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Revived Quakes sorting out stadium situation
by Ridge Mahoney, December 13th, 2007 7AM
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TAGS:  mls


Renovations to Buck Shaw Stadium, which operator-investor Lewis Wolff says will cost between $1 million and $2 million, won't be completed until early spring, so the expansion San Jose Earthquakes will start their home schedule April 12 against Chicago at the Oakland Coliseum.

Where and if Coach Frank Yallop's team will play on opening weekend is up in the air.

San Jose had been provisionally scheduled to host Red Bull New York at Buck Shaw March 29 but last week Quakes executive vice president David Alioto said that game wasn't possible. Whether or not San Jose and RBNY can play at the Meadowlands on March 29 is still being discussed. (The A's are hosting crosstown rival San Francisco in the final 2008 preseason game that day.)

Both teams could be given a bye week but that would complicate the early weeks of the schedule. And one of the driving forces to adding San Jose as a 14th team despite Wolff's stadium plan still being formulated was to eliminate costly bye dates, as was the case for 2007 when Toronto came in as the 13th team.

The visit of Chicago - and presumably - Cuauhtemoc Blanco -- and two home games against Los Angeles and David Beckham have been projected to be three of the four games San Jose will play at the Coliseum, which is also home to the football Raiders and baseball A's. Delays at Buck Shaw could force another game or two to be played in Oakland, though that is unlikely.

Team officials expect to play 13 home games at Buck Shaw, which is located on the Santa Clara University campus and is home to the men's and women's soccer teams. Extensive work - including installation of additional seating sections; new concession stands, locker rooms, and restrooms; a digital scoreboard; renovation of an adjacent practice field; and upgraded lighting - is planned for Buck Shaw, which is probably going to be the Quakes' home for the first three seasons, not two as originally announced.

"We want to do everything right, whether it's renovating Buck Shaw or building our stadium [near San Jose airport]," says Wolff, who owns 10 percent of the A's and is majority operator-investor of the Quakes. "People might come out that first season for the novelty, but you want them to come back as often as possible. Hopefully you have a good team, of course, but making them comfortable and the setting enjoyable is an important part of that."

Along with a proposed baseball stadium for the A's in the nearby city of Fremont, Wolff is negotiating with the San Jose City Council on two related projects by which he would sell to a developer the rights to build on a parcel of land in south San Jose, and from that deal generate revenues to purchase city-owned land near Buck Shaw on which he will build a soccer stadium. If all the paperwork is finished by mid-summer, as Wolff envisions, the Quakes stadium will be ready in plenty of time for the 2011 season.

Formerly home to the Broncos baseball team, Buck Shaw is configured with a grandstand curving behind the former location of home plate with bench seating extending down both "baselines." The soccer field will be moved lengthwise several yards and a portion of the grandstand directly behind "home plate" will removed to accommodate a corner of the soccer field.

The soccer sideline that runs in front the longest stretch of grandstand is what used to be the left-field foul line. The shorter "right-field" section will provide seating behind one of the goals.

Buck Shaw's capacity of 6,800 will be increased by approximately 5,000 with two sections of bleacher-like seating on the side of the field opposite the grandstand. Thus, the field will be enclosed on three sides by seated sections. The fourth side -- the area behind the north goal, beyond which is the training field -- is taken up by a massive scoreboard that will be replaced by a state-of-the-art version.

So the homecoming of San Jose, the original version of which left for Houston after the 2005 season, will actually be staged in Oakland. It's doubtful many fans will mind.

"We are very excited to announce our 2008 home opener against the Chicago Fire and a world-class player like Cuauhtémoc Blanco," stated Alioto in a team press release announcing the opener. "Earthquakes fans have been waiting for this day for a long time to see the return of their San Jose Earthquakes."


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