Quakes top off stadium with public party

SANTA CLARA — Decades in the making, the San Jose Earthquakes celebrated the completion of their new stadium’s steel superstructure with a public ceremony and barbecue thanking construction crews, fans and supporters.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Scheduled to open in March 2015, the skeleton of the 18,000-seat soccer-specific stadium foreshadows the future of San Jose soccer. Earthquakes owner Lew Wolff is constructing the $70 million facility with no public funds from the City of San Jose.

Lawrence DeSantis has been an Earthquakes season ticket holder for four years, and a Quakes fan since moving to San Jose 13 years ago. DeSantis told SFBay he already has his seats in the north stand picked out:

“They could have made it larger. Something like this, of this magnitude, you can see it flying in, from the highway. I won’t be surprised if this place is sold out every night.”

Hours after the official topping-off ceremony — long after the players, most of the media, and even many of the fans had departed — San Jose Earthquakes president Dave Kaval was still shaking hands, taking pictures and giving backers the kind of access that sets MLS apart from more entrenched professional leagues.

Kaval told SFBay he ranks this day right near the top of moments in Earthquakes history:

“So many people never would have believed this day would happen. We’ve got 40 years of history, but it’s a tortured history at times. Spartan, Buck Shaw, never having our own home. To finally persevere and to create this stadium, it’s really moving.”

Kaval said the stadium will do more than solidify the Earthquakes’ position as a first-tier MLS franchise:

“It establishes us in the Bay Area as a premier sports property, and probably the only one accessible to regular fans. Sports are getting so expensive, how can you go to a world-class stadium and spend $30 on a ticket? That’s why this fits a very important niche.”

Satya and Melissa Belur of San Jose enjoyed some free barbecue and sunshine in the shadow of the newly-completed steel superstructure. Satya told SFBay he felt proud seeing the stadium coming to life:

“We took a tour last week, it was really something just walking through the whole thing. We can’t wait for March 2015.”