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City Desk: June 18, 2014

Soccer Field Plans Don’t Quite Score a Goal

The Santa Clara City Council Chambers were overflowing at week’s Council meeting for one item: A analysis of the feasibility of building soccer fields at Montague and Jenny Strand parks. Most people were there to object – vociferously – to the Jenny Strand proposal, with a few speaking in opposition to adding the fields at Montague.

The Council’s Ad-Hoc Additional Soccer Field committee requested the analysis.

The plan addresses Santa Clara’s current needs for additional soccer fields, explained Director of Parks & Recreation Jim Teixeira. The city needs about 30 additional acres of athletic fields to support anticipated growth. Potential sites were chosen that were already city-owned, large enough for a FIFA minimum regulation field while maintaining existing uses, could provide adequate parking (150 spaces), and accommodate sports field lighting. “There are challenges on any of the sites,” said Teixeira.

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Access Problems Likely to Rule Out Jenny Strand Park

Access challenges make locating a soccer field at Jenny Strand unlikely. Agilent and Apple adjoin the park, and would need to provide park access through their properties. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to come through the neighborhood to access that back property [the soccer field location],” said Council Member Lisa Gillmor. “This site only makes sense if we can access it through Agilent. There’s no need to take it a step further without the access.”

The Council asked staff to find out if Apple and Agilent would agree to provide that access, and not take the plan any further if neither company agreed.

Another problem with the Jenny Strand location is that it’s close to Apple’s new Cupertino “mothership” campus, which will potentially house 13,000 employees. The effects are already being felt by residents since the recent permanent closure of Pruneridge between Wolfe and Tantau to allow Apple to connect the new campus with buildings on the other side of the street.

Finally, construction of a soccer park at Jenny Strand would require the existing solar energy installation in the park to be moved.

Montague Park Plan to Move Forward – Cautiously

Parks & Rec will continue to work on a plan for adding one or two soccer fields at Montague Park. The proposal also includes rebuilding the 1970 community center building and playgrounds, as well as additional traffic signals, Teixiera told the Council. The existing tennis and basketball courts would be kept.

There have also been tentative discussions between the city and Santa Clara Unified school district to improve the adjacent baseball fields, which are part of the Montague Elementary School grounds. The total construction costs are estimated at $7.7 million – with the soccer field construction costing about $1.8 million and the new community center, $1.9 million.

This seems like a win-win for everybody, but not everyone saw it that way. “I’ve lived by the park for 39 years,” said North Valley Baptist Church Pastor Jack Trieber. “We’re for all of it, but not there.” The church borders the park on the south and uses the Montague School baseball fields.

Parks & Rec is ready to move forward with the Montague plan, and to hire the planning, design and engineering team. However, there are still “a lot of issues to work through,” acknowledged Teixeira. “We want to make sure we mitigate impacts. And our community outreach will be as extensive as needed.”

“I think all the people here realize we need additional sports fields and we’re just trying to decide where to put them,” said Santa Clara Youth Soccer League President Matt Heinz. “Looking at the available land in Santa Clara, these are the sites that ended up being the best. The kids need to play sports somewhere. At Montague they’re going to get a new community center,” he added.

Other Alternatives?

Some say there are additional alternatives out there that have yet to be considered. The city should consider increasing the size of Montague Park to add the fields, said Council Member Teresa O’Neill, suggesting the old Fire Station 6 land on De La Cruz or purchasing adjacent land.

“I hope the city considers alternatives, including keeping the Youth Soccer Park as it is and scheduling around the game days,” said resident Larry Wuerz. “Or leveraging with another city, Sunnyvale or San Jose. Maybe Santa Clara itself doesn’t need the fields. Maybe it can [share resources] with other cities. In the same way the stadium is a resource for the area, the same thing could be true of soccer fields.”

At this point Mayor Jamie Matthews noted, “The plan is to add additional capacity. Those would be net additional fields. We have absolutely no plans to close the Youth Soccer Park.” Matthews was referring to the continuing misperception that the soccer fields under discussion are intended as replacements for the Youth Soccer Park on Tasman because of potential stadium game-day access problems.

For the near term, Parks & Rec is close to signing a deal with Kings Academy in Sunnyvale to use its fields on Sunday game-days, and continues to refine game-day access plans for the soccer park, according to Teixiera.

“I never thought that trying to do something good for our youth would stir up so much controversy, but I do understand it,” said Council Member Patricia Mahan.

“I don’t think it’s true that the youth soccer park will always be where it is. Sometime in the distant future this jewel in Santa Clara’s crown is going to have to be relocated. That doesn’t mean it has to go away. It just means it has to be placed somewhere else. The key is to find 10 acres where we can move the Youth Soccer Park. I don’t know where those acres are, but I don’t think we’re looking in the right place.”

In the end, the Council voted to continue working on the Montague design, and directed staff to continue to search for more alternatives. Read Teixeira’s presentation at tinyurl.com/scsoccer.

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