Elk Grove, California is the second-largest city in Sacramento County. In an effort to expand the city’s economic fortunes and sporting profile, it has been engaged in a high-profile effort to bring soccer to the city – specifically, Major League Soccer (MLS).
The city’s efforts are ambitious by any standards. Elk Grove, which has 160,000 residents, recently voted to annex approximately 100 acres of farm property to build a massive new sports complex that could include up to 16 sports fields and a 9,000-seat stadium that could be expanded for MLS, according to the Sacramento Bee. The proposed Elk Grove Multi-Sport Park Complex could cost between $105.1 and $117.7 million, and its use could be extended to other events, such as concerts.
The city’s biggest challenge in attracting the MLS component, however, may be the muscle of its larger neighbor. Sacramento has a minor league soccer team, the Sacramento Republic FC, and it is currently basking in a United Soccer League title. Major League Soccer owners are currently in debates about awarding Sacramento an expansion team, which could put Elk Grove’s aspirations in doubt.
Long shot or not, Elk Grove says it’s committed to go the distance on the bid, and it has the support of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis. Núñez’s group, Northern California Soccer LLC, is reportedly working with the city closely under an exclusive negotiating agreement for the complex.
“Elk Grove will continue to be competitive until a final decision is made,” Davis told the Sacramento Bee. “Downtown stadiums are really hard to build – most are repurposed or have other sports along with soccer. (MLS) has to play out its downtown strategy first. If that doesn’t work, we’re ready to go.”
The new complex, with or without the MLS component, will serve Elk Grove’s robust needs for more soccer, particularly youth soccer. The city sees participation in soccer by 6,500 kids, and many teams from across the U.S. travel there for championship games. The new complex, said Mayor Davis, will show Major League Soccer that the city is fully committed to the game.
“It will prove to MLS that we have a serious commitment to soccer if we have a soccer complex for families,” he said.
According to the Bee, the City of Elk Grove approved the nearly $4.4 million deal to purchase the land in August of last year with the understanding that it would house a future MLS franchise and host youth soccer, and closed escrow in October, bankrolling the deal with money borrowed from the city’s stormwater drainage fund. Elk Grove voters may also be asked to approve the use of bonds to finance the project.
Local CBS news affiliate CBS Sacramento has reported that citizens of Elk Grove are generally positive toward the plan and view it as a potential boon to the local economy.