San Jose State track proposed for fairgrounds

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A proposed track and field at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds may return a university to former glory.

Assemblymember Ash Kalra requested $25 million from the state Legislature for a San Jose State University Speed City Legacy Center and Track and Field Training Facility. The Legislature approved $4 million in the 2022-23 fiscal year budget. The 9-acre project will be a partnership with Santa Clara County and San Jose State University at the fairgrounds.

The facility gets its name from the university’s track team, known as Speed City, after several of its athletes competed in the 1968 Olympics. Two of the medal winners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists during the awards ceremony in protest of racism and human rights violations. This iconic moment initiated the Olympic Project for Human Rights and is captured in a statue on the SJSU campus.

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Kalra would like to see a center for social justice programming and services for the underserved as part of the track and field project.

“By funding the Speed City Legacy Center… we can use the framework of restorative justice to create a dynamic home to keep the legacy and values of Speed City and the Olympic Project for Human Rights alive,” he said in a statement.

This isn’t the only sports-related work planned at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. The county wants to create a variety of recreational opportunities at the site, and has lease agreements with the San Jose Earthquakes for a soccer academy and Major League Cricket for a 15,000-person stadium on 14 acres of the fairgrounds.

Santa Clara County entered into a no-cost exclusive negotiating agreement with SJSU in April to study the feasibility of leasing the parcel for the Speed City project. The contract runs until April 2023. During this time, SJSU will determine the potential costs and revenue for the project, provide design and planning details, develop a community engagement plan and development agreement and propose a lease for board review.

The facility, located in an unincorporated part of the fairgrounds just south of Franklin Elementary School, would also be open for public use. 

Kenneth Mashinchi, spokesperson for SJSU, said the efforts by Kalra and Supervisor Cindy Chavez to secure funding for the Speed City project are appreciated.

“The funding from the state budget is held by Santa Clara County,” he told “We look forward to our continued partnership with the county regarding the funding and how it could be used.”

Workers set up a stage for a music series at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

The site has been underutilized for years. It’s home to the annual county fair, off-track horse betting and a paintball arena. It also has a shelter that serves 50 to 80 homeless people per night, and part of the area also serves as the county’s largest COVID-19 testing site. A group of advocates is pushing for a portion of the fairgrounds to be used for safe RV parking and prefabricated housing for homeless people.

About 72% of residents surveyed said they value the fairgrounds as a public meeting and event space, with 80% wanting active recreation on the site, according to Chavez, whose district houses the fairgrounds. She was not available for comment.

“It will be an honor to host the legacy of San Jose State’s iconic track program and the Olympic Project for Human Rights,” Chavez previously told

San Jose Councilmember Maya Esparza also supported Kalra’s request for the development of the Speed City Legacy Center. As chair of the city’s Monterey Corridor Working Group, she said the project prioritizes historically marginalized and underserved low-income communities of color in a letter to the State Assembly Budget Committee. She was not available for comment.

Nick Kaspar, Esparza’s chief of staff, told the project brings critical open space with grass fields to nearby residents.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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