Pro soccer, booze coming to Kezar Stadium

San Francisco soccer fans will soon have a team to call their own after the approval Thursday of plans for a professional soccer team to play at Kezar Stadium.

The Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously Thursday morning in support of a five-year permit allowing the San Francisco Deltas, the first west coast team in the North American Soccer League, to use the city facility.

Supporters draped in team colors packed the hearing on the permit, which will allow the Division II professional team to play 15 to 20 games at Kezar on Saturdays and some Wednesday evenings from April to October and practice at Boxer Stadium in Balboa Park and other fields.

The agreement with The City calls for the team to cover a minimum of $500,000 in stadium improvements, including new field lighting and seating, refurbished locker rooms at Kezar and Boxer and repairs to the tunnel between the locker room and field at Kezar, according to Dana Ketcham, director of property management and reservations for San Francisco Recreation and Parks.

The city in return will credit the team’s improvements toward the cost of permits, but is guaranteed at least $30,000 a year in fees, Ketcham said. The team is also required to reimburse city staff for game day costs and will pay for additional police, security and traffic monitoring as needed.

More controversially, the agreement with the city allows the team to sell beer and wine to the general public, and hard alcohol in a designated VIP area.

The alcohol sales, as well as concerns about traffic and parking impacts, prompted some residents and groups including the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council and the Cole Valley Neighborhood Association to oppose the project.

Tess Welborn, a HANC member, said Thursday:

“We don’t want to see privatization of public facilities.”

Welborn said the group was unimpressed with the Deltas’ plans for traffic management on game days:

“They said Muni and Uber cars could handle 6,000 people. … That’s not going to cut it.”

Other groups, however, saw the proposal as an opportunity for the community.

Ted Loewenberg, president of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, said:

“Businesses near the stadium will see the extra foot traffic, they’ll see extra business. … We think that reasonable people can work together to mitigate potential problems.”

Ultimately, concerned residents were largely drowned out by the dozens of people, many of them immigrants from countries including Columbia, Bosnia and India, who spoke passionately about their desire for a professional soccer team in San Francisco.

Ketcham said the team has agreed to coordinate its schedule with local schools, the stadium’s primary users, to ensure there are no conflicts.

It will also ensure that 3,000 tickets are available at each game for $20 or less, to keep them affordable to local families.