Sacramento MLS stadium plan: Let us use city-improved rail yards land, we’ll pay for the rest

The Sacramento city council is set to vote today on a term sheet for a new Republic F.C. soccer stadium, which means that unlike all the past times Mayor “I Don’t Recall Being 100% Naked” talked about it, we have some actual numbers to evaluate. So let’s sit down with the term sheet, and begin.

First off, a term sheet is not a contract, or even a memorandum of understanding: It’s basically a sketch of how the financing and operations of a stadium will be worked out. So if the council approves it today, there will still be loads of details TBD.

That said, there’s a lot spelled out in the term sheet that rules out some of the more common hidden subsidies in these kinds of deals: The team owners would pay the entire $180 million construction cost, plus overruns, and would pay operating and maintenance costs. The team is even promising to pay property taxes, which as we’ve seen elsewhere isn’t always the case.

In exchange, Sacramento would turn over a chunk of land on the old railyards site that has received $46 million worth of infrastructure improvements to turn it into developable property. (This money has already been allocated, anyway; whether it’s all been spent is frustratingly vague in both the term sheet and the news articles about it, and Google Maps isn’t much help.) That’s not nothing — it’s land that could be used for something else otherwise — but since this is private land that’s gotten the public investment, the only taxpayer cost would be the money that the city has already committed to shelling out regardless of whether a stadium is built.

So, tentative thumbs-up for a plan that minimizes public costs! There are still many steps to go before this is set in stone, obviously, but if this goes ahead as written in the term sheet, it’d be a better deal for the public than pretty much any other MLS stadium deal outside of the one that the crazy rich guy is building in Orlando. Friends, they’ll call it a movement.

22 comments on “Sacramento MLS stadium plan: Let us use city-improved rail yards land, we’ll pay for the rest

  1. I believe the $46 million has already been spent. The railyards were a toxic waste nightmare that could not be developed until they were cleaned. That cleanup has been taking place over the last couple of decades. In addition, the roads into the area are in place and ready for traffic.

  2. I seem to recall that Avaya Stadium in San Jose was a good deal for taxpayers. Or am off on that?

  3. Oh, good point. I’d have to go double-check the details, but yes, San Jose should be added to the short list.

  4. I do feel like, on the face of it, this isn’t a bad deal. It feels kind of pre-arranged, though; as if the development they’ve done in the railyards was always intended to benefit a soccer stadium, and they just “kept it on the QT.”

    The bigger deal might be the traffic nightmare they’re constructing in this part of town. I don’t want to be the guy who’s coming out of the Convention Center, Memorial Auditorium or Music Circus right as a sporting event at the arena and/or the stadium is/are letting out. There’s still only a single lane from I Street onto Southbound I-5, and I see no way to get around that issue. It’s not going to be adequate. If there really are going to be 180 events at that arena, it’s unavoidable that you’ll have overlapping events. I just don’t know who’s going to pay to fix that.

  5. Oh, and there’s a baseball stadium right there too. True, it is in West Sac — but it does use the same freeway infrastructure.

    If you pull out Google Maps again, you’ll see there’s a connector ramp from north 5 to west 50. I’ve been stuck on that ramp for an hour a couple times, due solely to traffic. So if you have a baseball game, Music Circus, a concert at the arena and a soccer game on the same evening, it could take an hour to make it to Sutterville Road.

  6. That hour on the freeway will follow the 30-60 minutes it takes to get to the freeway which will follow the 60-90 minutes it takes to get out of the parking structures.

    Yep. Downtown is the place to visit!

  7. Gents – that’s why you use RT Metro if you’re gonna go to an event when other things are happening downtown. Yeah, it’s scuzzy, but I’d take 20 minutes of temporary scuzzy over sitting in traffic for an hour after a game. YMMV.

  8. Aside from the fact that most of the system shuts down at 11:00 PM? I would rather stay and see the entire performance that I paid for.

  9. Oh – where can you get in only 20 minutes? When I use the system, I have at minimum an hour of travel time and two or more transfers to deal with.

