San Jose Earthquakes co-owner Lew Wolff stopped by the team’s practice facility this week and took questions from representatives of two different outlets, including MLSsoccer.com. On to the Q&A transcript.
Q: Are you excited by the demolition (on the team’s Coleman Avenue stadium site)?
Lew Wolff: Very excited, yeah. I have a conflict, though. Our first game is the same time as I have an (Oakland A’s) owner’s meeting in baseball. I got the worst straw, so I’m going to the baseball. My son Keith will be here. I hate to miss the first game.
Q: Your thoughts on this year’s team?
LW: I think there are two things: We have a very lively team, and I think we have more depth than we had last year. But the thing that makes me so happy is that I rushed us into the first year. We only had less than 60 days, 80 days, to field a team. I just got tired of waiting. So I only consider that we’re in our third year. I feel we made the playoffs in our second year. I didn’t give Frank (Yallop, the Quakes’ coach) or John (Doyle, the Quakes’ general manager) much of a chance our first year.
Q: With that playoff appearance, is the team trending the way you want?
[inline_node:323255]LW: Absolutely. I think everybody, even the experienced staff, matures. I didn’t know that much about soccer beforehand. We’ve tried our Designated Player (signing former La Liga and EPL veteran Geovanni in August). We’ve tried different things. And some work out and some don’t. That’s part of sports. It’s a little easier in soccer than signing a baseball player for six years.
Q: Will you consider using a Designated Player again?
LW: I think if there’s a need, but right now … We don’t have a, ‘You can’t do it’ kind of thing. We got in the playoffs, (Geovanni) was helpful. I think it was a worthwhile experiment for us. It wouldn’t hurt us to think about it again, but right now, we don’t see a need. I’ll tell you that after three games.
Q: Is it possible in the summer?
LW: It is. Everybody’s got various options. But the answer is, I’m open to winning.
Q: What’s the plan after demolition? When will construction start?
LW: To be very honest about it, we don’t have our package together. I think we should be probably moving a little faster. But getting things done in any – you’ve got to remember, we have no public assistance. Zero. So we want to approach this carefully. Our design is pretty well perfected, we’re going through planning, but have we blown the whistle and said we’re absolutely moving on a certain date? I wish I could tell you that, but we don’t.
But I do think we’ll have a new stadium by the end of next year or the following season. I think the following season is probably more logical. Even the process - building a carport probably takes six months to get a permit. Right now we have to go through a special building permit design. And that’s a little more complex than it should be. California really doesn’t do a good service to get things done.
Q: So, 2013 is more likely for an opening date?
LW: I think by the midseason, we’ll know exactly.
Q: What kind of changes have there been in the original 2009 design?
LW: We look at all the other soccer (stadiums) -- the ones who built new ones -- and they’re $100 million, $140 million. I can’t even imagine what Red Bulls paid. Except for the Red Bulls, I think every one of those has huge amounts of public assistance. I know Philadelphia does. We have zero. So we’re trying to have -- what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to emulate I would say, Toronto a little bit, where we want the fans as close to the field and as loud as possible.
So we’re not going to put in gourmet restaurants and amusement parks for kids and such. It’s going to be really for soccer. The soccer fans like to enjoy the game before. Once the game starts, I’m surprised if we sell a [soda]. Which is great. And then they leave. So we’re talking about -- we think it’ll look great, but it will be a very fan-close-to-the-field (experience). We’re not going to have a lot of height (to the stands). We’d rather come around in a circle than go up (too many rows). It’ll still have the roof, and the circle, so it won’t be too different from what we had before.
Q: So we won’t see a giant coke bottle with a kids’ slide inside (as the San Francisco Giants have at AT&T Park)?
LW: If Coke came and decided they needed to help us, I would build them one 50 feet higher than that one.