SF Glens Succeed Where So Many Previously Failed
That's the best estimate I came up with when I pondered how many times in my life I've driven over the Bay Bridge.
In addition to the large amount of soccer events I often attend in the Bay Area and the several friends I periodically visit in San Francisco, I have family across the bridge in Burlingame. Also it's usually cheaper to fly out of SFO than SMF when I need to take a flight that's longer than two hours.
So I think that in my 31 years on this planet, I've probably driven over the Bay Bridge about 2,000 times. And of those 2,000, I've explored the piece of land that bisects the bridge, Treasure Island, exactly zero times.
It's not that I haven't wanted to, just that the Treasure Island exit signals that I'm either just 15 minutes from my dad's house or still have an hour before I'll return home. I've often thought about stopping to check it out, but never strongly enough to actually follow through.
I actually don't even know what's on Treasure Island or if there's anything to do, but I plan on finding out next year.
Earlier this week, San Francisco Glens Soccer Club announced plans to build a 1,500 capacity soccer-specific stadium on Treasure Island. In doing so, they'll be the first team from San Francisco in any level of the soccer pyramid to construct their own facility.
Securing a proper soccer stadium has been the biggest issue for professional soccer in San Francisco ever since I started following the sport.
The California Victory played in the precursor to the current USL Championship in 2007 behind financial support from Basque club Alaves, but folded after just one season.
The San Francisco Deltas came in with big money and big plans in 2017 and won the NASL Soccer Bowl, but folded just a few days later.
San Francisco City FC began play in their current iteration in 2016 and still remain a solid and well-supported club in USL League Two.
All of those teams played at Kezar Stadium, a city-owned 10,000 seat arena in an "okay" location of San Francisco right next to Golden Gate Park. Kezar was their only realistic option, though each club at one point hoped to construct a venue of their own to better control revenue, parking, and field use. The grass at that facility is constantly torn up from high school football and soccer and anyone from the public can walk on it during the day if they feel like it.
Furthermore, these squads all fought for training field space with all of the various youth clubs in a city that's already short on available pitches. When I attended the El Farolito-Burlingame Dragons Open Cup match at Boxer Stadium in 2017, the Deltas were still training when I arrived. The game had to kick off at something like 3:00 p.m. on a Tuesday because there aren't any lights. To get on the bumpy pitch, everyone had to hop over the first row of stands, which sit six feet above the dugouts.
For many clubs around this country, building a new stadium doesn't require more than just securing a bit of funding. We've seen lower division venues pop up around the United States in places like Louisville, Phoenix, and the Rio Grande Valley. Sacramento built their venue in mere months in 2014.
San Francisco, though, is different. There hasn't been room for new construction in one of the most densely populated areas in the US for a long time. The Giants got in at the right time for their waterfront venue, while the Golden State Warriors took years to open a building (and should have stayed in Oakland anyway). The 49ers let Candlestick crumble for decades before moving 42 miles south to Levi's.
There's just no room anymore. Especially not for soccer. Especially not soccer outside of the top division. It's tough even in the surrounding communities -- the Dragons tried to build their own facility, but couldn't get through the vast amount of political red tape and NIMBYs.
The Glens, however, succeeded where every other entity failed.
The club hopes to open their new facility next spring. It will include a full-size pitch, two smaller ones, and a futsal court. According to the club, there will be a press box, lights, locker rooms, media rooms, office space, concessions, and restrooms.
As a reporter, this excites me -- anyone who's ever conducted a postgame interview in pitch black outside the Kezar locker rooms knows what I'm talking about. When I interviewed Preki there after a 2014 Open Cup game between the Republic and San Jose Earthquakes, I actually thought I was going to get stabbed in what can only be described as a dirty back alley.
The scope of the Glens' Treasure Island project seems modest, which makes sense for a club that plays in USL League Two. But those following soccer in the area for a significant amount of time, like me, know that there's nothing modest about what this represents.
Building a soccer-specific stadium in San Francisco is impossible. Countless different clubs and groups have tried for decades with no success. We've never even gotten as far along as the rendering process. I never thought I would see one in my lifetime.
Now, thanks to the Glens, I will.
The significance of this accomplishment can't be overstated.