The Santa Ana City Council approved this week a six-month window for formal negotiations with professional soccer team Chivas USA regarding a possible move by the team to the city.
If negotiations are successful, Willowick Golf Course could become the site of “Chivas facilities,” according to a city staff report.
A coalition of residents have been outraged by news of the possible move, fearing increases in traffic and noise.
The group has singled out Mayor Miguel Pulido for not informing residents of closed-door negotiations he’s had with the team.
Tim Rush, cochairman of the residents coalition, expressed his anger during the public comment session at this week’s City Council meeting, accusing Pulido of lying during a recent meeting with residents. Rush said Pulido claimed that Chivas decided not to move from its current location at the Home Depot Center in Carson for at least two years.
“None of us are happy about us being lied to,” Rush said.
The mayor denied the accusation and said he has been consistent in talking about the negotiations. Pulido said he told residents that the Santa Ana Stadium is “off the table” as a possible location for the team but that the golf course remained an option.
Council members said that having a professional soccer team in town would be a boon for city coffers, an important consideration given the abysmal state of the city budget. The city is facing a $30-million shortfall going into the next fiscal year and will be making top-to-bottom changes to balance the budget.
“All we’re asking for is to give us the opportunity to raise some money for the city, because we very much need it,” said Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez.
Pulido said after the meeting that the negotiation period is a formality that Chivas was not willing to entertain before. “This takes it to the next level,” Pulido said.
Councilman Vincent Sarmiento said he suspected the negotiations were little more than a tactic by Chivas to gain better lease terms at their current location. But, Sarmiento said, it was important to seriously consider any revenue opportunity for the city.
Both residents and city officials often say Santa Ana missed other crucial revenue opportunities, such as the South Coast Plaza shopping complex in Costa Mesa.
“We could have had a major mall here — South Coast Plaza. Maybe our [budget] condition would have been much better,” Sarmiento said.
Councilman David Benavides said the formal negotiation period also provides a good opportunity to confer with residents about a Chivas move.
“Now it opens the door so we can hear some of the feedback,” Benavides said.
— ADAM ELMAHREK