The eight acres of unused space behind the softball fields at Richard T. Steed Memorial Park is being eyed by the French Soccer Institute, who wants to build a $25 million private facility there. File photo
The eight acres of unused space behind the softball fields at Richard T. Steed Memorial Park is being eyed by the French Soccer Institute, who wants to build a $25 million private facility there. File photo

By Jim Shilander and Steve Breazeale

The French Soccer Institute’s plan to build a $25 million private soccer facility behind Richard T. Steed Memorial Park gained momentum on June 4 as the San Clemente City Council voted 4-1 in favor of moving forward with negotiations on a lease proposal with the foreign group.

The group plans to develop the eight unused acres behind the softball complex at the park. If that were to take place, FSI also wishes to construct a soccer field at Vista Hermosa Sports Park to be used by the group while their main facility is under construction.
Following the completion of their main facility, FSI plans to leave behind the newly developed field at Vista Hermosa for the city to use.

Council members were adamant that no public funds would be used in construction of the facility. Councilman Tim Brown expressed hope that by developing unused space, the city could free up funds for parks elsewhere around town.

FSI representative Alexis Gallice, the architect of the negotiations, addressed the council and expressed the group’s desire to tap into the southern California soccer talent pool.

“Our goal is to find new opportunities to develop the local soccer players,” Gallice said. “We want to build together and raise the level of the area.”

FSI hopes to integrate a European professional and national team-style of training to America, according to Gallice.

The proposed facility at Richard T. Steed Memorial Park will include two regulation soccer fields, one with tournament seating, practice areas, a clubhouse with restaurant, a training and fitness center, parking and two walking trails. There is also a plan to create a nature area and an amphitheater.

Multiple council members stressed the importance of FSI granting public access to their main facility in special instances, such as city tournaments or events. According to an initial report prepared by Beaches, Parks & Recreation director Sharon Heider, public access to FSI’s facilities “on a limited basis” is on the table in negotiations.

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