As uncertainty over the club’s future continues, Fresno officials are refuting the notion that they’ve been uncooperative in helping Fresno FC secure a long-term stadium.
Last week, reports indicated that Fresno FC’s status beyond the 2019 USL Championship season was in question because of facility challenges. The club has played at downtown Fresno’s Chukchansi Park–a Minor League Baseball facility that first opened for the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) in 2002–since its 2018 launch, but a soccer-specific stadium is reportedly needed to ensure the club’s long-term stability.
Fresno FC general manager Frank Yallop acknowledged in a statement last week that playing at Chukchansi Park comes with unfavorable economic conditions, while indicating that a lack of political support is among the reasons that the club has not been able to secure a stadium. Two Fresno elected officials seemingly countered that claim Thursday, as mayor Lee Brand and city councilmember Miguel Arias emphasized that the city has tried to work with the team, but that its attempts have been unsuccessful thus far. It appears that they are still open to talks with the club, though a solution has yet to emerge. More from KMJ Now:
Mayor Brand says the City has met with the Fresno Foxes “at least 11 times since January of last year to talk about possible stadium locations.”…
In the statement, Council member Arias said “I believe the Mayor has gone above and beyond to help keep the Fresno Foxes in our City. The Mayor, myself, and the Council know that Fresno is a great place for soccer and we would like them to stay here.”
Both Brand and Arias said they believe that if the Foxes end up moving the team outside of Fresno, it won’t be due to a lack of effort and creative thinking from the City, but rather an economic decision by the team’s ownership.
“We continue to be open to discussions that result in a mutually beneficial agreement that keeps them here,” said Councilmember Miguel Arias.
Having a soccer-specific stadium would give Fresno FC a greater control over revenues, thus potentially boosting its bottom line. It remains to be seen, however, if the club will be able to find a solution in Fresno.
UPDATE: Fresno FC has issued the following statement in response to Brand and Arias’s statement:
Fresno FC’s original vision was to find a downtown site at which to build a stadium. From the beginning, Fresno FC connected with city officials to assist in the search. Fresno FC and the city then discussed the following sites: Selland Arena, Convention Center Parking Lot, and Lot 1 on H Street across from Chukchansi Park.
Selland Arena & Convention Center Parking Lot – Upon a walkthrough of the facility with an architectural firm, the recommendation was made to reconfigure the parking area to fit a soccer-specific stadium. The site plan needed an adjustment to the private parking on site. The city stated that they would not get involved in the negotiation of private parking. Negotiations ended without a positive end result.
Lot 1 – The same firm evaluated Lot 1 and advised that the site needed to be widened to fit a soccer-specific stadium. Increasing the size of the site would have required in turning H Street between Kern and Mono into a one-way street. The city stated they would not make that change to the road.
Chukchansi Park – Fresno FC also requested the City of Fresno subsidize the rent at Chukchansi Park to afford more time in a search for a permanent venue. This request was denied by the City.
The private sites that were identified by Fresno FC inside city limits did not make logistical sense for a stadium plan. Following the failed attempts to stay in downtown Fresno, club leadership has had to explore other options. The club is continuing to look outside of the city limits for potential stadium locations.
“We are disappointed that we could not make a stadium site work within the City of Fresno thus far. We thank the fans for their continued support up to now and into the postseason. Fresno FC will continue to work on solutions for the future.” said Frank Yallop, General Manager of Fresno FC.
Image courtesy Fresno FC.
RELATED STORIES: Fresno FC Future in Question