At the Feb. 10 City Council meeting, the Council approved a $765,500 design contract with LPA Inc. for a new soccer field and athletic facility at Montague Park – something that's been under discussion for at least eight months.
In 2013, the City Council set a priority on meeting growing demand for athletic fields – in addition to the Youth Soccer Park, not replacing it. Last spring, the Council approved $2 million for new soccer fields at either Jenny Strand or Montague Parks. When Businesses adjacent to Jenny Strand protested refused to allow access that would be needed for a soccer field, Montague was the sole remaining possibility.
Opponents argue that building a soccer field at Montague park would destroy “our park;” with some blaming the 49ers for the “mess” caused by more Santa Clarans playing soccer.
“We want the open space to enjoy,” wrote resident Bobbie Fuller in an email. “This park belongs to the community and surrounding neighborhood.” The City, she said, was “putting the 49ers needs before it's [sic] own citizens.”
North Valley Baptist Church's Administrative Pastor Ryan Thompson wrote about the Montague plan, saying that “while we are in favor of certain park improvements and upgrades at this site, we are firmly opposed to any plan that turns this multi–use, beautiful neighborhood green space into a one–sport soccer facility.”
He asked that the Council consider “the impact that it will have on the residents of this neighborhood, as well as the congregation of the North Valley Baptist Church, the student body of the Golden State Baptist College and North Valley Baptist Schools, and lastly, the hundreds of families whose children will not have the North Valley Boys' Baseball League to play in.”
But the plan isn't razing the park to build a soccer stadium, or abolishing baseball.
The criteria for considering any site was that it be large enough for a FIFA minimum regulation field, while supplying adequate parking and maintaining existing uses.
The Montague plan includes rebuilding the park's aging community center (built in 1970) and playgrounds, installing additional traffic signals and preserving the tennis and basketball courts. It also includes working with Santa Clara Unified School District to improve the adjacent baseball fields on the Montague Elementary School grounds – the field used by the church, its schools, and the North Valley Baseball League.
Council Member Dominic Caserta wanted to rewind the discussion. “I see Curtis, I see Wilson [schools] as good places for soccer fields … I think we can get an additional field without Montague,” he said.
“Those are already being used, and they're in very poor condition,” replied Council Member Lisa Gillmor. “Those fields are for the younger players. We're looking at additional sites. We're looking at joint use with the high schools. It's going to be extremely difficult to find additional soccer fields in the City.”
“Montague was the only site that everyone on the Council agreed on,” said Council Member Pat Kolstad. “Taking Montague off the list at this late date is a huge mistake after a year of work. We should get moving on this.”
Caserta then suggested that many non–residents take advantage of Santa Clara's soccer facilities, eliciting a sharp response from Gillmor.
“It's not just out–of–towners who use Santa Clara Soccer Park. We have thousands of children, Santa Clara children [using the soccer fields]. You can shake your head Council Member Caserta, but you should inform yourself. We're not putting a nuclear dump [there]. We're putting a facility for children to play soccer.”
Caserta responded, “I'd like to see the percentages of Santa Clara families that use the Youth Soccer Park … I have a feeling it's less than 50 percent.” Caserta cast the sole dissenting vote on the design contract.
Youth soccer has a long history in the city and is home of the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League and Santa Clara Sporting Club.