SACRAMENTO - Since the club's unveiling, Sacramento Republic F.C. founder Warren Smith hasmade itclear thathis goal for the team is an eventual spot in Major League Soccer. Securing Technical Director Graham Smith and head coach Preki to create a top-flight product on the field were parts of the initial phases of the plan.Buildinga soccer-specific stadium was always one of the next components. But the stadiumcould be coming much sooner than anticipated.
According to the Sacramento Republic website, Ovations Food Service, the concessions provider at Cal Expo, has offered tobuild "and pay" for an 8,000-seat, full-grass, soccer-specific stadium at the Cal Expo fairgrounds. If built, the Republic website states the stadium could be constructed in time for the team's inaugural season in the United SoccerLeague's Pro division in 2014.
One of the factors that comes into play when Major League Soccer is considering an expansionteam is the venue at which the team will play their home games. The Republic are currently slated to play their games at Sac City College's Hughes Stadium, a narrow, artificial-surface field permanently marked with American football lines. It's not exactly a shining beacon that's goingto draw the gaze ofa review board. A professional league still looking to anchor itself into the fabric of American sports won't do so with teams forced to share a stadium with a junior college.
To be fair, Hughes Stadium was never in the long-term plans for Smith who ultimately wanted to secure a stadium downtown. The concern with that plan has been financing, locationand getting the public to embrace the idea and expenditure following a lengthy, heated struggle between city leaders and citizens over the proposed new Kings arena.
So when someone comes along and offers to gift you a stadium, you bend and ear and consider compromising on your dream of playing about 2 miles away downtown.
The biggest caveat with the Cal Expo stadium proposal iscapacity. Currently the smallest stadium in the league in terms of seating is San Jose's Buck Shaw Stadium which seats 10,525. However the Earthquakes have broken groundon a new 18,000 seat stadium.
Of the lastfivestadiums constructed for MLS teams, thevenue with the lowest seating capacitywould be the Earthquakes new home. The four others in Houston, Kansas City, Chester (PA) and Harrsion (NJ) house 22,039, 18,467, 18,500 and 25,189 respectively. It's unlikely the MLS is going to buck an upward trend and invite a diminutive facility to the party.
Unless the Cal Expo site is built with the goal and ability to expand quickly and easily, this idea may not be any more attractive to the MLS than playing at Hughes Stadium.
The Cal Expo Board of Directors will meet on Thursday at9 a.m. to discuss and review Ovations' proposal for facility.