It’s the best of news for the Earthquakes franchise, long in need of a new place to play. Santa Clara’s Buck Shaw Stadium has been a willing host, but plugging along in a facility barely able to accomodate a five-digit crowd, the Supporters’ Shield winners desperately need some new digs.
Thankfully, those digs approach-eth, Late this week it was announced ground will be broken on the Quakes’ new 18,000-seat stadium on Feb. 26. The facility will be located near San Jose International Airport with its $60 million price tag covered by private coffers.
“We want to open for beginning of next season,” club president Dave Kaval said Friday. “But it’s almost too early to say.”
Kaval did say season ticket sales were ahead of expectations, though he wouldn’t provide any numbers. If ticket sales are good and local government restrictions are eased, the new facility will have the potential to expand to 25,000.
While soccer-specific stadiums are becoming refreshingly common throughout Major League Soccer, there are three reasons this development is particularly important.
First, San Jose is a community that has lost a team before, the city’s previous team having relocated to Houston. Getting a viable new facility is a huge step toward ensuring the new Earthquakes are there to stay.
The second goes to the product on the field. It’s no secret San Jose are willing to make Chris Wondolowski a Designated Player, but in a league where many teams have to watch the bottom line, bumping a player up must me a measured consideration. The increased revenue from a new facility should make big contracts a little easier to swallow.
Perhaps most meaningfully, the stadium will be a landmark for fans who stuck around through exodus of Quakes 1.0 and the lean years of expansion to be with the team today. San Jose’s fans have managed to make Buck Shaw their own, but as they’re keenly aware every time they park themselves on those benches, it’s just not the same experience other fans across Major League Soccer get 19-20 times a year.
When the new facility opens next year, Earthquakes fans will finally get return on their investment.