When you started to follow Major League Soccer for the first time in 1996, one of your enduring memories was visiting stadiums that were primarily used for the National Football League or College Football. But when Lamar Hunt used his own money to create the first ever soccer specific stadium for MLS, you felt that a change was coming.
As we look at the 2012 season, most MLS teams are the primary tenants for their current venues. Last night, MLS received another boost in this realm, and it happened for a team whose tumultuous past was influenced directly by their inability to secure a modern venue. But the San Jose Planning Commission gave a sweeping six votes for to nil to allow the San Jose Earthquakes to break ground and build the next great stadium in the history of the sport in the United States.
Since Columbus Crew Stadium was opened on May 15th, 1999, stadiums designed for Major League Soccer have been a priority, especially after the arrival of Commissioner Don Garber. The list has grown in ways that Hunt could only dream of back in the infancy of the league: The Home Depot Center, FC Dallas Stadium (formerly Pizza Hut Park), Toyota Park, BMO Field, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Rio Tinto Stadium, Red Bull Arena, PPL Park, and Livestrong Sporting Park.
In terms of this season, opening in downtown Houston will be BBVA Compass Stadium, as the finishing touches are being made on this great new park in the heart of the city. Let’s also not forget the refurbishment project up in Montreal as Stade Saputo will be expanding their capacity to meet MLS requirements. These stadiums have presented a financial benefit to the teams, giving them facilities that can draw new fans due to their modern qualities without the enormous lease costs from the mammoth NFL and NCAA stadiums.
For the Dynamo, a brand new stadium has been a long sought after goal which will become reality on May 12 of this year. Of course they were the first edition of an MLS team in San Jose, initially as the Clash and then as the Earthquakes. But Anschutz Entertainment Group tired of the process to secure building permits in the northern California city, and moved the team to the Gulf Coast. Finally for the newest generation of the Earthquakes and their supporters, a replacement for the antiquated Buck Shaw Stadium is closer to reality.
Located near the San Jose Airport, it sounded like this would be a fantastic idea for visiting sides to make a short trip and prepare for their match against the Earthquakes. But as always with these new Soccer Stadium projects, there was some apprehension. That pushback came from some local residents who live near the airport, creating a group set against the stadium opening in their neighborhood. Their main concern was the possible harmful noise coming from the drums being beaten by the supporters group. The Council finally shot that protest down.
If these people live near an airport, and also have freight trains going by at night blowing their horns, shouldn’t they complain about that instead of worrying about a stadium filled with soccer fans? Those who were opposed to the idea wanted a study reopened to measure noise, but that idea was dismissed.
Many Earthquakes supporters filled the hall and had their chance to show their support for the new stadium along with owner Lew Wolff and MLS President Mark Abbott. After all that was said and displayed, the council finally voted and agreed to allow the new stadium to be built. There was an appeal from the opposition, but that was denied.
So after all of the soccer-related heartache that has been going on for the last several years in the San Jose area, the supporters of this club can now celebrate the possible final year at Buck Shaw as the club is hoping they will start in 2013.
Finally another crown jewel of a stadium will be built and represent the league, another stadium that will represent home field advantage for our National Team to compete in a friendly, Gold Cup or during World Cup Qualifying. With BBVA Compass Stadium, Stade Saputo, and the new park being planned in Silicon Valley, this is a fabulous time for fans of San Jose, Major League Soccer, and our National Teams.