SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The State of Downtown annual breakfast proved positive as city leaders announced a major breakthrough in efforts to bring a major league soccer team to the area Tuesday morning.
"I said 2019 is the year for breakthroughs," said Sacramento Mayor Darrel Steinberg.
Steinberg revealed billionaire investor and philanthropist Ron Burkle is buying controlling interest of Sacramento Republic FC, which will be a game changer when it comes to the development of a successful soccer franchise.
"One of the things we needed was money. We had to show it... and now we have it!" exclaimed Steinberg.
Burkle has served as a chairman for supermarket chains such as Ralphs, Fred Meyer and Food for Less. His company is known for buying underperforming businesses. He tried to buy the Sacramento Kings twice and successfully brought the Pittsburgh Penguins out of bankruptcy in 1999. The Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup multiple times.
"He's a great success for a reason. He knows a winner when he sees it, and he sees Sacramento as a winner," said Steinberg.
Burkle's group also has reached a deal to buy the Republic stadium site and the surrounding 14 acres east of 7th Street to create an entertainment district for the railyards.
"This has become much bigger than soccer," said Steinberg.
City leaders say the stadium alone will have a $1.25 billion economic impact on the region.
"Who knows how long it will take to develop railyards. I can tell you this as a result of today's announcement — it will be significantly shorter," said Steinberg.
It's a deal that's quietly been in the works for a year. Republic FC chairman Kevin Nagle is excited to have Burkle onboard.
"He loves Sacramento. I talked to him late last night. He loves Sacramento to a point where he talks to everyone about it now. So I'm going to feel like he is a Sacramentan now even though he doesn't live here," said Nagle.
In early February a team including Steinberg, Republic FC leadership, and Burkle will head to New York. Their goal is to bring a major league soccer team to Sacramento.
Steinberg said the group will be talking to the Major League Soccer commissioner.
"This is everything he asked for last December- so I'm feeling hopeful and confident," Steinberg said.
The mayor also announced that Kaiser Permanente will bring thousands of jobs to the Downtown area by building a new medical center in the railyards.
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