Looking at something and imagining what else it might be is at the heart of creation and invention. Everyone from high-tech visionaries to hair-dressers get involved in this and the results range from wonderful to woeful.
As reported in the Journal last week, the City of Santa Ana is eyeing the Willowick Golf Course on Fifth Street for possible use as a stadium for the Chivas USA soccer team. In case you don’t follow “futbol,” the Chivas USA squad is in the Major League Soccer organization. The team name is borrowed from a sister (and very popular) soccer team in Mexico.
Alas, the Chivas folks are not entirely happy in their current home in Carson, sharing the facility with the Los Angeles Galaxy at Home Depot Stadium. On the other hand, Santa Ana is a heavily Hispanic soccer-friendly city willing to embrace a major league sports operation.
The complication to all of this, of course, is that the golf course is actually owned by the City of Garden Grove. Aside from whatever traffic, noise and other issues that might emanate from such an enterprise, why would Garden Grove want to let a sports franchise land in another city, which would slurp up all the tax revenue and fame? We’re already in the shadow of Anaheim’s sports teams, so why make it worse?
Garden Grove has in the past flirted with the idea of attracting sports teams to within the limits of the Big Strawberry. Back in the 1980s, when Gene Autry was unhappy with the City of Anaheim, he threatened to move the California Angels elsewhere in Orange County. He even told a county newspaper that he had interest from several other O.C. cities including Brea and Garden Grove.
Frankly, I’m not sure how real that was, but it was nice to be mentioned. When I read about it, I already staked out the location. Just south of the Garden Grove Freeway at Brookhurst Street there were two (three, actually) large schools and schoolyards, adjacent to a large-ish shopping center anchored (at that time) by a Target store and a Ralphs supermarket.
If you could combine all that land, you’d have plenty of land and wonderful freeway access, along with horrifying traffic jams on Brookhurst, Trask, Westminster and Magnolia.
OK, so dumb idea. In the Nineties, a City of Garden Grove report speculated that the City of Youth and Ambition might benefit from landing a minor league hockey team. A location across the street from the planned “E-Street” project at Chapman and Harbor was even mentioned.
Well, E-Street never got built and neither did the hockey arena, but the Chivas proposal has some intriguing possibilities. Willowick has always been kind of an odd duck, being in one city and owned by another. City leaders have toyed with all kinds of possible uses for that very valuable site.
Indeed, there was even a proposed land-swap with Santa Ana years ago. Garden Grove was despairing of the troubled Buena-Clinton area. Santa Ana wanted the population and felt it could serve that heavily Hispanic area better. So the plan was to send Buena-Clinton into Santa Ana and Willowick into Garden Grove.
That also never happened, but it demonstrated the kind of original thinking I’ve always admired. It’s also the kind of notion that almost never comes to fruition.
But in the Chivas case, what’s in it for Garden Grove? Selling the property would net a few million bucks, but then we don’t have a golf course and Santa Ana has a cool new stadium. There has to be a better outcome than that, especially since I’m not a big fan of soccer or golf (I know…scandalous!).
Here’s my idea. Revive the land-swap deal, with a twist. Split the lot in half, annexing half of it to Garden Grove and leave the rest in Santa Ana. Position the soccer pitch so that an attacking team kicks the ball from one city to the next. Have the whole operation run by a joint-powers agreement between GG and SA.
With the money from the sale of the old Willowick site, build a new golf course in The Big Strawberry. Problem solved! Of course, things may be a little more complicated than my fix, so don’t put the blame on me. You know what the nickname of Chivas USA is, don’t you?
It’s the Goats. So don’t scape my goat unless you have a better idea.