Thanks to public money and political muscle, sports leagues on a roll

Now that billionaires have discovered Sacramento is eager to give them public money, and a big-shot politician like Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is eager to gut environmental protections for  a Kings arena project, expect another pro sports business to hop aboard the gravy train.

That would be Major League Soccer, which is making overtures to Elk Grove and Sacramento.  Elk Grove stepped into the slop last month when its City Council agreed to start looking for a site for a sparkling new soccer stadium, perhaps a $100 million one, that would be home for an MLS franchise some day.

The stadium and franchise plan pits Elk Grove against Sacramento in a race to get an MLS team, the Sacramento Bee reported last month. Sacramento gained a lower-division United Soccer League team in December, with an eye toward transitioning to a plum MLS franchise.

An ownership group led by former state Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and Sacramento sports attorney Richard Hyde signed an exclusive agreement with Elk Grove in December 2011 to pave the way for the franchise and stadium.

“I feel very confident I will be able to deliver an MLS team to Elk Grove,” Núñez said.

In Wednesday’s Bee, columnist Marcos Breton, a cheerleader for subsidizing arena billionaires, announced that MLS commissioner Don Garber had tweeted him to say he coming to Sacramento next month to check things out. Credit Garber for knowing sympathetic columnists in cities with grandiose aspirations.

Where MLS goes, the politicians and lobbyists are rarely far behind. The league, which has 19 teams nationwide, three of them in California, is pushing hard to build a stadium on city-owned parkland in Queens. It takes a lot of political muscle to get 13 acres of public parkland for free in the Big Apple.

So what sports group turns out to have major league expenses for lobbyists.  Major League Soccer, of course. The league ranked third in spending in New York State last year with more than $2 million paid out to twist political arms, according to the New York Times. A business group supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo topped the list at $4.2 million. ExxonMobil was second.

Mix sports,  politicians and public money and you get a brew that’s poisonous to the interests of average folks who foot the bill.

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5 Responses to Thanks to public money and political muscle, sports leagues on a roll

  1. Jason says:

    Per today’s news, I guess the NBA really wants Sacramento’s parking dollars.

  2. bbbbmer says:

    The group that owns the Rivercats is also seeking some sort of soccer franchise, proposing to use HUGHES STADIUM as its base, requiring little, if any, public subsidy for a new facility… and I’m betting they can make a successful go of it, unlike the Kings…

  3. Jason says:

    When Marcos Breton first tweeted about MLS, the first thought in my mind is that they are positioning themselves to step in if the arena deal falls through as they correctly smell some money in the air. If the Kings, MLS will gladly claim the mantra of being the only major league sports franchise in town. Maybe the same whales could play too- Ranadive to make soccer more popular in cricket-mad India. Bee columnists could fantasize about global soccer stars playing exhibitions in Sacramento. Senator Steinberg could draft his CEQA “reform” bill to enable a soccer stadium to qualify. The MLS may be sniffing what the NBA leaves behind and Sacramento, sadly, seems to willing to oblige.

    And in New York, taking away parkland to build a ballpark isn’t new. The New Yankee Stadium sits on what used to be parkland serving some of the poorest people in the United States.

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