Fight over Santa Clara fields pits NFL against youth soccer league

Lisa Amin Gulezian Image
ByLisa Amin Gulezian KGO logo
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
This sign marks the entrance to the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park in Santa Clara, Calif. on Tuesday, December 8, 2015.
This sign marks the entrance to the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park in Santa Clara, Calif. on Tuesday, December 8, 2015.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- There is a fight over fields in Santa Clara. The City Council was set to discuss the deal with the NFL to use youth soccer fields during Super Bowl 50. That discussion was going to be behind closed doors and that infuriated parents who say they are being kept in the dark.

By law, the council is allowed to talk about lease agreements and buying and renting land in closed session, but youth soccer supporters are demanding transparency and inclusion in talks about the future of the fields. They've started this online petition to try to get support for their cause.

"It shouldn't take a rocket scientist for us to get the information that we're entitled to," Santa Clara resident Deborah Bress said.

There was frustration inside Santa Clara City Council chambers Tuesday night.

"I am so uncomfortable with that, I am not going into closed session to talk about this," City Councilmember Lisa Gillmor said.

At issue is the deal between the NFL and the city, and how the youth soccer league park will be restored after Super Bowl 50. The 11 acre parcel will be used for media, the half-time show, and security staging.

"They have to restore it back to its original purpose. If they don't, then there are going to be difficulties with that," City Manager Julio Fuentes said.

Tuesday the NFL sent a letter to the city agreeing to restore the fields, but many in Santa Clara don't buy it. They want details, a contract, a timeline, something to hold the NFL accountable, just in case. And they want it all discussed out in the open.

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna was at the meeting and he thinks the league's demands make sense. He said to the council, "I hope Santa Clara will stand strong and stand by the kids for playing soccer."

Meanwhile, the league's 1,600 players just wish things were simpler.

"I don't want to damage our field. It's going to affect our playing and stuff," 13-year-old Audrey Nakashima said.

Since discussion in closed session was scrapped, the deal will be further discussed in open session, next Tuesday.