With Part Stagecraft, Part Spin, Elk Grove Formally in Pursuit of Pro Soccer Stadium

Combine one part political stagecraft and one part spin room hype and the result was Wednesday night's meeting where the Elk Grov...


Combine one part political stagecraft and one part spin room hype and the result was Wednesday night's meeting where the Elk Grove City Council formally decided to pursue a publicly financed professional soccer stadium and soccer complex.

The standing-room-only meeting included scores of uniformed youth soccer players loudly applauding the numerous speakers who urged the city to build a combination professional soccer stadium and playing fields and the former Speaker of the California Assembly who flawlessly stayed on message.

Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is
seeking to locate a professional soccer team in a stadium
 that Elk Grove will consider financing. 
The heart of the meeting was for the city council to decide whether or not the city should pursue further negotiations with a sports investment group led by former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez to locate a professional soccer franchise in a soccer stadium that Elk Grove would finance. If Elk Grove decides to consummate the deal it is estimated construction and property acquisition of up to 120-acres could cost the city up to $110 million. 

While the council unanimously decided to continue negotiations with the Nunez led group and begin searching for a suitable site to accommodate the stadium and fields, it was done with some trepidation by at least two council members. 

While Council Member Pat Hume said he strongly supports building soccer fields to accommodate Elk Grove' burgeoning youth soccer leagues, he expressed concern over projected annual deficits of $3 to $5 million the city could face from the stadium operations and bond debt service. Hume also cited the City of Stockton's recent bankruptcy which was brought on in part by numerous venues that city constructed.

"They have a nice arena, a nice waterfront, but they are broke," Hume said. "This is the ice rink on a grand scale" he added in reference to Elk Grove's recent Old Town Holiday-time ice rink which  was a money losing proposition for the city.  

Council Member Robert Trigg said that while he supports youth athletics, he noted the city may have other important priorities and that many California government entities are awash in debt.  

"There is a lot of debt out there," he said. "I don't want to contribute to that."

Mayor Gary Davis took a slight different tact tying the possible stadium as part of the solution to correcting the city's well document jobs to housing imbalance and as a means of spurring completion of the unfinished Elk Grove Promenade shopping center. 

"I look at this as part of a broader economic development strategy," Davis said. "We need to give this a shot."  

During public comment Elk Grove resident Tom Waltman warned the city could be saddled with an overwhelming debt if the stadium revenue projections fall short.

"I guarantee if you're 25 percent off, we're going bankrupt, and that's nuts," Waltman said. "Were's the reality."

Nunez was unwavering in his glowing yet un-quantified message that the stadium and soccer fields would be a plus for Elk Grove when speaking to television reporters before the meeting and to the council during his brief appearance while the matter was being heard. The self-described former politician said given the concentration of young soccer players in Elk Grove and the region, a pro soccer team and field would be viable.

"We believe this is a wonderful opportunity for the city of Elk Grove," Nunez told the council.

After the city council gave its approval to continue negotiations with his group, a visibly happy Nunez stayed on message saying the concentration of youth soccer players makes Elk Grove a viable place for professional soccer. 

When pressed to compare Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, which plays in a custom-made soccer stadium that barely fills its 24,000 seats and until recently had one of the world most recognizable soccer stars on its roster, to a 20,000 seat Elk Grove stadium with far less population to draw on, Nunez was undeterred.  He continued to insist that the team would a regional draw because of the the strength of youth soccer in Norther California.  

Nunez was also asked if that meant a possible Elk Grove team could draw fans as far north as Redding or south as Fresno, he replied, "I think they will."



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19 comments

Anonymous said...

Al Davis---Irwindale

Fabian Nunez---Elk Grove

Tom said...

Both Oakland and San Francisco have made numerous failed attempts to support professional soccer with existing stadiums. How could Elk Grove soccer be more of a 'regional draw'than those cities or anything but a bust and serious financial burden to taxpayers?

Anonymous said...

Promanade Mall says:
That Nunez guy sounded just like the guy from General Growth who promised us a beautiful mall, one we would be thrilled to have in our city. I remember him saying "we want this to succeed because it will make everyone money." So, just who made any money off the poorly planned mall? This stadium deal will be good for Nunez but I suspect EG will be left holding an empty bag with a huge tax liability to fund.
I would much rather see the sports park with sports fields and related buildings. That I can get on board with. But to go into business with Nunez seems a bit shady and unstable to me.

Anonymous said...

This just makes my head spin. First we spend $500,000 for a Civic Center architect to plan a $300 M. center, then we have the Aquatics Center on the agenda for ?? dollars and now a Sports Complex for $100 M. What in the heck are our city council drinking? We need JOBS....those bring in no livable wage jobs. It was wonderful to hear our youngsters speak and their desire for soccer fields, but I hardly think our decisions should be based on their input. Do your research, a Sports Complex does not make a MALL!

Anonymous said...

All of this will continue until this city has quality leadership.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

The most unfortunate part of last night's meeting was how certain members of the city council tied building soccer fields for youth soccer and tournaments to erecting a $100 million dollar stadium for the benefit of wealthy investors. The stadium and fields are mutually exclusive and should be treated as such.

