A San Francisco official will attempt to orchestrate a major renovation to Boxer Stadium so it can host World Cup 2026 national team practices, among other soccer events.
District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí on Thursday said he intends to lead “an entire makeover” of the 65-year-old facility located in Balboa Park. Right now, Boxer Stadium is home to the Premier Developmental League’s SF Glens, who just completed their first season in that division.
Safaí has already contacted the Recreation and Parks department about improving the outside surfacing and bathrooms at Boxer Stadium, though that effort remains in its early stages. He hopes the upcoming World Cup on U.S. soil, along with the lack of other nearby soccer training facilities, accelerates funding for a more complete makeover to the aging field.
“This would be a wonderful venue for the teams to practice,” Safaí said. “Definitely an entire makeover in terms of uplifting the entire stadium would have a significant impact on the level of play there and the amount of games played and what we’re able to attract to that stadium.”
According to the supervisor, the process for that kind of major renovation would include further conversations with Recreation and Parks, which oversees the stadium, as well as talks with the Capital Planning Committee and community groups about putting bond money aside for the project.
Safaí has a background working in the mayor’s office of community development, and he currently serves on the city’s land use and transportation committee.
San Francisco was the third-ranked U.S. market for World Cup viewership this summer, and Safaí said soccer has attracted people from all over the city to attend games in his district.
“It’s pretty phenomenal, the accessibility and widespread access for soccer here in the southern part of San Francisco,” he said.
A dearth of alternative venues in San Francisco to host World Cup training sessions could add urgency to get renovations done.
Aside from Boxer Stadium, built in 1953, the only other obvious venue to hold national team practices is Kezar Stadium — a multi-use field in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood that was constructed almost 100 years ago. Last year, Kezar hosted the now-defunct San Francisco Deltas of the NASL. This year it hosts SF City of the PDL.
Like Boxer Stadium, Kezar is likely below the standard of top-flight soccer, with its expansive layout and old-school quirks making it a historically significant, but outdated, place for fans to take in a practice or game. The surrounding neighborhood has also displayed prior opposition to activities that add traffic and make parking more difficult.
“If you’ve been to a Deltas game then you know that Kezar is just tough for that experience,” said SF Glens president J. Ramon Estevez. “You’ve got to get five, six thousand people there before you really feel that energy from the crowd. It’s such a large stadium, and with the track and even the angle of the stadium, I mean I’m from here, I grew up playing here and … from a game day experience, it’s difficult.”
The Deltas folded after just one season playing at Kezar, citing attendance as a major roadblock to becoming sustainable. Deltas CEO Brian Andres Helmick believed the cold evening weather at the grounds during games kept people away despite a championship-winning on-field product.
While Boxer Stadium carries similar drawbacks to Kezar (Estevez described it as “antiquated”), it would likely make more sense as the site for a large-scale restoration project. It was built specifically for soccer, and its characteristics reflect that.
“It’s very intimate,” Estevez said. “All the sight lines are really good, even a smaller crowd it really feels like you’re on top of the field there. The players really feel and hear the crowd there, so I think that lends itself as well to the positive atmosphere.”