Irvine City Council members are set to direct the future of the Great Park’s Championship Soccer Stadium this week, potentially deciding which professional teams have a home there and what access the broader community will have.
Right now, the Orange County Soccer Club uses the facility as their home field, and their lease is set to automatically renew in November for another two years.
But the LA Galaxy’s reserve team, dubbed LA Galaxy II, is talking with city officials about moving into the stadium as well, and community groups throughout the county are pushing the city to reduce the time given to professional teams so smaller groups can use it.
This isn’t the first time city council members have been scheduled to discuss the stadium’s future.
The last time the city council tried to discuss the stadium’s future in August, hundreds of OC Soccer Club fans came out to the meeting, telling them not to hand it over to an LA team.
[Read: OC and LA Professional Soccer Teams Fight For A Home In Irvine’s Great Park]
The council ultimately took the discussion off the agenda, with city manager Oliver Chi citing concerns of potential litigation surrounding the issue.
Chi said the cancellation of the team’s lease at the stadium was never up for discussion at that meeting, and the goal is to talk about how to make the field accessible to as many people as possible.
“I think ultimately when you look at the situation, it’s about how do we want to handle the scheduling of the facility for next year?” Chi said in a phone interview. “We need to consider how to facilitate the soccer club’s schedule, but there are other folks who want to use the facility also.”
Since then, the local soccer club says the city has ignored their attempts to discuss the future of the stadium.
In a statement, the OC Soccer Club’s leadership said their first and only message from Chi in months came on Sept. 2, where he said he “couldn’t guarantee the stadium will be available for OC Soccer Club’s use for the 2023 season.”
“We have tried and failed to get clarification from the City Council as to whether the above message is the official policy of the city of Irvine,” club leaders stated. “We now have to assume that unless we hear from the City Council soon … that our days at the stadium are numbered.”
But Chi says the club has been ignoring the city instead.
“It’s categorically false and another misrepresentation the team is putting out to inspire frustration in their fans,” Chi said. “Frankly, it’s just inspiring frustration among staff.”
Chi said the team has spoken with every member of the city council, and that when he’s personally tried to speak with them, they ignored his requests to speak if he didn’t agree to all of their terms.
“We’ve tried to engage them in conversation, but the discussion has been very choppy from their end,” Chi said. “What we hoped would be collegial has turned into something that isn’t that.”
LA Galaxy did not respond to requests for comment.
Chi added that part of why the city was having the public discussion on the stadium’s future this week was to counteract some of the team’s claims about the negotiations, and get it on the record where the city is at with negotiations.
“We’re hoping to have a good dialogue in a public setting, clear the air a little bit,” Chi said. “We have no interest in getting into a public war of words.”
The council’s discussion is scheduled for Tuesday night, and the meeting starts at 5 p.m.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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