A sunny day turned chilly as ominous slate grey clouds descended on the Avaya Stadium ribbon cutting ceremony, but even a surprise thunderstorm wouldn’t have dampened the mood for those who gathered to present the opening of a soccer stadium eight years in the making.
One on hand was San Jose mayor and Santa Clara County native Sam Liccardo, who gave a weighty endorsement to what the new 18,000-seat, $100 million venue means for the city:
“We are here to commemorate the day San Jose officially became cool.”
Liccardo wasn’t the only speaker who used the adjective, with Avaya CEO Annie Cunningham stating:
“I wanted to make Avaya cool, and today we are cool.”
The stadium certainly looks cool and Earthquakes President Dave Kaval definitely felt cool cutting the bright red ribbon after nearly two and a half years of construction. Kaval will forever be linked with bringing the club its first exclusive home.
When San Jose temporarily lost their team in 2005, it was because they failed to secure a soccer-specific stadium. That fact that cannot be undersold, and was mentioned in Kaval’s opening statement as fulfilling a promise to fans:
“It’s been a 40-year history of the Earthquakes here in the South Bay and we’ve never had our own home. We’ve always been renting from someone else and not having your own home means you don’t actually have somewhere you can call your own and there’s always uncertainty at how long you’ll be in the community.”
The architecture is described as “European style” for its open-air design and overhanging awnings on the tops of its steep seating areas to deflect crowd noise. In addition to the 18,000 seats, the stadium has 12 luxury suites that are sold out, bought mainly by businesses and individuals
The construction of Avaya gives the club and its supporters long-awaited stability, not to mention a crown jewel of a venue that is already attracting a myriad of professional sporting events.
Minority Quakes owner (and majority A’s owner) John J. Fisher praised Kaval, saying they wouldn’t have been able to build the privately-financed stadium without him:
“I can say without hesitation we never would’ve taken the risk to build a stadium like this if someone like Dave Kaval hadn’t come into our lives. … Dave, this is because of you.”
With the ribbon cut, the next step is Saturday’s “soft open” where Avaya will fittingly host rival Los Angeles Galaxy in the Earthquakes’ final preseason tune-up. The match will be played in front of 10,000 fans, just over half of the stadium’s full capacity.
Trial runs like this are important for new venues in order to work out kinks before hosting sell-out crowds. The Earthquakes got an understanding of that first hand, when they opened Levi’s Stadium’s to a rocky first impression last summer.
The grand opening will take place on March 22 against Chicago Fire, assuming an MLS work stoppage is avoided, something that Jeff Carlisle reports is unlikely.
Putting a competitive product on the field is currently the club’s top priority, and it’s something that Kaval and general manager John Doyle haven’t been able to accomplish during the past two seasons.
Saturday won’t be an adequate barometer for the team, but it will at least give a friendly audience their first chance to see how new coach Dominic Kinnear has changed the team’s style of play.
Reports say the team has been faster and more effective going forward, something that aligns with Kinnear’s preseason comments regarding how last year’s team sat back much too often.
Player to watch
Adam Jahn, F — Jahn didn’t feature much for San Jose last year, but has been on a tear this preseason, scoring six goals. With six or seven (depending what you consider Tommy Thompson) forwards on the roster, Jahn’s inclusion in the rotation was far from certain just a few weeks ago, and another season in Sacramento looked like a possibility. That seems incredibly unlikely now and while Jahn might have trouble cracking the starting lineup, it’s hard to see a forward besides Chris Wondolowski or Innocent Emeghara (especially with Steven Lenhart still recovering) higher on the depth chart.