Quakes get city approval for stadium-development plan

The San Jose Earthquakes reached another milestone on their journey to build the San Francisco Bay Area’s first soccer-specific stadium, but they’re not popping champagne bottles just yet.

The Quakes received approval on Wednesday from San Jose city officials for their Planned Development permit, putting them as close as they’ve ever been to getting a shovel in the ground at the Coleman Avenue site. Since the PD paperwork spells out exactly what kind of events the 18,000-seat facility can host, it was the last piece of the puzzle the team needed to move ahead with working blueprints and finalize their financing plan.

“It’s an exciting development,” Quakes president David Kaval told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday. “It’s good to keep moving the ball forward.”

The caveat: Neighbors concerned about noise from the new stadium – which would be nestled between a set of railroad tracks and San Jose’s airport – have until Jan. 3 to appeal the PD permit, which would push the process back by several weeks at a minimum.

“I think we presented a very reasonable and responsible plan to the community for hosting soccer matches at our new facility,” Kaval said. “We’ve spent a lot of time doing outreach. We’re not having concerts. We’ll have quarterly meetings with a neighborhood group.

“Because of all those things, I feel cautiously optimistic that we’ve done things in a way that wouldn’t warrant an appeal, but it’s impossible to say.”

If there is no appeal, Kaval said the team could be ready to move forward with working drawings and a financing plan within a month. The Quakes have already laid some of the foundations for that work, but held off on finalizing the details until the PD permit was approved.

The team estimates it needs nine to 12 months to complete the stadium, which they hope to have up in time for the 2013 season.

“It’s hard to know exactly what you’re spending until you know exactly what you can build,” Kaval said. “We’re trying to move as fast as we can to move forward.”

According to Kaval, the team has already sold four of the 12 field-side suites that were put on offer last month, and while ownership still has not guaranteed the stadium will be built, Kaval remains confident that will come to pass.

“I’ve been optimistic for a long time this will get done,” Kaval said. “I think we have a good stadium, a good plan, a great footprint and a great design. It’s going to go provided we can work through the things that are out of our control.”

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