SAN JOSE, Calif. – When David Kaval was hired as the San Jose Earthquakes’ president in October of 2010, the top item on his to-do list was as daunting a task as he could find: shepherd a soccer-specific stadium to fruition in a city where all previous attempts to do so had failed.
Yet even as the club prepares to break ground Sunday on the Coleman Avenue site where its new 18,000-seat home is scheduled to rise over the next 18 months, Kaval is too busy to cast a reflective eye back over the Quakes’ wending path to get here.
“I’ve just been mostly focused on getting stuff done, so it hasn’t really been an introspective evaluation,” Kaval said. “It is very rewarding to think about where we’ve come from and where we are, but by the same token, there’s still a long way to go. And I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with things churning through my head.”
Those worries have been magnified by the high-profile manner in which Kaval and his front office are looking to begin construction of the $60 million stadium, which received final approval from the city of San Jose in February.
The Quakes eschewed a simple ribbon-cutting and photo op in favor of an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most people to take part in a groundbreaking ceremony, a mark that currently stands at 4,532.
San Jose have already signed up more than 5,500 people for the event, which precedes the Quakes’ final home match of the regular season, against the LA Galaxy on Sunday (7 pm ET, Galavision).
Of all the milestones the Quakes have reached along the way, in Kaval’s mind, none rivals Sunday’s celebration, which will feature the likes of San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
“This is the event,” Kaval said. “It sets the tone, it puts us off on a whole other trajectory – both symbolically in terms of breaking the ground and starting the building of the stadium, but also in terms of where our club is, and an inflection point to take us from a quasi-minor league team to, really, the big leagues.
“I think that’s really an amazing accomplishment for our ownership group, our front office, our team.”
Kaval’s first year did not feature much success on the pitch, as the Quakes, coming off their first playoff appearance since being re-formed as an expansion team in 2008, slumped to a 8-12-14 record. But Kaval helped plow money into the Quakes’ scouting and video-analysis efforts, and key retentions (Simon Dawkins, Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart) and new acquisitions (Victor Bernardez, Marvin Chavez, Shea Salinas) have pushed San Jose to the brink of the club’s first Supporters’ Shield since 2005.
“He’s brought in vision, leadership, forward thinking, positivity,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said of Kaval. “All the things you want out of a president, he’s brought it. Talk about doing a good job – steadying the ship, getting the stadium done. I mean, we’re ready to go.”
Having been a founder and CEO of the independent Golden Baseball League before joining San Jose, Kaval’s flair for a spectacle – think “Lenhart Wig Night” – has come naturally.
“This is something that people will remember and tell their grandkids about,” Kaval said of the groundbreaking. “That’s the type of event that I like to be a part of, because they’re truly historic. They just have such an impact.”
In one respect, karma seems to be lining things up for the Quakes, who can ensure a finish at the top of the MLS table with a win over their archrivals on Sunday. A victory would also mean San Jose finishes the regular season at a perfect 9-0 against their top three Western Conference rivals: LA, Real Salt Lake and Seattle.
“To have the ability to clinch the Supporters’ Shield on the same day that we break ground for our new stadium is really just a momentous occasion,” Kaval said. “It’s almost hard to describe how exciting that is.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.