Editor's note: This is the second part of a series of articles regarding a land dispute involving Hal's Angels Football Association, Guam Rugby Club and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.
For nearly a decade, Guam Rugby Club, Hal’s Angels Football Association and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission have been embroiled in a bitter land dispute - and it may soon come to a head.
At 1 p.m. Thursday, the CLTC will hold a hearing to discuss issues that have led to the contentious situation. At the heart of the issue is the rugby club’s use of an easement along Santa Monica Avenue in Dededo, which allows access to Wettengel Rugby Field.
The only road to get into and out of the rugby field is on Hal’s Angels Football Association property. That road is now closed.
“Jack Hattig, (CLTC director) told me, ‘Lock your gate,’” said Ivan Shiroma, president of the football association.
“I locked it because people are dumping trash,” said Shiroma, adding the rugby club hasn’t helped with its removal.
Over the years, more than 10 times, Shiroma said the football association paid to remove discarded appliances, green waste, beds, and other festering, unsightly garbage.
“When the gate is open, anyone can drive in there and dump their (expletive), which they did,” Shiroma said. “There are times I have to pay just to get rid of it. I’m tired of looking at it. I hate trash on my field.”
In the beginning
In 1983, a handshake deal between Ivan Shiroma’s father, the late Hal Shiroma, and the Gov. Ricardo J. Bordallo administration allowed the football association the use of the multiacre property.
“Back in the day, before 1983, before Land Trust, Bordallo and the government gave my dad the authority to develop that whole field, that whole area,” Ivan Shiroma said.
In 2008, CLTC licensed the land to the football association..
The field is located directly across from the Department of Public Health and Social Services northern facility.
For 37 years, Guam’s youth football players, high school athletes, and competitors from men’s and women’s adult leagues have trained at Hal’s Angels Field.
“We’re not only teaching football, we’re teaching life skills,” said Ivan Shiroma, stressing the importance of the sport to the community.
“We’re doing our part. We’re doing community service.”
Friendly, at first
Long before the dispute, football and rugby coexisted peacefully. And with more than enough land to run their programs, in the 1990s, Hal Shiroma allowed Guam Rugby Club use of the lower practice field.
It was a decision son Ivan Shiroma regrets.
“To me, it looks like they took advantage of my dad,” Ivan Shiroma said.
Shortly after granting rugby use of the field, Hal Shiroma’s health declined. In April 2002, due to complications from bladder cancer, he died.
After losing his father, football became ever more important to Ivan Shiroma. The sport is his life's passion. And, in December 2002, he lost that, too.
Supertyphoon Pongsona devastated Guam, including Hal’s Angels Field.
The football association was without a field. Ivan Shiroma recalled asking the Guam Rugby Club for help.
“In 2002, when Typhoon Pongsona hit, our field was down,” he said. “So, we weren’t doing football for a while. … Our field was damaged.
“We asked (the rugby club), ‘Can we use our practice field’? … Their response, at that time, was ‘No.’
“ ‘You aren’t going to let us use our practice field?’” Ivan Shiroma recalled asking himself. “ ‘Now you have a lease on it? You don’t want to share it now?’ ”
Ivan Shiroma said that during the time when his father’s health was declining, the rugby club received a lease from CLTC. Ivan Shiroma alleges that lease was illegal.
Ross Morrison, a rugby club board member, said the club got the Wettengel field in the 1990s through a government Adopt-a-Park initiative.
Morrison said the field was officially transferred to the CLTC in 2002, and the rugby club was granted a 20-year license to the land.
The CLTC, in December 2010, amended the rugby club’s license to include the use of the easement, documents show.
“The next thing we know, rugby had it subdivided, half of the property that was given to us,” Ivan Shiroma said. “We were never consulted. I wasn’t. My dad was sick.
“We had to swallow it.
“As of now, fast-forward to today, their acreage is bigger than what we have today,” Ivan Shiroma said.
With a lease in hand, the rugby club spent more than $750,000 developing the property and building infrastructure. Improvements included adding a two-inch waterline, septic system, bleachers, lighting, toilet facilities, showers and a barbecue shelter.
Ivan Shiroma said the waterline runs through his property and needs to be removed.
“It was not board approved," he said. “And, the easement, … wasn’t board approved. It was all illegal.”
The football association supplied a map to The Guam Daily Post which shows the deletion of the easement and it shows the rugby club’s access point as Lada Avenue.
With signatures from Guam Power Authority, Guam Public Works and Guam Waterworks Authority, the map shows utilities need to be accessed from Lada.
“They all signed on the new map that (the rugby club) can get it (utilities) on Lada,” Ivan Shiroma said. “That is where they are legally allowed to get their access.
“You have been given access by three different agencies, and by the Land Trust. Follow the directive."
No chance to defend
The rugby club said, in July 2019, it received notification from the CLTC that the public access way was to be eliminated. The club said it had “no opportunity to provide input or to state (its) position.”
Ivan Shiroma said the CLTC granted his football association permission to close the access road and the rugby club knew about the issue since 2016. He said a rugby club member was present during the CLTC meeting and witnessed the board of directors delete the easement.
“For them to say they didn’t know about it, he’s (Morrison) just flat-out lying,” Ivan Shiroma said.
Hoping to have their practice field ready by 2023, Ivan Shiroma said, it is time to get started on construction. And, with ever-increasing construction costs, he doesn’t want any delays or surprises.
“I don’t want to be trenching and hit his (water) line,” he said.
“So, why do I have to deal with that?” He asked. “Just move your stuff, so I don’t have to worry, and I can dig wherever I want on my property.”
A broken promise
When Hal Shiroma allowed the use of the practice field, in return, the two organizations entered into a handshake agreement requiring the rugby club to build the football association’s practice field.
In 2009, before a lease extension, former Guam Rugby Club President Tim Wenden wrote a letter to CLTC.
“The Guam Rugby Club (acknowledges) that, prior to signing the lease agreement with CLTC, there was an informal agreement between the Hal’s Angels football group and the Guam Rugby Club.
“This agreement was that the Guam Rugby Club was to replace the practice field that the Hal’s Angels utilize on the new leased property. …
“Please note that … development of the property by Guam Rugby Club is one of our top priorit(ies). It is subjected to funding.”
“If CLTC approve(s) the lease extension, GRC will continue developing the property, and Hal’s Angels will get their multiple-use field.”
“They haven’t done anything,” Ivan Shiroma said.
“I try to be a nice guy, how many times?” he added. “ … You promised to do our field. You never did it. You lied.”
Grass needs to grow
Stressing the importance of an additional field, Ivan Shiroma said, it will allow the game field time to recover.
“Everybody plays on our top field," he said. "We want to keep it nice."
At Thursday’s hearing, Ivan Shiroma said he’s going to tell GRC to adhere to CLTC's directive.