12 Days of Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis; Day 6 - Time Has Proved Davis' Dreams of Pro-Soccer Stadium Delusional, Not Based in Reality
December 9, 2016 |
In five days from today, Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis will leave office. In honor of his last 12 days in office, we will take a look back at some of the most memorable aspects of Davis' tenure.
For those who follow such things, let us ask you a question.
How many times have you seen the Elk Grove City Council chamber packed with a throng of soccer parents accompanied by their kids clad in team colors? Furthermore, how many times have you heard an Elk Grove City Councilman, usually Mayor Gary Davis, tell the captive audience, yes, we will be building you a multi- million dollar, world class soccer facility and a slew of soccer fields that then erupted into a thunderous ovation?
If you are like us, you have probably lost count.
Much like he continues to do with the proposed aquatic center, outgoing Mayor Gary Davis captivated a large number of voters in Elk Grove over the last four years with promises that have never left the pages of City staff reports and commissioned feasibility studies. While the aquatics center could someday be built, albeit scaled down from the Olympic-sized dreams of Davis, with each passing day and Elk Grove's mounting debt from things like deferred road maintenance, the Mayor's soccer field of dreams is becoming nothing more than something you vaguely remember after a long night's sleep.
So how did we get to this point? Let us offer you a brief recap of the evolution of the Davis' soccer scheme.
As readers may recall, Elk Grove's foray into soccer started with baseball. In May 2011, Elk Grove Community Connection organized a town hall meeting to discuss a possible sports complex for the City, with a particular emphasis on building softball facilities.
The plan for the softball complex was solid enough for then-Mayor Jim Cooper to include comments about it in his March 2012 State of the City Address. At the time Cooper said:
"After years of planning, this year we will break ground on our new Civic Center – a landmark center that promises economic development and tourism opportunities and a center that will someday be a hub for our City’s cultural life. The City will work with an operating partner to design and construct a Sports Park just south of Civic Center Drive. The complex will host softball and baseball tournaments for local leagues to host events as well as the ability to attract teams and guests and families to visit and shop in Elk Grove."
Around the same time, the focus was already shifting away from softball to soccer. In early March, 2012, before Cooper's State of the City speech, it was announced at a City Council meeting that a party of four including Cooper, Davis, City Manager Laura Gill, and then Economic Development Director Randy Starbuck were going on a fact-finding trip to Frisco, Texas to view their soccer facilities, which hosted a Major League Soccer team.
Additionally, in February 2012 Gill announced that the City would spend $50,000 to study the feasibility of Elk Grove hosting a professional soccer team. Game On!
By the end of 2012, the push to build a stadium to host a professional soccer team was in full bloom. In December Cooper, along with recently elected Mayor Davis, were hosted by none other than the Soccer Don himself, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber.
On the same day the Garber meeting was revealed, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson stole the spotlight and announced that his city had recruited a new team from the United Soccer League. That team, Republic FC, has enjoyed on-field success, has strong fan support, and has served as Sacramento's entry point to get an MLS expansion franchise.
In his quest for an MLS team, Davis partnered the City with former California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez who was to prime the MLS-pump and bring professional soccer to Elk Grove. The big problem for Elk Grove was where could the proposed $100 million stadium be built?
To solve that problem Elk Grove eventually paid a handsome premium for 99-acres of raw land on Grant Line Road, outside of current city limits. Even though the City now had the parcel, how would it finance the project?
On a side note, the other City Council members probably went along with this purchase knowing the soccer stadium was just another pie-in-the-sky dream of Davis. This purchase, in our view, is nothing more than a Trojan Horse.
It was then that reality set in for the City Council. One bond underwriter Elk Grove News spoke to said given the City's short track record and the risk of building such venues, if the city issued bonds to finance, they would probably be junk status.
As we wind out 2016, it is interesting to note that talk of the soccer stadium has disappeared. Talk of building the soccer fields does occasionally surface, but that too has been pushed into the attic like the proverbial crazed uncle that we sometimes hear screaming.
Not coincidental, while Davis was exalting in the glow of fired-up soccer fans with his dream of having a professional soccer stadium, other Sacramento area cities once again beat Elk Grove like a drum.
With the success of the FC Republic and a prime downtown location, which MLS prefers for their venues, Sacramento is in the running with several other large cities for an expansion franchise. Given Sacramento is competing with about 10 large cities for four teams, did Elk Grove ever stand a chance?
This was pure delusion on Davis' part.
In the one area where Elk Grove soccer players and taxpayers could have realistically benefited, the construction of competitive soccer fields, sans the stadium, once again we got pummeled. The Placer Valley Sports Complex has started construction on a 12-field sports complex in Roseville that is expected to open by 2018.
If Elk Grove does proceeds with its soccer fields, the Roseville complex will have the benefit of being in the game much sooner. Given the superior amenities that Roseville has as compared to Elk Grove, they will have a definite competitive advantage in attracting high-quality, high-dollar tournaments to their facility.
As we have seen with Davis' involvement with the aquatics center, his plans, and numerous proclamations are rarely reality based. Perhaps the Mayor realized reality was catching up with him and he decided to remove himself from office rather than have it done by voters.