The Fram Youth Soccer Club is very fortunate to be one of the groups who share the use of Nansen Field and its facilities, a unique private soccer field and social center owned by Seamen of Norway, Inc. The field and related facilities are leased to Sportsklubben Fram Soccer. All of the users of Nansen, both soccer related and social, contribute financially to the operation and maintenance of the facilities.
Our agreement with Sportklubben Fram Soccer provides the youth teams with the ability to use Nansen during the fall season for our league games, Framfest, our 6v6 tournament, as well as the use of the field during the year for our youngers programs. We also have the ability to gain access to Nansen during other times of the year for games and scrimmages, camps and various club meetings and functions, when available.
While Nansen Field is only one of the local fields our youth soccer club calls home, Nansen is a very important part of our club and our experience at FRAM, and is a bond shared between the current and past members of the FRAM family.
History of Nansen Field
The Norwegian Merchant Fleet was reduced during World War II, but the post-war Fleet was quickly rebuilt, resulting in increased visits by Norwegian flagged ships to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In those days, ships remained in port for days, or even weeks. Soccer matches between visiting seamen and shore-based teams were very popular, keeping the sailors active during port visits. Pastor Hans Stensnes of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro actively searched for appropriate land where recreational activities could take place.
Nansen Field Founded in 1947
In 1947 the Norwegian Seamen’s Church of San Pedro was offered a lot of 8.67 acres in Palos Verdes by the Palos Verdes Corporation, which was controlled by the Vanderlip Family. Elin Breeke Vanderlip from Halden, Norway married Kelvin Vanderlip in 1946 and was instrumental in this generous offer. The cost of the land was $500 per acre for a total of $4300. The price was the cost of property taxes paid by the Vanderlip Family on the property from 1912 to 1947.
Due to influence exerted by the Norwegian Government Seamen’s Welfare Office, the Church declined the offer. Instead, an option to buy the land was granted to the Consul General, Kaar Ingstad, as representative for the Government The option was executed in April of 1948, and the property was first owned by Mr. Ingstad as trustee for the Kingdom of Norway.
From 1948 to 1952, the property was improved for use as a recreational area and a soccer field was created through the great efforts of church volunteers in the local Norwegian community. Discarded army barracks from Fort McArthur in San Pedro were transported to the site and used as a club house. The property was officially dedicated at a ceremony in 1949 and given the name Nansen Field, after the famed Norwegian explorer and humanist Fritjof Nansen.
Seamen of Norway
In 1952, Seamen of Norway, Inc. (SNI) was established and the deed was transferred to this entity on February 29, 1952. Nansen Field is owned by SNI in an irrevocable charitable trust. SNI was formed as a California nonprofit corporation with powers vested in its 5 directors. The Articles of Incorporation stated in part: "To acquire, own, establish, provide, operate and maintain real and personal property in or near San Pedro, California for the physical, spiritual and moral welfare of seamen and others.
The property of this corporation is irrevocably dedicated to religious, charitable or hospital purposes, and upon the liquidation, dissolution or abandonment of this corporation will not inure to the benefit of any private person, except a fund, foundation or corporation organized and operated for religious, hospital, scientific and charitable purpose.
Norwegian Seamen’s Welfare Office
From 1952 until 1981 the Norwegian Seamen’s Welfare Office operated Nansen Field with assistance from the local Norwegian community, maintaining the soccer field and buildings. In 1981, the Seamen’s Welfare Office in San Pedro was closed due to the decline in Norwegian shipping and shorter stays in port giving seamen less time to spend ashore.
Sportsklubben FRAM was founded in 1964 and had been working with SNI to maintain Nansen field. On April 26, 1981, SNI signed an agreement with FRAM for the operation, maintenance and management of Nansen Field. Sportsklubben FRAM would serve as the operator and manager of Nansen Field.
