Monterey Bay Football Club’s groundbreaking at CSUMB’s stadium

Monterey Bay FC groundbreaking

Monterey Bay F.C. groundbreaking at CSUMB's stadium

September 17, 2021

By Walter Ryce

On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 16, about 100 people gathered at CSUMB’s stadium for a groundbreaking ceremony to usher in the next phase of the Monterey Bay Football Club’s residency in their new home.

Among the people were elected officials, CSUMB staff and administrators, officials from Monterey Bay F.C. and the United Soccer League, investors and partners, and invited guests.

Different speakers took their turn speaking at a podium nestled among a symbolic patch of dirt lined with the ceremonial shovels, a stretch of artificial soccer pitch, and three vehicles from multi-year partner Cardinale Auto Group. Off to the side were a construction excavator from local builder Otto, and a large poster rendering of the finished stadium by HOK design and architecture firm.

MBFC Owner and Chairman Ray Beshoff opened his remarks by telling a story in which someone told him, two years ago, that he should go see the long-unused stadium at CSUMB.

“I came one day with Liza, we parked over there, and I came and walked right in the center of this field and had that ‘Field of Dreams’ moment,” he said. “I just thought, ‘oh my gosh, this stadium is fantastic. It’s a beautiful setting, got a lot of history behind it, such a sad thing to see it unused.’ We’re going to put a soccer team here.”

He then introduced CSUMB President Eduardo Ochoa, who had his own story to share.

“It so happens that the proposal for a football club — or a soccer club — came to a president who happens to be from Argentina,” he said, to knowing laughs. “Like most Argentines, I have a relationship with futbol, as we call it.”

It started when he went to a high school called Buenos Ares English High School, founded by Alexander Watson Hutton, an Englishman who Ochoa said brought soccer to Argentina. Ochoa himself played in high school and college.

“Some of you may know that I worked for the Obama administration, and I have some pictures of myself with President Obama,” he continued. “But I have another picture I carry in my smartphone, which I’ll show you upon demand, which I also treasure. That’s a picture with Lionel Messi which I had taken at the Barcelona training ground.

“Soccer makes so much sense for our community. The large Latino community in the Salinas Valley is a great recruiting ground for the team. The team is going to attract those students to the campus, and everyone will find out what a gem this is.

“Like many of you, I can’t wait to be back here on opening night.”

Beshoff then joked that he wanted the media cameras to pan onto the construction company representatives and capture for evidence that the stadium will be ready by May 1 for the inaugural season.

Among the renovations and upgrades will be new seating and stands with designated sections for students and supporters; concessions and merchandise; on-site, state of the art broadcast infrastructure; hospitality and premium seating; newly renovated locker rooms in the fieldhouse; FIFA-approved turf and four 90-foot high poles with broadcast sports lighting for night matches, and a beer garden by Alvarado Street Brewery.

Beshoff then introduced Joe Cardinale, who is poised to partner for the naming rights, subject to CSU board approval.

“This is like a dream come true,” he said, wearing a Monterey Bay F.C. Union scarf. “We’re here with a pro league in Monterey. A pro league in Monterey. Who dreamt of that? Ray dreamt of it. It’s unbelievable. There’s no doubt that every seat in this stadium will be filled every game.”

Mike DiGiulio, Monterey Bay F.C.’s president, said, “Most would think that the tough work was going to be building the stadium, constructing it. But most of the stuff [the CSUMB team] has been doing behind the scenes is far more challenging, and they’ve been terrific partners.”

United Soccer League President Jake Edwards spoke next.

“I’ve been part of many stadium builds and I can honestly say a stadium is far more than bricks and mortars,” he said. “It really is a living room for the community, a gathering place where everyone is welcome. It’s a safe and inclusive space where we can celebrate our shared diversity and passion for the sport we love.”

He said that they have $3.5 billion invested in soccer stadium developments, and another $2 billion committed to projects through the end of the 2022 season. The USL is in 31 cities in the U.S. and wants to expand to 60-70 markets in the next two to three years. They stream all games through a partnership with ESPN, with a reach of 150 million homes around the world.

“When all those audiences, domestic and international, tune in and are watching Monterey Bay Football Club play here on this great campus, I think we can all agree that the star player will be the Monterey Bay region," Edwards continued. "This is a place of great beauty, great diversity, it’s been called the greatest union of land and sea.”

That last line is where the team got its name — Union.

Then the leadership from each partner — university, football club, builder, investor, league, sponsor — donned construction hats, grabbed hold of shovels, and dug into the first pile of dirt to signal the start of construction on the future stadium.