By this time tomorrow, Blue and Black clad supporters will be lining up to participate in the San Jose Earthquakes new stadium groundbreaking. Located just west of Mineta International Airport on Coleman Avenue, the stadium will rise on a 74 acre site that once was home to FMC, makers of Bradley Fighting Vehicle and other military equipment.
The factories are long gone, publically demolished in a ceremony a year and a half ago, and all that remains is a large reinforced concrete pad. Acres and acres of concrete, in fact, that only last week was being jack-hammered away in anticipation of the groundbreaking ceremony. And what concrete was removed? Why, a large rectangular swath of debris was excavated, leaving behind a soccer pitch-sized expanse of Santa Clara Valley dirt that has not seen the light of day in over half a century.
And on Sunday, for the thousands of member of the San Jose community who will descend on the site — and the intrepid few that perhaps decided to camp out the night before to be among the first in line — the ceremony will provide them a chance at participating in history: In an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for a groundbreaking event, the Earthquakes are providing nearly 6,000 blue shovels for fans of all ilk to lend a hand in the start of the stadium’s construction.
The details of the groundbreaking ceremony and the man that is responsible for putting it all together, San Jose Earthquakes president Dave Kaval, reveal just how much thought went into planning the event. The entire organization has been transformed since Kaval’s appointment to the job two years ago this month, in part in terms of the people at the club, but more importantly in part due to a radical shift in attitude and enthusiasm surrounding the club. The on-field product, with steady guidance from general manager John Doyle and head coach Frank Yallop, is poised to capture the MLS Supporters’ Shield this season. The off-field efforts have led to significant progress toward a soccer-specific stadium, one that has its groundbreaking on Sunday.
"This is the groundbreaking," said Kaval. "It sets the tone and puts us off on a whole other trajectory, both symbolically in terms of breaking the ground and starting the stadium, but also in terms of where our club is, and really an inflection point to take us from a quasi-minor league team to really the big leagues. It’s really a rewarding and exciting moment."
While Kaval is the leader of the organization, the face of the franchise is star forward Chris Wondolowski. Raised locally, Wondolowski was a fan of the Earthquakes long before he became their most prolific scorer the club has ever seen. He and all the players on the team have been instrumental in promoting the effort to secure a new stadium for San Jose. And while a match that same afternoon against rival LA Galaxy will prevent many of them from attending the groundbreaking ceremony, Wondolowski will be still be represented among the thousands in attendance through his family.
"It’s great to be a part of it, and I am so excited that it is here," said Wondolowski. "Out of the 5000-plus, there will be a few Wondolowskis out there. I probably won’t be able to be out there myself, but my family will be representing plenty. I know they will have a blast and I am looking forward to having a new stadium. I am excited for the community and for this team, and it’s nice for the stadium to soon be here."
Being that the charismatic on-field leader on the Earthquakes is such an important component to the club’s success, would it be hyperbole to call the Earthquakes new stadium "The House that Wondo Built?"
"I’m not sure about that," laughed Wondolowski at the notion he was the driving force behind the project. "There’s a lot of people that go into it and it’s cool just to be a part of it."
Being the humble person he is, Wondolowski will eschew claiming the naming rights to the new stadium and do what he does best: lead his team forward in their pursuit of an MLS Cup Championship.