The Sacramento Bee is reporting that Sacramento Republic F.C. will finally be officially named the latest MLS expansion team on Monday, after five years of haggling. And the Bee also makes clear what it took to shake loose an expansion approval:
The City Council this year agreed to offer the soccer investment group a $33 million incentive package to help it seal the deal with MLS. That included setting up an infrastructure financing district that would use future increased property tax to reimburse the soccer development group for building an estimated $27 million worth of streets, sewers and other new infrastructure on land near the stadium. The deal also includes $2.4 million worth of building permit fee waivers and other tax rebates, and up to $3 million worth of traffic control and policing on city streets adjacent to the stadium during soccer matches.
The city also will rewrite its signage ordinance to give the team rights to install five digital billboards around town.
As discussed here last month, this is a better deal than many cities are getting for their new MLS stadiums; as also discussed, $33 million plus some free billboards isn’t nothing, and it does seem like the league held out on an announcement in order to get these concessions from the city. (And Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg says he will ask the city council for additional concessions to “give the development group more financial flexibility,” as the Bee puts it, like loaning the money to team owner Ron Burkle and letting him “repay” it later with property tax payments on his other developments nearby.)
The most telling sentence in the whole article, though, may be this one:
The mayor said the proposed loan makes it easier for the Burkle group to finance its $200 million league expansion fee, as well as pay for increased construction costs. The league has bumped that fee up in recent years from $70 million to $150 million to the $200 million level this year.
So if we’re taking the mayor at his word, the city of Sacramento is having to chip in $33 million–plus from future tax receipts plus other goodies, because otherwise the local sports team’s billionaire owner wouldn’t be able to afford the $200 million expansion fee that the league set based on the notion that cities will help subsidize any new expansion teams. Maybe it’s time to consider switching MLS’s designation from “Ponzi scheme” to “extortion racket”?