The Santa Ana Sentinel

Santa Ana Mentioned by MLS as a Possible Chivas Stadium Site

Posted in Chivas USA, Chivas USA Youth Academy, Major League Soccer, Saint City Soccer, Sports by Omar Ávalos Gallegos on October 5, 2013

Fellow CSUF Titan Scott French, a soccer writer for ESPN and Major League Soccer, recently wrote the most insightful and comprehensive article concerning a Chivas USA move to some location in the Los Angeles area. The article lists a number of cities of which Santa Ana is one. As we well know, Santa Ana started talking with Chivas as far back as 2007. Talks stopped in 2011, due to the fact that neither our mayor Miguel Pulido nor Chivas USA co-owner Antonio Cue made concessions.

Mayor Pulido told me about a year ago that the problem in getting a negotiation done was Antonio Cue’s stance that the city had to pay for whatever possible reconfigurations would have to be done to Santa Ana Stadium. We can deduce that this is what the mayor meant when he said that “The stadium was off the table,” as Voice of OC writer Adam Elmahrek once wrote. What Elmahrek conveniently left out was the all important why? Why was the stadium thrown off the table? We know that the downtown stadium was mentioned as a temporary site until a new stadium could be built at Willowick golf course, and again, we can deduce that Chivas required that we pay for remodeling our municipal stadium and the mayor refused.

Kudos to Pulido.

We can substantiate what Pulido told me by looking at this insightful article published in the Inland Valley’s Daily Bulletin, in which Pomona’s redevelopment director Raymond Fong said that “Chivas was looking for significant local assistance.”

The Santa Ana area, including Anaheim, is an attractive part of the LA region because of the Latino demographics within these two combined cities. Chivas obviously doesn’t want to ignore this segment and that’s why there are Chivas players from Santa Ana and Anaheim within their ranks. But Chivas also doesn’t want to ignore the important demographic of the Los Angeles east side including Montebello, Bell Gardens etc and other areas. So they may have to compromise two satisfy the East LA and Santa Ana ends of the LA region. And that puts them at: Cerritos.

Other options for Chivas

MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Chivas full owner Jorge Vergara have been talking to USC about possibly tearing down the Sports Arena at Expo Park, which USC now controls, to build a stadium for Chivas there. Garber strikes me as the type that wants the highest-profile project possible, and that’s why Expo Park is their first choice. That’s also why he opted on selling the new New York City MLS franchise to the owners of the Yankees and Manchester City for a hefty $100 million instead of helping the New York Cosmos join MLS. Oh, and NYC FC? They don’t have a stadium deal going as a required for new MLS franchises, which goes against what Garber has been pontificating.

The whole turnover of Expo Park to USC is littered with snags and scandals. I don’t see anything happening for Chivas there until the Coliseum Commission, which used to control Expo Park, is found not guilty of any wrongdoing. But just yesterday, the LA Times reported that the head of the Coliseum Commission testified falsely in some matter.

Other areas mentioned are East LA College, Cerritos College and Titan Stadium at Cal State Fullerton. The problem with East LA and Cerritos is that their fields are surrounded by oplympic-style tracks. That would require significant investment to renovate either field. And East LA College is state property, which means more snags for Chivas.

It looks more and more like Cerritos and Fullerton are better options for Chivas. Fullerton’s stadium doesn’t require much alteration but that’s assuming that CSUF even wants Chivas there. But Cerritos, when you look at the map, is right in the middle of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan statistical area designation. It’s close to, and in the middle of, the two largest Mexican-American concentrations of people in the LA east side and the central Orange County region with Santa Ana and Anaheim combined.

Cerritos turns out to look like a very sensible option but significant money and political will are required, wherever Chivas and Vergara decide to go. The folks at East LA College gave a $50 million dollar figure to renovate their stadium and called it a bargain, but they aren’t paying for it.

The path is clear. Vergara has to spend the money. They wanted Chivas in the U.S., they have to house them, not local municipalities.

Epilogue

Scott French mentioned Santa Ana’s downtown stadium as a possibility but overlooked an important detail: Willowick Golf Course. The course was always mentioned as a final destination, as a place where a stadium could be built. What are some advantages to building there? You don’t have to convince local community college districts to part with their olympic track fields. Instead, you build from scratch. The drawback? It’ll cost more but you can build something state of the art from nothing like Houston, Kansas City, Salt Lake, and others have done.

Those of us in Santa Ana that have debated the Chivas issue completely overlooked Centennial Park also. That area makes as much sense if not more than Willowick because there already is a city-owned soccer complex there with upwards of four or five fields. And there’s room behind the fields to build. Who owns that land is not clear. And there’s a small artificial lake near the last fields that’s never used. You might as well fill that up. Some of us have seen what the lakes look like at Centennial, so why not?

To Jorge Vergara, there’s no way around it. Spend the money, wherever you decide to go.

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