Rooks score with new stadium

For more information call (530) 343-7665 or visit the Chico Rooks Web site at
Does a better sports field make for better play? If so, the Chico Rooks should have a terrific soccer season this year.

The Rooks, who have consistently displayed a nationally ranked and division-winning caliber of play in their eight-year existence, will unveil their new, permanent field and stadium when they kick off their 2001 season this Saturday, April 7.

The stadium is located on the Chico State University campus at the site of the old soccer field next to Nettleton Stadium. Rooks head coach Dave Stahl says that the new stadium houses arguably one of the best fields in the entire West. The soccer-specific game field, measuring 75 yards by 120 yards, is world-regulations size, as opposed to the usually smaller U.S. fields, which often vary in size.

All four of the Rooks’ previous fields—ones at Durham High School and at Butte College, the Chico State football field and the old Chico State soccer field—were all smaller to varying degrees.

The stadium is the real deal. It has intimate seating for 4,000, full concessions and a communal walkway that will enable fans to share the Nettleton Stadium restrooms. University staff will provide seasoned grass grooming. To the Rooks players, the new facility is almost too good to be true.

“We’ve played on it a couple of times,” says a wide-eyed and smiling Craig Murray, the Rooks’ defender/ midfielder. “It’s smooth, flat and wide. It’s a player’s dream.”

“A few players were thinking about retirement,” admits Stahl, “but stayed on the get to play in the stadium. And they’re all glad that they did.”

As happy as the Rooks are, the new venue will benefit the community as well. First conceived of in 1995 as part of an attempt to bring the Rooks back to Chico from their then-home field at Durham High School, the stadium deal is a 20-year licensing contract among the Rooks, the city of Chico and the Chico State University Foundation. Inked on Feb. 2, the deal will allow usage by not only the Rooks and Chico State’s men’s and women’s teams, but also by local high school and youth organizations.

“It was important for us to try to provide a home for the Rooks,” assures Chico City Manager Tom Lando. “Not only do they have a positive impact on the local economy, but they have a tremendously positive effect on the community and our youth in particular. As with Bidwell Park and the Humboldt skateboard park, the stadium will fit perfectly with the overall Chico ambience.”

The city, realizing the benefits of having the Rooks in town, offered to lend $500,000 interest-free from its general fund to the foundation. The foundation then had to come up with the rest of the more than $1 million cost of the project. It accomplished this with more state university system funds and the promise of monthly lease payments to be paid by Chico Rooks/ChicoPro Soccer, Inc.

But working out the financial end wasn’t the only reason that the deal took almost six years to finish.

“Things really came together when we were able to work out the cooperative side of the deal,” says Lando. “We really couldn’t have gotten this done if it didn’t benefit the community. This had to please everybody involved for it to happen. And it does.”

This Saturday, when the team opens its ninth professional United Soccer League D-3 season against the Stanislaus Cruisers (game is at 7:30 p.m.), the facility will be fully functional, although there will still be some unfinished work.

“It will be about 99 percent complete,” surmises Rooks General Manager Mitch Esparza. “There will be some miscellaneous and detail items left. But the field is ready; the fans will have seats and access to both concessions and restrooms. Any unsafe areas will be roped off. It should be a great time.”

For more information call (530) 343-7665 or visit the Chico Rooks Web site at