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Tremors in San Jose; Fire eyes Chilean star
by Ridge Mahoney, May 30th, 2007 7AM
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TAGS:  mls


Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney provides the latest on efforts to bring back the Earthquakes and the Chicago Fire's courtship with Chilean legend Marcelo Salas ...

DEADLINE. If he can negotiate an Exclusive Right to Negotiate (ERN) with City of San Jose officials in the next two weeks, Oakland A's owner Lewis Wolff will have about three months to hammer out details of a soccer-specific stadium for the Earthquakes at a site near San Jose International Airport.

To fund the stadium project, Wolff has purchased an option on a 77-acre parcel of land he wishes to be re-zoned for residential development. It is currently zoned for industrial use. The stadium would be built on city-owned land that was purchased by city in parcels at a total cost of approximately $82 million.

The ERN, if granted, would expire on Sept. 15. The estimated cost of the stadium is $80 million and the sides would share revenues from ancillary developments that would likely accompany the stadium project. A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART, the Bay Area's light rail system) station has also been proposed on the Airport West site.

Commissioner Don Garber has said without a viable stadium plan in place, the league will not allow Wolff to exercise the expansion option he holds for San Jose, an option that expires in 2009.

Garber did say it was "possible" the league Board of Governors would approve a San Jose team to begin play in 2008 if a plan was in place, though the decision would in part depend on the financial formulas in force at whichever venue the team used until the new facility was ready. A more likely scenario is the team playing at a site to be determined in 2009 and playing in its new stadium the following year. Spartan is a possibility, as is Stanford University, which opened its renovated football stadium last year and will stage a friendly between Chelsea and Club America July 14.

The Oakland Coliseum has hosted dozens of games in the past decade, but it is also the home of the baseball A's and football Raiders, though Wolff is moving forward with plans to built a baseball stadium for the A's in Fremont.

The city and Wolff's group, FWSH Partners, LLC, have agreed no city money will be used for the stadium project. In January, 2006 the San Jose parks and recreation commission voted 7-0 to reject a plan to use bond money approved in a ballot measure for a soccer stadium. Measure P had won approval in a 2000 election to develop and renovate community parks and public sports fields.

In early April, talks broke down regarding a proposal made by Wolff to build a new stadium across the street from Spartan Stadium, which had been the Earthquakes home field from 1996 to 2005. Wolff and San Jose State University, which owns and operates Spartan Stadium, could not agree on financial guarantees. Wolff first devised the re-zoning proposal to fund a replacement for Spartan.

SALAS ON TRIAL. The Fire has confirmed former Chilean international Marcelo Salas will train with the team this week. At least one other MLS team is also seeking to give him a trial, according to a source.

Salas, 32, hasn't played competitively since the end of last year, when he left Chilean club Universidad Chile in a dispute over payment of wages and bonuses. The club is still in financial disarray but was rescued from bankruptcy earlier this week when a three-person consortium paid $6.3 million to clear the club's debts. If Salas is out of contract, he could sign and be registered to play right away, but since the U.S. window re-opens June 15 so that point is moot.

He scored eight goals this past season before leaving Universidad and earlier this month said he'd like to return to the club if possible but wanted to resume playing regardless.

Salas formed a potent forward duo with Ivan Zamorano for Chile during the 1990s. Salas scored both goals in Chile's first victory over England, a 2-0 victory at Wembley. After scoring four goals at the 1998 World Cup, he left River Plate for Italy and played five seasons for Lazio and Juventus. Eleven goals for Lazio helped it win the 1999-2000 Serie A title.

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