With rumors swirling about a potential pro soccer expansion into Santa Ana, some 50 residents gathered Wednesday night to complain about potential traffic, noise and other problems that soccer games could create.
Residents opposed to the move appear to be circulating a protest petition. They are particularly incensed over rumors that Mayor Miguel Pulido is holding private meetings aimed at bringing the team to the city while avoiding any input from residents.
Tom Lutz, a former council member, hosted the residents at his home. He said he found out about the negotiations and possible move only because of old contacts he has at City Hall.
“It's been very sketchy, because the mayor is having secret meetings and hasn't spoken with the residents,” Lutz told the crowd in his backyard. When one resident asked whether the mayor or other council members had been invited, Lutz said, “They haven't let us in on their meetings.”
Pulido did not return a phone call for comment.
Lutz said he understands that if the soccer team comes to the city, its first home would be Santa Ana Stadium. If true, that would displace football teams of local high schools like Mater Dei and Century, according to Lutz. The move also would mean Santa Ana College's football team could lose access to the stadium, he said.
“Our concerns are not with Chivas,” Lutz said. “It's with schools losing access.”
Lutz said the city plans to build a soccer stadium on the Willowick Golf Course, one of the oldest golf courses in Orange County. The 102-acre public course is the largest open space left in the city, residents said.
“Willowick should not be abandoned,” said resident and local historian Tim Rush.
“You can't replace [the open space]. You can't get the asset back,” said resident Steve McGuigan.
This isn't the first time replacing the golf course with a soccer field has been proposed.
In 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that Pulido had confirmed negotiations with Chivas USA to have youth soccer programs at the golf course site. "I hope none of you play golf there," the Times quoted the mayor as saying in jest during the 2008 State of the City address.
The gathering at Lutz's house attracted residents from at least seven neighborhoods, including Washington Square, Floral Park and Wilshire Square.
Julieann Hansen, who has lived in Washington Square for only six months, said had she known about the negotiations, “I probably wouldn't have bought my house.” Hansen said.
At the end of the meeting, residents formed a committee to prevent the team from coming to the city. The committee includes Rush, Lutz, Don Cribb, Alfredo Amezcua, Thomas Gordon, Dave Brandt, and Debbie McEwen.
— ADAM ELMAHREK