bid to win Major League Soccer franchise gets high marks
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[September 20, 2014]
By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - Sacramento's
dark-horse bid to secure a Major League Soccer franchise won praise from
league officials on Friday, who promised to continue serious
negotiations with boosters led by mayor and former basketball star Kevin
League officials touring the California capital city praised the
site of a proposed downtown stadium and the success of the minor
league Sacramento Republic FC, which is in the semi-finals at its
level and has been selling out tickets since coming to town last
"In a short period of time, what this team has come to mean to this
community is remarkable," Mark Abbott, deputy commissioner of Major
League Soccer, said at a news conference at a former railyard that
is the site of the proposed new soccer stadium. "I leave incredibly
impressed with what we've seen."
He called the city's effort "tremendous."
Abbott and other officials toured the proposed stadium site on
Thursday afternoon and attended a rally and concert for fans that
night. League officials met with the ownership group of the
Republic, the owner of the proposed stadium site, Johnson and
The city is making its play for Major League Soccer just a year
after Johnson led a successful effort to keep the former owners of
the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association from
selling that franchise to a group that wanted to move it to Seattle.
If the city wins the MLS franchise, the team will play at a new $100
million stadium planned for the railyard site, near the location of
a massive new sports and entertainment complex in the works for the
The plan's backers say soccer will appeal to millennials the city is
already wooing with a thriving midtown hipster scene, and to
Latinos, who comprise nearly a quarter of the city's residents, as
well as other groups.
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Sacramento was hard-hit by the economic downturn and parts of
downtown remain shabby. Homeless people mingle with well-heeled
lobbyists and government workers on its streets, and a 1980s-era
shopping mall being demolished to make way for the Kings' arena was
so neglected that the second floor sloped downward.
A soccer franchise with a downtown stadium could help revitalize the
city and mark it as a regional center for sports, analysts say.
Sacramento is competing against several cities, including
Minneapolis, San Antonio and Austin, Texas, for an expansion team
planned by the league.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bill Trott)
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