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Sacramento ‘moving forward’ with Railyards stadium despite losing MLS expansion bid, says mayor

Sacramento Republic FC plans a new soccer stadium in downtown Railyards that would seat between 12,000 and 15,000 fans. It’s not contingent on the team moving to Major League Soccer. (Republic FC/Manica)

Plans for a new soccer stadium in the Railyards just north of downtown Sacramento remain in place despite the region being passed over for Major League Soccer expansion last week. Sacramento, behind USL club Republic FC, remained a candidate throughout the process, but ultimately the nod went to San Diego.

“We are moving forward with a first-class stadium in The Railyards,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg wrote in a statement to The Sacramento Bee. “Hopefully, it will be in partnership with Major League Soccer but either way we are going to work in partnership with the Sac Republic team, the community, and the fan base to bring years of great soccer to Sacramento.”

Sacramento is expected to remain a candidate for MLS should America’s top soccer league expand beyond 30 teams after adding three expansion clubs since 2020: Miami, Charlotte and St. Louis. San Diego will become the fourth when it begins MLS play in 2025.

Sacramento, of course, had an expansion bid fall through when investor Ron Burkle backed out of an agreement in 2021, citing business concerns amid the pandemic.

San Diego paid a $500 million expansion fee to become MLS’ 30th club behind an ownership group that includes Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour. Las Vegas and Sacramento were the other candidates under consideration by MLS and commissioner Don Garber.

Republic FC owner Kevin Nagle has said an announcement regarding the progress of the stadium project will come in July. After MLS awarded an expansion team to San Diego, Nagle said: “Our focus continues to be on how Republic FC can be the best club it can be for the region, to continue to invest in our community, and play winning soccer. Yesterday’s announcement doesn’t change our plans and we’ll continue to march forward for the fans that have supported us for a decade.”

The design of the new stadium is planned to be flexible depending on which league Republic FC plays in. The stadium’s smallest version is expected to have a capacity of about 15,000 for USL play. A larger version for MLS play was expected to seat about 25,000 with canopies covering the grandstands.

What could be most damaging to Sacramento’s chances at landing an MLS team was the $500 million expansion fee the San Diego ownership group paid to join the league. That figure is more than three times higher than the initial estimate for Sacramento’s stadium project.

The stadium is also expected to serve as a hub for concerts and other sporting events, including high school and college football and soccer.

“So I feel really pretty good about where we are at this particular point,” Nagle told The Bee earlier in the spring. “But we just can’t afford to wait much longer because we’re missing opportunities on a much larger stadium with a bunch of other events that really help us and the community and the region. That’s the excitement of why we need to get a stadium built.”