Let’s see a Q site plan not beholden to sports – The San Diego Union-Tribune
The Chargers are leaving San Diego.
In their wake, a fascination with spectator sports persists among powerful locals.
Three plans have surfaced for east Mission Valley. All three tout a sports stadium.
Football, soccer, or soccer-football venues are proposed for within the some 215 acres in east Mission Valley.
In the spirit of competition, Mayor Kevin Faulconer ought to broaden the field.
Give San Diegans something else to chew on.
I say this as a sports lover and a sportwriter: Is there not a knowledge-and-tech-industry driven plan (a meatier version of SDSU West might suffice) that differs from the sports crowd’s claim to this public turf where gallons of public red ink have flowed in support of sports teams?
Gary London is a real-estate analyst who oversees the London Group of Realty Advisors.
He has contemplated the Q site.
“My overarching point is that there is no powerful argument to be made for a stadium of any kind to be the driver,” London said.
Economists are generally pessimistic about stadiums as public investments, although smaller venues of about 25,000 to 30,000 seats can make fiscal sense, per Stanford economist Roger Noll.
Baseball stadiums have an inventory advantage. Big-league teams play 81 games at home. NFL teams play about 10 home games per year. SDSU plays about six, making cohabitation with a soccer team more attractive.
“If the property were anchored and identified by a stadium, that would be perfectly fine,” said London, a football-loving San Diegan who holds degrees from Cal and SDSU. “What I would object to would be, is, if a stadium developer came in and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to do the stadium, but we’re gonna be the pilot for the rest of the project.’
“That would be the wrong way to do this,” he said.
London said debate for debate’s sake isn’t his goal, saying he wants the site developed in a timely fashion.
But, a clash of ideas needn’t yield paralysis by analysis.
“I think the right way would be a review process,” he said. “Since it’s a city property, you probably ought to start with a committee and then ultimately RSVP to qualify developers, any development plan of which could accommodate a stadium.”
The site’s potential excites him.
“This could be a new 21st century city,” he said. “This could be a site for a high technology campus. Could be a site for enormous amounts of housing units. Certainly, it will be a site for a revisiting of the river front.”
He went on.
“It’s perfect in many respects: a very large, very dense, very thoughtful mixed-use redevelopment site, either anchored by a technology company or at least developed or promoted by a handful of qualified master developers that I would bet would all be interested to have an opportunity to bid on the site.”
The “SoccerCity” initiative — which, to be clear, does not call for public funding toward a stadium — is far more than a stadium plan. It calls for mixed development that predicts gains in housing, tax revenues and debt relief, plus a river park.
The plan’s backers have given San Diegans plenty to sink their teeth into, and have made themselves available to critics.
However, the soccer dimension, which is the shiny object that the initiative’s signature gathers tout, restricts the process in two ways: 1) SoccerCity backers say the initiative needs to be approved in the months ahead this year, or it will die because Major League Soccer expansion will close; 2) FS Investors would master-plan the whole site and also the 14-acre Chargers Park.
In addition, an underlying sports cost to the initiative is that the soccer league is charging a $150 million fee to newcomers as part of its capital-raising hyper-expansion. Bear in mind, the “SoccerCity” authors don’t actually own a team.
In addition, two concepts touting football venues have been floated.
Both announcements were nearly bereft of nitty-gritty details.
One developer’s thought bubble foresees a renovated Qualcomm Stadium as a 70,000-seat catalyst for dense development and the NFL’s return.
The Q, mind you, is the neglected, 51-year-old Goliath that will cost the City of San Diego about $20 million in fiscal 2017. The sum, said city spokesman Scott Robinson, includes about $5 million in debt service on the stadium expansion of 1997. The IOU runs a few more years. The Q’s operational budget for fiscal 2018 will be submitted next month.
In this post-Chargers world, the football Aztecs are the lone tenant.
San Diego State supporters, serving up a low-calorie sandwich last week after a meeting with the mayor, made known their needs and intentions for the greater Q site.
Athletic director J.D. Wicker estimated that the campus could build its own football stadium, seating about 35,000 and costing up to $150 million, within three years.
Seems like a big stretch.
Realistically, a state-of-the-art stadium that size runs closer to $250 million.
As well SDSU seeks an additional 35 acres for university expansion.
So, here’s the pitch tally for the Q site: three sports concepts, one of which actually provides hard details on financing.
In all of San Diego, no one has a plan that’s not beholden to a sports concept?
You can do better, Mr. Mayor. Sound out more folks, as London suggests.
Even we who are football and soccer lovers like choices.