Professional soccer team Chivas USA is not moving to Santa Ana, according to officials with the Santa Ana Soccer and Business Association, an organization that works with local businesses and soccer leagues.
Association President Edgar Vasquez says he is so sure the move isn’t happening that the organization stopped lobbying for it nearly three months ago.
“Originally we were so excited to have a professional team coming here,” Vasquez said. “We did our best efforts to help them [Chivas USA] out, but we don’t see anything back.”
Rumors of a possible Chivas USA move to the city sparked an outcry from residents in various neighborhoods. The residents have met several times, fearing that the move would lead to spikes in noise and traffic in city neighborhoods.
Residents also have been critical of Mayor Miguel Pulido for holding behind-closed-doors negotiations but refusing to publicly disclose any details.
Vasquez and the association’s spokesman, Alex Vega, say that most likely Chivas has used moving to Santa Ana as a ploy to get better terms on a lease at the team’s current home, the Home Depot Center in Carson.
“It’s dead, it’s over. They’re not coming here,” Vega said. Added Vasquez: “I think they’re [Chivas USA] probably just using us.”
Vasquez and Vega point to a recent news interview with Chivas USA co-owner Jorge Vergara, a Mexican business magnate who also owns the Chivas Mexico team. Vasquez said Vergara told the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion that Chivas USA was staying in Los Angeles.
Vergara said he hadn’t heard about negotiations with Santa Ana, according to Vasquez and Vega, a sign that Chivas USA officials aren’t serious about the prospect.
Also, Chivas USA co-owner Antonio Cue told MLSsoccer.com last month that Chivas USA will not move to any location outside of Los Angeles County.
“It seems like somebody’s been playing with us,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez shed light on details of the negotiations, which he learned during a meeting with Pulido about three months ago. Vasquez said Pulido met with top Chivas USA officials, including Cue. Pulido was told that Chivas USA was considering a few cities for a possible move, but Santa Ana wasn’t specifically mentioned, Vasquez said.
“He [Cue] was shopping around to pick the better deal,” Vasquez said. “They’re probably saying the same thing to other cities.”
Pulido could not be reached for comment.
Vasquez and Vega said that the association, not Pulido, had initial talks with the team. A different organization first met with team officials about a possible move several years ago.
Association officials then crafted a plan they thought would attract the team to the city, Vasquez said. That plan, which former Mayor Pro Tem Tom Lutz revealed in a meeting with residents two months ago, would have moved the team to Eddie West Field at the Santa Ana Stadium and then built a new stadium at Willowick Golf Course.
The association also worked with Santa Ana’s Downtown Inc. on a Chivas USA ticket promotion. But after residents expressed concern about the move, Downtown Inc. Executive Director Vicky Baxter vowed to end all promotions of a Chivas USA move.
“They [Chivas USA] approached the community first,” Vega said. “Miguel at first didn’t want to talk to them. We [the association] convinced Miguel to listen to them.”
— ADAM ELMAHREK