  10. If all those people attending those events take light rail to and from, you’ll wait 45 minutes just to get onto your train.

    I do think people will try light rail… Once. Right now, it takes about 45 minutes to get home from STA to Granite Bay. For those who try light rail, they’ll realize after one attempt that 2 hours to get home isn’t really acceptable. 45 minutes to get on a train; 45 minutes to the Watt station; and I still have a 30 minute drive. Oh, and with a family in tow, the 4 light rail tickets cost the same as parking.

    Once. Then they’ll drive.

  11. If you want to take RT to an event and get back to Granite Bay, it had better be a matinee as the last train leaves at 6:19 PM.

  12. Well, the thing about transit schedules is they can be augmented. I actually don’t see that as a problem.

    It’s the fact that a 4 car train is limited to 400 people that’s the issue. If 1,200 people are headed that way, you might have to wait for the third train. Trains come once every 15 minutes. And there you are.

    But I think this is what the proposed trolley was all about. There’s that huge parking lot, right there, with a trolley going right past it, and that lot is empty about 290 days a year. It makes me wonder if the RiverCats might be thinking about going into the parking business. Heck, I still would; the Tower Bridge to 5th and K isn’t that long of a walk.

  13. I do see it as a problem the city has a history of not augmenting the schedules system-wide or for the correct times. There have been many events downtown where people were encouraged to use RT to attend – New Year’s celebrations, rallies, races – when people have been trapped. They added buses to the grid, but no further. They added some trains for a short time after the event “officially” ended, but anyone who straggled for even a few minutes could not make it to the last one. Feeder routes to train stations were completely ignored leaving many stranded at the remote stations. I know many people who swore “Never again” after these fiascos.

  14. It’s probably not that big a deal just because most of the plans for the rail yards turned out to be pie in the sky. We were supposed to have housing, retail and office development, but those plans went down with a couple of bankruptcies during the recession. So far, there’s the new courthouse and a Kaiser medical facility.

    My only problem with it is that MLS seems to be much less interested in Sacramento than Sacramento is in MLS.

  15. I actually kind of like that the RiverCats could potentially turn into a huge beneficiary here. 2,000 cars a night at $10/car, and, man, West Sac would make a lot of money. SBH, not so much. One of the perils of building the arena so close to a parking lot that’s in an completely different county, I guess.

    It’d sink Sacramento, but what are they going to do, change State law? Sue? Good luck with either of these.

  16. Props to Sacramento. This is one of the better stadium deals which will be part of a greater stimulus for that downtown area. Sacramento is beginning to grow into something other than our state capitol.

  17. Its part of their bid to join MLS. The reality is the plan is further along in comparison to the expansion cities which were selected.

  18. Sacramento will be in MLS, it’s just a matter of when. Don Garber has pretty much come out and said that. The general consensus is that the league will expand beyond 24 teams. Sacramento will be 25 and bring in another market to be 26 (San Antonio if I was a betting man)…and they’re gonna stick with the fiasco that is Miami for 24.

  19. The beauty about the 46 million in existing infrastructure expenses is that the majority was provided by the fine people of the entire United States instead of just local taxpayers. The sooner the Railyard becomes developed the quicker the city actually receives the millions in development fees, property tax, usury fees and sales tax. I also have to point out, that a great deal of this wouldn’t have occurred (if at all) without the city taking on a cooperative investment downtown. The article did miss this obvious factor, especially when you can’t separate the Sacramento Republic from the Kings owners, for they are one and the same. Perhaps revisiting the downtown arena’s benefits should be done in an up to date article to establish journalistic objectiveness.

  20. Vivian, are you suggesting that the privately funded Republic stadium is somehow a package deal with the massively subsidized Kings arena? That’s pretty dubious (Ranadive & Co. only bought their minority stake in Republic about a year ago), but even if you did look at it that way, it would serve more to make the Republic deal look much worse than to make the Kings deal look any better — “We spent at least $226 million subsidizing a private basketball arena, but we got a private soccer stadium out of it too!” is pretty cold comfort.