Connie Conley said...

I am in full support of the soccer complex. We need one for the youth of city and all the tournaments it would bring.

But the soccer stadium is something that should be looked at very closely. With the schools and CCSD having deficit budgets, and can’t get tax measures passed, what makes the Elk Grove City Council think the voters will go for a $100 million dollar general bond measure? Answer: They won’t.

So what will they do? Revenue bonds. No vote by the people needed, high interest rate, and if they fail, we residents get stuck repaying that enormous debt for the next 30 years!

Lynn said...

Connie,
I was glad the youth were at the meeting last night...we could see the individuals who will be paying for this when the council buys the lie...They have the land picked out already...and what is going to to be the last 1200 acres within our city developed with the flexibility of land use plan. Then for one council member to even suggest you build the houses and then jobs come. Didn't our fine leaders do that one before? History has a way of repeating itself and somehow...I really do hope our young soccer players, grow up and keep working to pay off this investment. Private/public partnership...How much money has come out of the "private" partnership in this one. How about if we wait a while to see how the 3.3 million dollar 1500 job incentive boosts the economy before we dip further into the reserve that is going down not up. For all those that our concerned about what are leaders are doing...build your army and attend the council meetings!
110 million dollars for less than 1000 jobs....buying jobs is becoming expensive.

Anonymous said...

Think Stockton

Think Municipal Bankruptcy

Festival City said...

I think we should just circle the food trucks and play hacky sack! Order Up!

Anonymous said...

Popularity of youth soccer does not equate to support for major league soccer.

Even David "look at me in my underwear and tats" Beckham couldn't guarantee sell outs in the LA Galaxy stadium.

Connie Conley said...

Hi Lynn,

I could email you directly but since you responded to my post, I will put it out there for others to read as well.

I absolutely understand your points here, did watch the meeting and your comments. I am a bit disappointed on what the city council did in the SEPA. We all could tell who was driving the deliberation last night, and Pat Hume was certainly in the driver’s seat.

It is with that deliberation that I miss the likes the Paul Lindsay because he definitely could hold his own with Pat Hume when they were both on the Elk Grove Planning Commission.

Having said that I cannot wrap my brain around this $100 million dollar deal. I am fearful it will send us down a path of which our city might never recover.

Can our leaders guarantee Elk Grove will not end up in financial ruin with a soccer stadium? Of course they won’t. Is the risk too great?

I do believe in dreaming a dream, but in this case, we need to start small with the soccer complex, and if successful, then build on that dream.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

Ms. Conley, yes, you are right it is ok to dream the dream, but I am afraid this dream of a stadium for the beautiful game will will turn out to be Dantes' Inferno for Elk Grove taxpayers.

Connie said...

Hey Cap., I agree, but the soccer complex might be doable. I fear others are having visions and already jumped to the Fourth Circle!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry people......won't happen.....

Anonymous said...

When is the MLS season and is it only on weekends? How many of those games would be played locally if we had a stadium?

Anonymous said...

Elk Grove soccer fields for tournaments and such are a perfect idea... but it stops there.

The MLS Commissioner will tease Elk Grove as long as possible in effort to increase the expansion fee. Competition drives the market price up. MLS is not going to EG... the MLS owners simply will not allow it. They know what works and what doesn't. Sac Pro Soccer's plan works. Proven path to MLS.. correct location... proven management team. They've done it before (Timbers and River Cats).

An average of 72,000 more fans visit urban MLS stadiums opposed to suburban stadiums. Why? Fans don't come to visit a mall.. they come to grab beers in the cool bars surrounding the stadium and then all march to the game together. The youth and soccer moms are not MLS's main demo anymore.. that demo is tier 3 now.


EG is doing this to help build a mall and to help Jim Cooper in his upcoming election. Gary Davis is a pawn in Cooper's and the land developer's game. They got him elected. Now they need Davis to deliver his end of the deal.. if he loses this battle, he doesn't get to play with the big boys.

He is getting desperate and it's showing. Davis is out of his league on this one. Nunez is powerful, but he isn't an operator, he is a politician. If you've watched the TV reports and read their quotes, they are already changing their story (i.e. "we have secured an MLS team to come if we build a stadium" from earlier in the week became "we have interest from MLS if we can build.." yesterday). Also, if you read the large report with the projected budgets and know anything about business, you'll instantly see they're projected expenses are about $1,000,000 low. Professional sports is not their business... selling us malls and rinks and over-priced bike paths is.

LAST THING.. how did buidling that arena in Natomas work out? This is the same thing. This region needs a urban revitalization. A suburban arena has never spawned an urban movement.. it works the other way around.

NONE of EG's effort is about what is right for the community... just do the research, follow the money and connect the dots.

I love this town, but a stadium won't work. Bring the fields, put the stadium in Sac.

Billy Bats said...

Typically half the games would be home and the regular season is 34 games. Since there are 17 home games and most are on weekends, does that mean the soccer fields would be unavailable for youth tournaments given limits to parking?

elkgrove2people said...

People in this city just don't make any sense. Dog parks, ice rink, stadiums.

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