The Crew might go to…Sacramento?

I totally missed this. In today’s Reporter’s Notebook:

Another new wrinkle in Austin’s (never-ending?) professional soccer saga developed slowly last week after ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman opined, during a segment on Sacramento recently losing out on a Major League Soccer expansion bid, that “I still believe Columbus Crew doesn’t end up in Austin, Texas. I think they end up in Sacramento.”

It’s likely Twellman believes they’re going to Sacramento not because that city is a better fit for an MLS team, but simply because there happen to be some people there with money who are offering the Crew a better deal. But for shits and giggles, let’s compare Sacramento to Austin.

Credit: City of Sacramento

The Crew ownership has said they want a stadium in the urban core, ideally a place that people can walk to or get to via transit.

So how can both cities serve that vision?

Well, Sacramento’s population is about half that of Austin, but it’s metro area is arguably larger (2.14 million), at least according to what I’m seeing on Wikipedia. The half-million people in Sacramento are also clustered more densely (5k per sq mile) than the nearly one million in Austin (3.2k per sq mile).

At least on paper, their public transit systems are similar: both are mediocre and both have experienced declines in ridership in recent years. Sacramento’s public transit agency reported 1.72 million boardings in March, compared to CapMetro’s 2.6 million. For CapMetro, that represented a 5% decline from the previous year, while in Sacramento ridership dropped a whopping 17%. I have no idea why that is.

Sacramento’s traffic situation appears to be significantly better than Austin’s. According to the INRIX traffic scorecard, the average Sacramento commuter spends 25 hours a year stuck in traffic, compared to 43 in Austin.

In terms of demographics, their median incomes appear to be similar: roughly $60,000. Both have large Hispanic populations (27% in Sacramento, 35% in Austin) that are drawn from soccer-friendly countries, notably Mexico. Sacramento’s non-Hispanic white population is lower than Austin’s (34% vs 48%) due to its much larger Asian and black populations. I would guess that that doesn’t bode well for the soccer biz, but I’m very open to be proven wrong on that count.

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