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The <i>Other</i> Football: Battle over Super Bowl fields reaches fever pitch

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 22:  A general view during the San Francisco 49ers game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi&#39;s Stadium on October 22, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 22: A general view during the San Francisco 49ers game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on October 22, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)  (2015 Getty Images)

Things have heated up in Santa Clara, California.

Fox News Latino recently reported on a David vs. Goliath story: The Santa Clara Youth Soccer (SCYS) has taken on the city, the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL in an attempt to prevent its playing fields from being used during Super Bowl week in February – even going so far as to file a lawsuit in an attempt to level the playing field.

The soccer league's fields are located next to Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers, who are hosting Super Bowl 50 next month.

As part of Santa Clara's bid to land the biggest event on the planet, the city agreed to let the NFL use nearby city-owned sites at no cost.

SCYS says the takeover jeopardizes 250 soccer games and threatens to leave lasting damage to the fields, potentially closing the park for months.

The city had previously offered to find a temporary home at the Twin Creeks sports complex along San Francisco Bay in neighboring Sunnyvale. According to SCYS attorney, Gautam Dutta, the replacement field is inadequate because it isn’t regulation size, and it isn’t open on weekends.

Just days before the city was to hand over the soccer park for the Super Bowl, SCYS filed a lawsuit to prevent it.

A petition for a temporary restraining order asked the court to block the city of Santa Clara from “illegally turning over” fields
adjacent to the stadium.

According to the complaint, the soccer park's 2001 conditional use permit allows only one usage on the site – youth soccer. Its organizers contend that altering that, even temporarily, requires  holding public meetings.

After an hearing last week at which Santa Clara Superior Court Judge, Joseph Huber, denied SCYS’ request to delay the fields being handed over to the NFL this week, Huber agreed to hold a preliminary injunction hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 6 — keeping alive the turf war.

Jennifer Yamaguma, a spokesperson for the city told Fox News Latino, “The city’s statement following the judge’s order remains the same in that, the City will continue to implement and honor the commitments of the Super Bowl bid that was approved by [the City Council] in 2013.”

In a statement made to Fox News Latino, the NFL, the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee and the San Francisco 49ers said, “We will continue to support the City of Santa Clara and the Bay Area in successfully hosting the most exciting event in this region’s history. We are thankful that the Super Bowl plans and build-out will continue on schedule. We are poised to deliver a great Super Bowl experience and leave a positive, lasting legacy for the community." 

They also reiterated that, “The 49ers and the NFL are partnering to replace the two natural grass fields at the Santa Clara Youth Soccer Park at no cost to the City of Santa Clara. Installation of those fields will begin following the completion of Super Bowl related activities, which are scheduled to conclude on Feb. 28.”

Barring a judicial miracle, the fields will be turned over this week, and while the focus in the media has been on the mighty NFL, it is the City of Santa Clara, not the football league, that is under obligation to do its best for the area’s residents and taxpayers.

Undoubtedly, the city will profit from hosting the Super Bowl in town, but that cannot be its top priority. This issue should have been handled from the beginning with better transparency and months earlier so that the best alternatives might have been found.

It’s a shame that the needs of hundreds of kids should have been swept aside so heedlessly.

Now the onus has fallen on the NFL sporting juggernaut to do the right thing after the Super Bowl and live up to its promise to return the fields in top condition.

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From the wires

Former NBA star Steve Nash and Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver have bought a controlling share of Spanish soccer team Real Mallorca.

The Mediterranean island club announced Monday that Sarver's company, also owned by Nash and Andy Kohlberg, has bought shares worth more than 20 million euros ($21 million).

Mallorca won the 2002-03 Copa del Rey title and had played for 16 consecutive seasons in Spain's top league before being relegated to the second division in 2013.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.