Orange County’s biggest professional soccer team is set to stay in Irvine after they brokered a new deal with city politicians that also clears the way for more advertising revenue for the city at the Great Park Championship Soccer Stadium.
While the new deal with the Orange County Soccer Club brings some more money for Irvine, it’s unclear if it’ll be enough to break even on the costs Irvine covers for maintaining the stadium’s fields and other amenities.
The deal came after hundreds of the Orange County Soccer Club’s fans showed up to city council meetings last year, demanding the city extend the team’s contract to play at the stadium and deny a request from the LA Galaxy’s reserve team to use the stadium as well.
At the time, city council members unanimously agreed to give the team one more year at the stadium, on the condition they immediately return to the bargaining table to work out a better long-term deal with the city and stop publicly criticizing the city.
Now, the soccer club is guaranteed at least five more years at the taxpayer-funded facility, with the possibility of five more years after, along with rights to sell advertising space on billboards and banners as long as the city gets 20% of the revenue.
Irvine officials also get the final signoff on who’s allowed to advertise.
But it remains unclear if the new deal with the club will be enough to offset how much the city pays in upkeep at the stadium every year.
The new deal could generate as much as $500,000 in revenue for the city each year according to a new staff estimate, with no available data on the costs for maintaining the current field at the meeting.
But last year, city staff said the upkeep of the grass field cost anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 every year in a staff report, and encouraged city council members to switch to a turf field that would only cost around $7,500 a year after an installation cost of $1.5 million.
Right now, the field is still grass.
While the club doesn’t occupy the facility at all times, they’re guaranteed the right to schedule before anybody else.
City council members unanimously approved the deal, adding that over the past year the city’s relationship with the club had dramatically improved.
Dan Rutstein, the club’s president of business operations, praised the new deal in a statement titled “Ten more Years for Orange County Soccer Club in Irvine,” released on Wednesday morning.
“We are delighted to ink this deal that gives our fans and our community the security and certainty they’ve craved for so long,” Rutstein said. “Our fans wake up today knowing we will be playing at this beautiful stadium until 2033.”
It’s also unclear if the deal will actually end up bringing in $500,000.
During the Oct. 10 city council meeting, politicians shut down the option for the club to sell any naming rights at the stadium, which were included as part of the expected $500,000 income.
Councilmember Tammy Kim was the loudest opponent of the naming rights provision, saying that power should exclusively rest with the city.
“This is our stadium. if we’re going to decide to offer naming rights, then this needs to be ours and ours alone, meaning 100% the city of Irvine,” Kim said, pointing to past issues the city had with Live Nation over negotiations for an amphitheater that later fell apart.
In addition to the OC Soccer Club, two other smaller soccer clubs also use the stadium alongside other community groups during the rest of the week.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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