Quakes new stadium about to take shape in "massive" way as girders are raised

When the San Jose Earthquakes talk about “steel” these days, they don’t mean a hard-nosed midfielder.

After construction delays forced the Quakes to twice push back the projected opening date on their new home, the steel girders that will form the skeleton of an 18,000-seat stadium are set to be raised this month. The structure should rise some eight or nine stories, just across a busy street from the Mineta San Jose International Airport.

And it promises to make an even bigger impact than the two-story building – the future home to the team offices and locker rooms – which was erected last month on the Coleman Avenue site.

“When you drive by, there have already been fender-benders out there,” Quakes president David Kaval told recently by phone. “So I’m sure there’re going to be a lot more of those. We’re going to be helping the auto-body shops. You’re going to see it in a massive way.”

Kaval said the project is on target for its current completion date of November 2014. The club was originally targeting the 2014 season as its first in the privately financed stadium, but various problems with the site – former home to defense contractor FMC where it manufactured the Bradley Fighting Vehicles – first pushed that back to July 2014, then forced a second postponement to the 2015 campaign.

“I feel that we have a really great team working on the stadium, and we’ve been able to, every day, make the necessary progress to be successful,” said Kaval, who claimed he has no regrets about his initial timeline. “You can sit here and Monday-morning-quarterback the thing to death. Knowing what we know now, I wouldn’t have done anything differently because the reality is that we experienced so many significant delays for such a variety of reasons that that was just more than you would normally anticipate.”

Now, with the early hurdles finally surmounted, Kaval and the Quakes’ construction partners can put their efforts into staying on track. In addition to any number of daily questions, the construction team meets on Fridays to ensure no timeline is falling behind.

That also means that Kaval & Co. can take some more enjoyment out of the work, instead of just trying to solve unexpected problems.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter design or construction project,” Kaval said. “When we went out to Schuff Steel in Stockton and saw the steel being fabricated, some of these guys went, ‘Well, we’ve just never built anything like this. This is amazing.’ It’s cool to see that excitement.”

The progress should also be exciting to the players, who might get a chance to move in early. Kaval said the headquarters building, including the locker rooms, is expected to be finished during the 2014 season. If that happens and the team is granted an early occupancy permit, players can walk 60 yards to their post-practice shower, instead of having to drive 1.8 miles to Santa Clara University’s Leavey Center, as they currently do.

“Any ability to move in there early would be a competitive advantage for the club, and so that’s something that we’re looking to try to do,” Kaval said. “The sooner the better on that.”

The Quakes are slated to play their 2014 schedule primarily at Santa Clara’s Buck Shaw Stadium, but in the meantime Kaval can see the future coming.

“That open end looks out right toward final approach, planes coming in, and it’s really neat,” Kaval said. “When you’re out there, you can really see how it’s all going to take shape.”

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