Project could include two hockey rinks, pool, gym, and other amenities

Sharks honor first responders from Gilroy Garlic Festival tragedy in 2019.
Photo courtesy NHL

By Chad Mays

While the San Jose Sharks are lacing up their skates and beginning their preparations for the upcoming National Hockey League season in October, the team is also working on finalizing a deal with the city of Gilroy to bring hockey to Garlic City.

Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley said the entire deal will cost an estimated $60 million. It still needs to be approved by the city council after public discussion. The Sharks will pay $40 million to build the 100,000-square-foot facility that will include two NHL-sized ice rinks. The city would lease the property at the Gilroy Sports Park to the Sharks.

The team invited the city to operate additional recreational facilities, which could add $20 million. These could include a gym, an indoor pool, locker rooms, a weight room or other items the city would run. Restaurants would likely also be part of the overall plan.

The South Valley would gain economic, tourism and other benefits, said Scott Emmert, the vice president of communications for the Sharks.

“Ice facilities are unique recreational opportunities in that in most cases, they are open nearly every hour of every day of every year, regardless of weather,” Emmert said. “They offer a wide-ranging scope of uses including youth and adult ice hockey programs and leagues, figure skating, curling, as well as skating activities for all ages and skill levels.”

A series of town-hall meetings will inform the public about the project and gage residents’ interest and discuss the possibility of the city funding the additional amenities. The first outreach meeting was held Sept. 27 on Zoom.

The city would take out a bond for $40 million for construction costs that the Sharks would repay. The source of the additional $20 million is yet to be determined. The project has been in discussion since the city and Sharks Sports and Entertainment signed an agreement in May 2019 to start negotiations. In the spring the project started to gain traction with increasing talks.

Blankley expressed her excitement for the possible deal with a professional hockey team and how the ice-rink complex can benefit the community.

“I feel very honored that the Sharks are considering Gilroy,” she said.

If the complex is built, it would be the fourth public recreational ice facilities with the Sharks. The team is operating similar facilities in San Jose, Fremont, and Oakland.

The Gilroy Sports Park location serves as an ideal spot for the project because of the access to nearby hotels and parking, as well the convenience of the U.S. 101 exit, Emmert said.

Before the project could really move forward, in 2020 an agricultural mitigation had to be done to develop the sports park site, replacing its farmland with agricultural land elsewhere, Blankley said. Now that that process has been completed, the city and the Sharks are left with the actual negotiations of the project.

The Sharks rink project could be a major economic driver for Gilroy by bringing various tournaments and other recreational activities to the South Valley, Emmert said.

“These events contribute to patronage of local businesses and restaurants and in many cases, hotel occupancy,” he said. “The Sharks Ice facility in San Jose is the second-largest driver of hotel nights in the city of San Jose, behind only the San Jose Convention Center. Those are real dollars being brought into the local community.”

As a comparison, the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center has brought hundreds of thousands of people, some from other states, to play soccer and participate in other sports tournaments. It has generated millions of dollars in revenue for the city of Morgan Hill since it opened in December 2007. Blankley hopes this project could have a similar effect on Gilroy.

“It will bring visitors to Gilroy,” she said. “It will hopefully bring overnight visitors to Gilroy.”

Another reason the Sharks chose Gilroy is because many of their sports fans live in the South Valley area, Emmert said. Many season ticket holders are relocating to the region. The project can also help grow the game and get more diverse groups of fans and players involved, he said.

The team hopes to hold special events and youth and adult training camps for residents, Emmert said. South Valley serves as a crucial part of the Sharks’ fan base and the team is aware of the passion and importance of fans here.

“In the past decade, we’ve seen a marked growth in the number of fans who call this area home, including a notable number of our employees,” he said.

The Sharks have been a part of the South Valley community after two tragedies. In 2014 several hockey players appeared in Morgan Hill for a fundraiser in support of the search for Sierra LaMar, a teenage girl who was kidnapped and her body never found. In 2019, the Sharks gave their support to the #GilroyStrong project following the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.”

Sharks Sports & Entertainment is excited about partnering with the city on this project, Emmert said.

“The conversations we have had thus far have been productive and we share many of the same goals,” he said. “We continue to have on-going negotiations and feel we are making progress toward the shared goal of bringing a first-class, community ice facility to residents of Gilroy and South County.”

Chad Mays is a 2019 graduate of Sobrato High School who is now studying journalism as a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Freelance Author