In November, contractors raised the first beams on the team offices and locker rooms, and one month later, passers-by watched as cranes began lifting the eight- to nine-story steel superstructure into place.
After delays that twice pushed back the opening date of the San Jose Earthquakes new major league soccer stadium, work is again on track and surging ahead. And people are taking notice.
“The road right next to the stadium, Coleman Avenue, is a busy road,” said Quakes President Dave Kaval. “When you see this steel superstructure coming up out of the ground, you can’t help but stare. We’ve had some people bumping into other cars because they were busy staring at the cranes. I’m sure there are going to be more of those.”
The Quakes have been looking for a site for its own stadium for years, Kaval said. It currently rents from the Santa Claire University where the team plays at the Buck Shaw Stadium.
“We worked with city of San Jose to find a location that really fit the transportation and environmental needs,” he said. “But there are a lot of restrictions in the Bay area in terms of what you can build and where you can build it.”
Then, the team came upon the 74-acre site of defense contractor FMC’s former manufacturing plant. Across the street from the Mineta San Jose International Airport in northern San Jose with easy access to Caltrain and multiple freeways, it seemed a great fit for the soccer team stadium, but it was not, as it turned out, without its challenges.
Construction began in February of 2013 with the demolition of the defense manufacturing plant. The site had been used since the 1940s to build amphibious assault tanks. In the 1950s during the Cold War, the firm started building underground basements for storage of the equipment in case they were bombed. The need for the basements was very short lived, said Kaval. But the contractor kept the basements and used for them storage. That’s where stadium builders ran into trouble.
“Because of the water table, it’s very rare to have basements in California,” Kaval said. “When we dug down, there was a very high water table. We dug out all these vaults and they filled with water. We had to work with soils engineers to fill in the space without impacting the foundation of the new stadium. Sometimes these basements were like two stories deep. You’d start digging down with excavators and you’d keep going. Whenever they hit one they’d be like ’Oh it’s an iceberg,’ because they had no idea how long it was going to go on.”
The crews can laugh about it now, said Kaval. “But at the time it was concerning.”
Frustrating as it was, the perseverance paid off. In November, contractors raised the first beams on the team offices and locker rooms, and one month later, passers-by watched as cranes began lifting the eight- to nine-story steel superstructure into place.
The stadium structure itself also poses some challenges in its shape and scope.
“The steel superstructure is kind of complex and demanding shape because it is holding up the roof,” Kaval said. “It’s a very unique style because of the way the roof has to be supported. It has to be suspended and there can be no poles to block the views. It creates an interesting architectural look that is also functional because it holds up the cantilevered roof.”
The 18,000-seat stadium is set to be completed in late 2014, with the season opening game to be played there in 2015. The new stadium comes with a $60 million construction budget, all of it privately financed. It will feature 576 Club seats at field level and 12 Field Suites.
“At the current stadium, people like how close they are to the field,” Kaval said. “These are kind of like NBA floor seats. It’s a unique arrangement.”
The open air horseshoe-shaped stadium with a natural grass playing surface will offer views of the Fremont Hills and beneath the scoreboard, the largest exterior bar — 115 ft. (35 m) long — in the U.S. The European-design roof will cover all the stands, retaining sound and building atmosphere.
The plans also call for the primarily steel stadium to meet the criteria to earn LEEDS Silver Certification. Ninety-percent of the steel is recycled.
“The environmental impact of our building has been key,” Kaval said. “It’s critical to the ownership, the philosophy of club and as a member of the community. We don’t know of any other stadium Silver LEEDS certified. We’re very proud of that.”