San Jose Mercury News, April 17, 2015
49ers new soccer plan: Santa Clara mayor's latest proposal short-changes kids
By Tino Silva, Steve Robertson and Vicki Field
Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews is backing a plan that would jeopardize our city's world class youth soccer park to accommodate the 49ers' need for VIP stadium parking. It demonstrates how the 49ers their political muscle against the community and how political leaders accommodate them.
Matthews' proposal, introduced in this newspaper last week, places the needs of the NFL team high above those of the youth of Santa Clara. It would allow the team to shut down the soccer park during games days and special events this year, ruin our fields by parking cars on them and set a deadline of two years for the park to close entirely.
To understand why this is happening, some history is required.
The soccer park, built in 2005, is one of Northern California's premier facilities. More than 2,500 youth of all levels use the three fields, with teams visiting from throughout the Western region, particularly on weekends.
In 2010, during the stadium campaign, the 49ers promised to be a good neighbor. Most of us supported the campaign, believing in the stadium's potential and the team's promises.
In a letter dated Jan. 10, 2012, 49ers CEO Jed York agreed the soccer park should remain in it's current location but acknowledged the difficulty of operating on football game days. "To demonstrate our commitment to our community's young soccer players and their families," York wrote, "we are proposing that the 49ers underwrite several regulation-sized additional soccer fields in Santa Clara. These additional fields would be dedicated and maintained for the use of the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League during NFL game days."
But York reneged on that commitment. In fact, team officials said last month they plan to park not just in our lot but on our fields. Of course, they won't park cars on their own practice fields just one block away.
Further, the soccer facility would close for both NFL games and special events, approximately 40 weekends a year, destroying our season.
We said no.
Now, the 49ers are using their political relationships to push through the newest proposal. Last year,contributed substantially to the elections of Matthews and Councilmen Dominic Caserta and Pat Kolstad. None of these officials has called for the 49ers to keep their commitment to youth soccer.
In Matthews' plan, in exchange for destroying the soccer park, the 49ers would pay the Santa Clara Unified School District $3 million to build soccer fields on school sites, putting youth soccer in competition with school activities. The team would pre-pay $15 million in "rent" for a facility that would cost an estimated $50-60 million to replace or relocate -- if land is available.
Matthews does not say who will pay the difference or propose any sites. If none can be found, the soccer park would cease to exist, and school fields would be inundated.
The community feels pressure to find solutions. Proposals have surfaced to build soccer fields in the Ulistac Natural Area, eliminating open space, or in Central Park, threatening softball facilities. These options unnecessarily pit community groups against each other.
We cannot count on the 49ers to do the right thing. Nor can we rely on elected officials influenced by&nbscampaign contributions.
So we've started a coalition called Stand Up for Santa Clara (www.standupforsantaclara.com
). Together we can hold the 49ers accountable for actions and promises, whether at council meetings or on the ballot with a referendum or initiative.
Tino Silva is president of the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League, Steve Robertson is vice president and
Vicki Field is a Santa Clara community leader. They wrote this for this newspaper.