$1B soccer redevelopment initiative announced for ‘Q’ site – The San … – The San Diego Union-Tribune
A $200 million soccer stadium as part of a $1 billion redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium property in Mission Valley was proposed Monday with a citizens ballot initiative drive as the vehicle to bring it about.
The facility containing 20,000 to 30,000 seats and projected to open in 2020 could also be used by San Diego State University’s Aztecs football team and other soccer teams.
The project, coming 10 days after the Chargers relocated to Los Angeles, came from FS Investors, a La Jolla and San Mateo investment group with a variety of present and past ventures, including some sports and commercial developments.
FS Investors, which has the exclusive right to apply for a Major League Soccer franchise, is still working out the details, but in briefings shared with various media outlets and city officials, the company said it proposes to:
- Buy the 166-acre site from the city at fair market value, as determined by a third-party. The site has been estimated at about $50 million in its present, unimproved condition;
- Demolish 50-year-old Qualcomm Stadium, relieving the city of the annual upkeep of about $12 million and about $100 million in deferred maintenance costs. The city still owes about $28 million on outstanding bonds;
- Set aside about 15 acres for an NFL stadium to be built in the next five years if another city’s team wants to relocate and replace the Chargers, assuming the Chargers do not change their minds and want to move back;
- Pay the projected cost, previously estimated at about $50 million, for a 55-acre San Diego River Park on the south side of the property;
- Cover the costs of offsite traffic improvements associated with the development, as determined in an environmental analysis to accompany the citizens initiative, as well as onsite infrastructure site development costs with details to be laid out in coming weeks; and,
- Invite other developers to build housing, including about 800 beds for SDSU students, 10 percent of the remainder for low- and moderate-income renters; office space for SDSU and other tenants, including a possible million-square-foot corporate headquarters; one or more hotels; and related commercial and entertainment uses on the remainder of the property. The overall hope is to develop a transit-oriented development tied to the existing trolley line and one planned along Interstate 15.
Nick Stone, a partner in FS Investors, said the group plans to file an application for an MLS franchise by Jan. 31 and at about the same time begin a signature-gathering campaign to qualify an initiative for a 2018 city ballot. He said FS Investors is aiming for full control of the site to make sure the new stadium is surrounded by appropriate development that he said could serve as a sports and entertainment district.
The city clerk’s office said only 21,494 signatures from registered voters would be needed if FS Investors simply want to ask the City Council to consider their proposal. But if sponsors want to force council action, they would have to collect 71,646 signatures. The council would have to either adopt the proposal or put it on the November 2018 ballot, if not sooner.
However, the group hopes to convince the City Council to approve the measure outright rather than send it to the voters. To wait until 2018 would probably kill the chance to gain MLS approval this year and for the foreseeable future, he said. The 24-team league is seeking four more teams to round out its membership this year and no further expansion is contemplated. It will cost new franchise holders $150 million to land a team in a new city.
“We think San Diego is an amazing soccer market,” Stone said, noting the region toted up the second highest viewership, after Washington, D.C., of the World Cup in 2014. “We just think the logic of soccer in San Diego is incredibly compelling.”
Initial reaction to the proposal has been generally positive.
A poll of 700 adults conducted for The San Diego Union-Tribune and KGTV-10 News by SurveyUSA showed that 70 percent support the soccer proposal with men, young people and Hispanics the most in favor. There was a 3.5 percent margin of error. Even more, 74 percent, support development around the stadium, with a 3.3 percent margin of error.
“This is an exciting concept that could welcome major league soccer to San Diego without public subsidy, provide a home for Aztecs football and create a long-awaited river park,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement issued by his office. “I look forward to seeing the final plan.”
Said Council President Myrtle Cole: “This is an exciting and interesting proposal toward bringing thousands of jobs and economic development to San Diego as well as filling the void left by the Chargers leaving. I’m very interested in hearing more about the proposal.”
Councilman Scott Sherman, whose district includes the Qualcomm site, said it improves on the Chargers’ downtown proposal because it doesn’t require a tax increase or taxpayer support.
“These guys been have been willing to work with us,” Sherman said. “They been to the council and mayor’s office several times and we’ve seen soccer representatives a lot more than than we’ve ever seen from the Chargers.”
As to whether more public input or a public vote should take place, Sherman said he still wants to get the details before making a commitment. But he also agreed with the sponsors that time is of the essence.
“At some point we’ve seen just about every single proposal that has come through on the site for quite a while,” Sherman said. “We know what the possibilities are and what will work and what wouldn’t work.”
Councilwoman Barbara Bry said she also wants to get the details before commenting on the plan or the initiative approach.
“With the departure of the Chargers, there is potential to develop the Mission Valley site into something that will benefit future generations of San Diegans,” she said. “The 166-acre area is centrally located and includes access to public transit, which opens up possibilities for expanding the SDSU campus, extending the trail along the San Diego River, recruiting a professional soccer team, or other uses. My priority is to ensure that the community is involved in deciding what is next for the Mission Valley site.”
FS Investors has held present and past stakes in a wide variety of businesses, including the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team and a variety of mixed-use developments. It is headed by Michael R. Stone (unrelated to Nick Stone), who besides various business ventures has been active in a variety of charities and institutions locally and nationally, from the San Diego Museum of Art to the Library of Congress. The company maintains offices in La Jolla and San Mateo and expressed interest in bringing professional soccer to San Diego last summer.