In preparation for the 1984 Olympics, improvements were made to the soccer field and a new club house was built at a cost of more than $100,000. A bank loan was obtained to fund the project, with personal guarantees by several members of Sportsklubben FRAM. In 1983, the Nansen Field Foundation, Inc. (NFFI) was established as a California non-profit organization with tax-exempt status in order to facilitate fund raising for such improvements to Nansen Field.
During the Olympic Year of 1984, the Norwegian Olympic Team received much support from the community. Norwegian yachtsmen lived at Nansen Field during the games, and an Olympic BBQ at Nansen Field drew 500 people.
A "Blue Ribbon Committee" was formed by FRAM with the purpose of defining FRAM’s role and the future structure and operation of Nansen Field. The committee’s recommendation was to establish a broader base of local community entities to support and operate Nansen Field, while clarifying ownership of the property.
Norway Tries to Reclaim Nansen Field
In 1989 the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) passed a law requiring all Norwegian government owned properties abroad be sold. Norwegian delegates visited Nansen Field and, upon their return to Norway, reported that Nansen Field could be sold for a substantial amount (in April of 1995, Nansen was appraised at over $3 million). Norway gave instructions to the directors of SNI to amend the articles of incorporation, allowing a sale of the property, with the proceeds being transferred to Norway.
After obtaining legal advice, the Board of Directors declined to follow Norway’s instructions for the following reasons: a) SNI’s charitable purposes; b) SNI’s sole ownership of Nansen Field; c) The requirements for use of the property in the Grant Deed and Articles of Incorporation.
On September 28, 1993 the Kingdom of Norway filed suit in U.S. Federal Court to remove the 5 individual members of the Board of SNI, replace them with a new Board and determine ownership and control of Nansen Field. The ultimate motive was to sell the property to the highest bidder.
On March 30, 1995 the U. S Federal court ruled that: SNI is the sole owner of Nansen Field; the current members of the Board of Directors shall remain and the Kingdom of Norway has no ownership interests in Nansen Field and no power over its Board of Directors. SNI’s request that the plaintiff pays its legal fees was denied. Norway’s litigation was costly, with SNI incurring $320,000 in legal fees. In June 1996, a loan was obtained and secured by the Nansen Field property, and the legal fees paid off.
Scandinavian Center at Nansen Field (SCAN) Established
A new organization was established in May 1997; Scandinavian Center at Nansen Field (SCAN). In an agreement with SNI, SCAN replaced Sportsklubben FRAM as the operator and manager of Nansen Field. In addition to operating and managing the property, SCAN was tasked with meeting SNI’s payment obligations under the loan, maintaining and upgrading of the soccer field and buildings, and generating sufficient revenues and cash flow to assist SNI in meeting its charitable goals.
SNI, SCAN and SFS all worked together to expand the visibility and access of Nansen within the community, and to raise money through fundraisers and generous donations to help reduce the debt incurred by SNI in protecting the property from sale. These efforts have resulted in the reduction of Nansen Field debt from $325K in 1995 to a current day figure of approximately $100,000.
Nansen Used for Variety of Purposes and Events
Nansen Field is used for a variety of purposes including: Sportsklubben FRAM and FRAM Soccer Club Youth meetings; Idrettsmerke track and field trials; Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17th; FRAM Soccer youth and adult games with approximately 40; the Soccer for Tots program; SCAN Socials; SCAN cultural events; rental of buildings for Weddings, Socials, Meetings; Norwegian Fish Club; monthly socials with participation of Norwegian seamen from the Sea Launch project in Long Beach; Ulabrand Lodge, Sons of Norway; Icelandic-American Association National Day on June 17th; Swedish American Chamber of Commerce; Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce; and Swedish American Historical Association of California (SAHAC).
The Future of Nansen
It is the goal of all of the stakeholders at Nansen field to continue to honor the tradition and heritage of the property. We must do so while taking into account our obligations to the Attorney General in their role overseeing charitable organizations in California; the Seamen as beneficiaries of the charitable trust; the Scandinavian community and the community at large; current users; the City of Rolling Hills Estates; and our neighbors.