SAN JOSE -- The cricket field, basketball courts, trails and public schools are still years away from opening, but the deal for the land they will occupy is almost cinched.

As development that's equivalent to adding a brand-new city springs up in North San Jose, the city and the Santa Clara Unified School District are nearing the finish line in the $80 million purchase of the former Agnews Developmental Center from the state .

Votes to authorize final negotiations on the 81 acres are set Tuesday for the San Jose City Council and Thursday for the school district. The sales agreement must be settled by April 30, and escrow closed by June 30.

"We are elated," said Julie Edmonds-Mares, the city's parks and recreation director.

Likewise Santa Clara schools Superintendent Stan Rose said he's hopeful about concluding the contract. However, he tempered his enthusiasm, given the drawn-out and often frustrating negotiations that led to this point.

Although Agnews is in North San Jose, it is within the boundaries of Santa Clara Unified, which desperately needs new campuses to accommodate growth.

The city plans to build a regional park on about one-quarter of the land, which it will purchase for $12 million, then spend an estimated $7 million to demolish old buildings and clean up the site.

The school district is still negotiating for its share, or 59.4 acres.

"It's not often that we're able to acquire a big piece of land," Edmonds-Mares said, to serve both residents and employees in the area.

The city envisions 32,000 homes in North San Jose, 8,000 of which are completed or under construction. The area already is home to Cisco Systems, Brocade Networks, eBay and IBM. The regional park, which could have cricket and soccer fields and trails, will serve not only residents but also some of the projected 80,000 employees who will work in the 26 million square feet of business space -- equivalent to all the office-industrial inventory of Palo Alto -- when North San Jose is built out.

Santa Clara Unified's student population has grown significantly north of Highway 101, where it has few schools. So it has long eyed Agnews as a potential location for a campus, a need intensified with the rapid development in North San Jose, along Zanker Road and North First Street, bounded by Highway 237 and Highway 880 to the east.

The district tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the state Department of General Services for the Agnews site, which was shuttered in 2009 after 120 years as a residential and outpatient center serving the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. The buildings are empty, Rose said. Another part of the site was purchased in 1997 by Sun Microsystems.

But Santa Clara Unified was hobbled in part by a law that prevented the state from selling land below market rates for schools -- even though an exception to that law is made for parks and open space. So when the state opened up Agnews to bidding, the city and school district submitted a joint offer.

After demolition of old buildings and clean-up, expected to cost $27 million, the city plans to plant grasses to control erosion and runoff, and to seek partners or tenants who would use the site until construction begins. The school district would like to team up with the city, Rose said, to keep costs down.

One worry in the interim is warding off unwanted tenants -- burrowing owls, a species in decline in California. "We don't want them to start utilizing the facility," Edmonds-Mares said, which owls might do when they spot an inviting field. Because the city and school district intend to develop the entire site for a school and recreation, they don't want to have to grapple with how to protect wild interlopers when construction begins.

Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.