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New Earthquakes stadium to feature field-level suites

Image courtesy of San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Fans willing to pay the price are about to get an up-close-and-personal look at the future of soccer in San Jose.

The Quakes announced on Tuesday that even as their project wends its way through the city’s permitting process, they will begin selling seats this week for 12 field-level luxury suites on either sideline in the new stadium.

It’s an eye-catching addition to a design that originally didn’t feature any luxury suites at all.

“I don’t think there’s really any professional soccer venue that has a setup like this,” Quakes president David Kaval told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a really cool design and we’re really happy to have it at the new venue.”

The suites are believed to be a unique feature among American soccer stadiums, building upon the team’s popular on-field seating areas at their current home of Buck Shaw Stadium.

Unlike those field seats, however, these come with all the amenities of a luxury box just a few steps away: a bar and longue area with a high-definition television and full catering available, VIP parking, even a private entrance to the stadium — which is currently slated for a 2013 debut.

“It’s not all that dissimilar to an NBA courtside seat,” Kaval said. “If there’s one thing we learned from Buck Shaw, it’s the intimate nature of our venue. Our field seats, that’s something that’s always commented on. Even visitors from Brazil and Italy, they say, ‘I’ve never experienced the professional game so close.’”

Click here for more information on the field level suites

While Seattle’s CenturyLink Field features field-level boxes, they’re located behind one goal. The Quakes plan to put six suites on each sideline, clustered at midfield. Fans on the north side of the pitch will be mere feet from the team benches.

“In Houston, they were doing [luxury suites] 10 rows off the pitch, and getting a great response,” Kaval said of Dynamo Stadium, set to open next year. “Here, balls can be kicked over the sideline and into the suite. You’ve got to be on it. You’ve got to look alive.”

The suites, which come with 17 on-field seats and six additional tickets, cost $70,000 per season, with a five-year commitment required to buy. Packages include access to all events at the stadium, including any potential US national team appearances or NCAA Tournament matches.

Ticket sales, which begin Friday for Quakes season-ticket holders and Dec. 9 for the general public, come even as the team awaits final approval of its Planned Development permit — the largest remaining bureaucratic hurdle between the club and breaking ground — by San Jose officials. Joseph Horwedel, the city’s director of planning, building and code enforcement, is expected to render a decision on the PD paperwork at a Dec. 14 meeting.

Kaval has been adamant that the club needs to get buy-in from all its neighbors on the stadium design during the permitting process in order to make it a “win-win” — and also to forestall any potential complaints. But he disagrees with the notion that selling seats now for a stadium that still requires a final city sign-off constitutes jumping the gun.

“I think the two things are independent,” Kaval said. “We don’t want to get out in front of the process, but by the same token, we have a timeline to achieve our sales goals on the venue, and this has to start in order to achieve those goals. That’s why it’s important for us to go to market.

“And frankly, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about it — people calling, saying, ‘I hear there are suites, how do I get one?’ — and we wanted to have a process that was fair to our fans and season-ticket holders.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.