn’t new to sports, either. Ron and a partner bought the Pittsburgh Penguins out of bankruptcy in 1999 and turned it into a repeat Stanley Cup winner and one of the most respected  franchises in major league sports.

 I have known Ron for years. He loves Sacramento and intends to be a major investor and contributor to our city.

 In early February, we will travel back to New York City to meet with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and his team.

Commissioner Garber has had a legendary career as a professional sports executive, and I personally could not be more impressed with him and the league that he has built. He has been directly involved in the Sacramento discussions over the past twelve months and I know he is pleased by this new development.

Ron’s purchase of the Sacramento Republic – remember, the MLS team will always be called the Sac Republic FC -- is a major domino, but only the first. The Burkle group also has reached an agreement with the Kelleys to buy both the Railyards stadium site AND the surrounding 14 acres to create an entertainment district. This larger purchase creates endless possibilities for expediting the buildout of the railyards. This has become something much bigger than soccer.. it’s about catalyzing the development of the entire Railyards.. it’s about building the next DOCO in our city.. and it’s only the beginning.

We will bring MLS to Sacramento without direct public financing. The stadium and team purchases will be privately financed. No city funding is required for either.

  The City will not write a check, and it will not bear any liability or risk.

 In the coming weeks, I will recommend a proposal to my colleagues on the City Council to consider that we partner with the Burkle group and the Kelleys in other ways that will directly help elevate and expedite the overall development of our Railyards.

 I will strongly stand behind the establishment of an infrastructure finance district (IFD) in the railyards. These districts allow the increase in property values over time to finance some of the key infrastructure on the site. The City should also partner with the new owners to generate new electronic signage revenue and waive some of our City development fees.

All of this is more than worth kickstarting the development of the Railyards.. a project that is critical to our City’s economic future. The stadium alone is expected to have an economic impact of $1.25 billion.

 I say today with great confidence that we have built a world-class expansion bid and that we will do everything in our power to bring a Major League Soccer team to Sacramento. Our community deserves it. We will win!

Getting an MLS franchise will be breakthrough number one in 2019 for our indomitable city.

With the new Kaiser hospital and the courthouse, the stadium and adjoining entertainment district will jump start development in a the 240-acre railyard. We will make it a center of economic activity and vitality for our city that will rival its heyday as a center of innovation and technology during the age of the transcontinental railroad.

 I’d like to thank Ron Burkle for his willingness to invest nearly a billion dollars in our city and our future.  I would like to thank Matt Alvarez, a key member of the ownership group.  I want to again thank the Kelleys., and I especially want to thank Kevin Nagle and Ben Gumpert for fighting day in and day out on behalf of Sacramento. Thank you to the Downtown Sacramento Partnership and the Sacramento Republic FC faithful -- who never gave up hope.

This will be one heck of a way to start our year together...for the downtown, for the railyards, for our city, and for our region..

 Yesterday, we announced the beginnings of a new and bold direction ensuring that more young people have enriching and safe activities every weekend in Sacramento.

 Today, we announce we are now this close to getting Major League Soccer.

 The week after next, you will hear our proposal to invest tens of millions of local, state, and private dollars to get thousands of people off our streets.

 This spring, we will launch a funded Waterfront initiative.

 This spring and early summer, we will launch our first inclusive economic development initiatives funded by Measure U.

 And that’s only the first half of the year.

 It is a great time to be a Sacramentan.

Let us not settle

Let us strive

We are a major league city in EVERY way.

It’s time for major breakthroughs on every front.

I love this city.

Let’s go!!

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