SJSU Announces $9M for Track, Speed City Legacy Project

by | Oct 13, 2022 | Athletics

$9 million has been secured for San José State University’s Speed City Legacy Project. From left to right: SJSU Interim President Steve Perez; Director of Track and Field Charles Ryan; Dr. Harry Edwards, ’64 Social Science, ’16 Honorary Doctorate; Assemblymember Ash Kalra; City of San José Councilmember Maya Esparza,’11 MPA; and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, ’87 Political Science. Photo: Robert C. Bain

In the shadow of legends on a beautiful fall morning, the Speed City Legacy Project took a significant step forward.

California state Assemblymember Ash Kalra secured $9 million in state funding in the 2023 budget for San José State University’s Speed City Legacy Project, which is envisioned to be a joint-use project with Santa Clara County that includes a track and field facility and Legacy Center, and will be located at the fairgrounds.

“I am proud we were able to secure $9 million in the state budget toward building a state-of-the-art joint-use track and community center honoring the legacy of SJSU alumni and Speed City,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “It is important that we celebrate the heroism of John Carlos and Tommie Smith who shined a light on injustices happening at home while in the spotlight of the Olympic stage at great personal sacrifice to themselves. The Speed City Legacy Center will be a testament to their sacrifice and an opportunity for future generations to learn from the important stand they took for human rights.” 

Speed City was the moniker attached to the university’s track and field program from 1956-1969, as the program produced numerous world-class athletes who also became globally recognized figures in the Civil Rights and social justice movements of that pivotal time.

SJSU marked the moment for the funding announcement Thursday with a celebration on Legacy Day, a day that honors the impact that Tommie Smith and John Carlos made at SJSU — and around the world in their stand for social justice. In attendance were Interim President Steve Perez; Assemblymember Ash Kalra; Dr. Harry Edwards, ’64 Social Science, ’16 Honorary Doctorate; Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, ’87 Political Science; City of San José Councilmember Maya Esparza, ’11 MPA; as well as Athletic Director Jeff Konya, Director of Track and Field Charles Ryan, and SJSU student-athletes.

This project is an extension of that work and provides opportunities for SJSU to create a physical space to honor the Speed City legacy and connect with its history. It also can  serve the broader community with a modern, collaborative facility and gathering space.

“This has not been the easiest journey, and we know, at times, it’s been one of frustration and disappointment,” said SJSU Interim President Steve Perez. “But I hope that what people who are invested in the Speed City Project can feel now is hope, excitement and anticipation of what will occur over the coming years.”

Much work still needs to be done to complete the project, which is expected to be completed in phases. The university will work to secure additional funding for the project, with a total estimated cost of $25 million, as well as set out to plan the physical elements of the site, which will include a nine-lane track and field facility (including lighting and utilities), a Legacy Center and community facilities. 

Supervisor Chavez championed the location of the project at the fairgrounds and secured support for the university and county in April to enter into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement for the Speed City Legacy Project. 

“This project represents the intersection of sport, university athletics, community, legacy and history,” Konya said. “It will transform the county fairgrounds in a significant way for the betterment of all of San José.”

“I am incredibly excited to be part of bringing a facility that will not only be home to the San José State track and field team, but bring much needed open space to the surrounding community,” said Esparza.