A grassroots LAFC supporters movement out of Santa Ana has launched on Facebook, complete with planning options for a stadium in the downtown. Impressive effort to say the least. FULL DISCLOSURE: I, Omar Ávalos Gallegos, perhaps the most well-known or visible proponent of putting Major League Soccer in Santa Ana going back some years, have nothing to do with the launch of this grassroots effort but I fully support it. This speaks to the absolute, real interest there is in Santa Ana for this MLS team. As a fan, I’m glad to see the genuine interest and effort being made by others in Santa Ana to land this Golden Opportunity. A Golden Opportunity for a Golden City.
Approximately 32 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, down the I-5 Santa Ana freeway, is the City of Santa Ana, that continues to be an option for a Major League Soccer club to locate to, as was revealed on the new Los Angeles Football Club’s, website. Santa Ana is a name as synonymous with LA as any other, it’s very ordinary and commonplace, particularly if you’re driving anywhere south of LA or if the Santa Ana winds, locally referred to as the “Santa Anas” by Angelenos have done a number on your front lawn, etc, etc.
A number of pro soccer clubs have had something to do with Santa Ana over time, either in playing temporarily at Eddie West Field (Santa Ana Stadium) in the downtown, or in scouting young talent citywide, etc, but for a time there was talk of bringing top level Major League Soccer here. Former professional soccer players like Santa Ana College coach José Vásquez, who played for the LA Galaxy and Chivas de Guadalajara, or El “Querétaro” Hernández, who played for Club América, have plied their trade here as coaches.
This option to locate to Santa Ana remains, a bit surprisingly, but maybe not at all surprisingly because Santa Ana is recognized as a significant soccer market. Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy bombarded us with billboards and ads on bus routes around in the past, and during their runs for MLS Cup for example, and they have an official pub at The Olde Ship here. In fact, their ads here are commonplace.
It’s no secret that Latinos makeup a very important soccer market, and that fact rings true here in Santa Ana. Cities in the Greater Santa Ana area like Anaheim, Orange, Costa Mesa, Placentia, and Fullerton also have significant Latino populations and quarters, with avid soccer practitioners and leagues, etc. No marketer is going to deny that this is a coveted soccer demographic; not Soccer United Marketing, MLS, Liga MX, nor LAFC.
A Not So Little Saigon
Inside and at Santa Ana city limits is Little Saigon, also referred to as “Bolsa,” by local people of Vietnamese descent, in reference to the street where this Little Saigon commercial area sprouted.
Little Saigon is more associated with the cities of Garden Grove, Westminster and Fountain Valley depending on who you talk to, but Santa Ana has always had historic ties to the Vietnamese diaspora. There are decades-old, and newer, Vietnamese-American places of worship in Santa Ana like the Bat Nha Buddhist Temple on Sullivan street between McFadden and Willits streets, The First Vietnamese Catholic Center on Harbor and 17th streets, Our Lady of La Vang Catholic Church also on Harbor, the newest Buddhist Temple on First street right at the Santa Ana River, nearing Fairview street, the temple on Newhope, near Fifth street…
There are many Vietnamese centers inside of Santa Ana proper, well and far east of Euclid, that it throws into question why some call Euclid street, on the western-most side of Santa Ana, the Little Saigon boundary.
Santa Ana is represented on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, with their headquarters in the downtown, by Janet Nguyen (R), the first Vietnamese-American elected to that board.
Why be near a Little Saigon?
Maybe cultural, economic ties aren’t important to investment groups, maybe they shouldn’t be. I’m guessing that they are to Henry Nguyen, given that he has cultural and economic ties here and abroad. I don’t think that anyone can ignore that this area, for it’s proximity to a Little Saigon, is an attractive prospect, at least for him. Neither can anyone ignore it’s proximity to Santa Ana’s soccer market and it doesn’t matter who or what you are: Peter Guber, Tom Penn, Magic Johnson, LA Galaxy (as they’ve already demonstrated with their repeated ads here) etc, etc.
And in case you’re wondering, there is plenty of interest in soccer in the Vietnamese-American community as shown through the Vietnamese Orange County Soccer League.
Santa Ana is diverse
Not only are there important numbers of Latin-American and Asian-American populations in and around Santa Ana, there is an influx of the young and hip into the city’s downtown, which is a common argument made for attracting something like LAFC. Santa Ana’s downtown has been revitalized with original businesses only found here, making it very hip. Newcomers are choosing to settle here. Combine the demographics in Greater Santa Ana, including the cities of Orange, Irvine, Garden Grove, Anaheim, etc, and you get a very diverse metropolitan area.
So where in Santa Ana?
Former talk of building a soccer stadium in Santa Ana included Willowick Golf Course near 5th and Harbor streets, by the Santa Ana River, and that option makes much sense still. Willowick happens to be at the edges of Santa Ana and Garden Grove, where there is the most intersecting of the local Mexican-American and Vietnamese-American communities of any place in Southern California.
The cities of Santa Ana and Garden Grove are also expecting to build a street car / light rail along the old Pacific Electric Right of Way, and that route passes along Willowick. While completing construction on that proposed route is a ways off, the idea of having mass transit service that site is very appealing.
The Santa Ana / Greater Santa Ana area has everything a club could ask for in diversity, youth, population and more. MLB, the NHL, Disney and Knott’s are our neighbors. Their examples prove that there is a market for first-rate entertainment and sports entertainment here.
Santa Ana truly is an ideal location. I love LA proper, downtown, Placita Olvera, Disney Hall, the Music Center, Grand Park… there’s much to like about LA. I like riding the Blue, Red and Gold lines. Driving by the Sports Arena on the 110 freeway, looping on the junction to the 10 is fascinating, to me, when there’s no traffic of course. I’m sure I’d enjoy catching a game there if the LAFC team manages to land a stadium deal at Exposition Park. But that there’s a chance for LAFC to locate here means that it’s my duty as a Santaniego, or “Santa Anan” if you will, to tell the leadership at LAFC and the world why it’s such an ideal place for them here. I’d be remiss not to mention that up to today, Santa Ana remains the only political entity to table a memorandum of understanding, in a council meeting, as part of the people’s business, to enter into discussions with a pro team. That’s where we left off.