25 years of Sap Center
SAP 25 YEARS: THE BIRTH OF
SAN JOSE HOCKEY
Construction is underway at the new arena site in San Jose (1992).
In the beginning, there was
The automobile dealership squatted
there for many years on West Santa Clara
St., advertising Great Deals Below Sticker
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Most people drove right past the
car lot and exclamation points, barely
Except that Tom McEnery did notice.
As a high school student en route to
Bellarmine Prep, he frequently traversed
the West Santa Clara St. and Autumn
St. intersection on the gritty edge of
downtown San Jose. Much later, from 1983
to 1991, he did so as mayor of the city.
By Mark Purdy
This explains why, when talk of building a civic sports arena began to heat up during
the 1980’s, McEnery was ahead of the curve. He had just the location. He knew in his gut
it was better than others that had been proposed, in North San Jose adjoining Route
237 or at the county fairgrounds.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, so much of downtown San Jose was cleared out for
redevelopment,” McEnery now says. “There were blocks full of vacant lots. I had told
voters we were going to rebuild it all as an entertainment and business center.”
An arena meshed with that master plan. But if you think that McEnery merely
snapped his fingers and magically made the vision come true…well, you weren’t around
With the building now known as SAP Center celebrating its 25th anniversary, it
can be easy to forget that there was a time when San Jose’s most popular downtown
landmark almost didn’t happen at all. Dissenters filed a lawsuit against the plan. A civic
referendum was controversial and nearly failed.
In the end, for the building being constructed, you can primarily thank the 73,409
San Jose citizens who voted “yes” on the arena ballot issue in 1988 — with no promise
of any professional sports team ever occupying the venue. But that is still getting too
far ahead of the story.
@ S A N J O S E S H A R K S | S J S H A R K S . C O M 25