San Diego Looks to Build Momentum for MLS

San Diego MLS Stadium rendering

Now that its stadium proposal has been revealed, the group behind an MLS expansion bid in San Diego is looking to build momentum for its case. 

Last week marked a major turning for San Diego in its pursuit of an MLS franchise. The investment group led by Mike Stone unveiled its proposal, which calls for the construction of a $200 million, 30,000-seat stadium as part of a larger development in Mission Valley. The facility, which would also house San Diego State Aztecs football, would open for the 2020 MLS season.

That would line up with the projected debuts of the MLS’ 26th and 27th franchises. San Diego has been on the league’s radar for some time, but the attention paid to the city has certainly increased in recent weeks, as the move of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles provides more certainty as to when Qualcomm Stadium could be demolished.

On Sunday, MLS commissioner Don Garber attended a friendly between the U.S. Men’s National Team and Serbia at Qualcomm Stadium. During his visit, he offered plenty of optimism for the plan that is emerging from San Diego. More from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The commissioner is also a fan of Stone, with whom he has been acquainted for decades.

“He represents that new breed of sports team owners we like,” Garber said. “… He’s young, successful working in private equity, and he moved to San Diego because he wanted to be here. He could have lived anywhere in the country, and he chose San Diego because he loved it.”

The region’s demographics, skewing younger and more ethnically diverse all the time, are also intriguing for MLS.

“We’ve positioned ourselves as a league for a new America,” Garber said, using a phrase he has for years employed to describe the United States’ evolution in a global market. “That new America lives here in San Diego.”

For Stone, one of his biggest tasks will be building local support for the initiative. In doing so, he will seek to gain direct approval from the San Diego City Council rather than place the proposal in a voter referendum. More from the Union-Tribune:

Of course the trick will be to go from idea to city buy-in. Stone plans to launch a citizens initiative, similar to last year’s Chargers’ stadium-convention center gambit, but to have it approved by the City Council without voter endorsement, as state law allows.

The Stone group offers to buy up to 80 acres of  the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium property at fair market value  and build a $200 million, 30,000-seat soccer stadium by March 2020, shared with San Diego State University’s Aztecs football team,  and housing, retail, office and  hotel uses; and on the rest of the land, build streets and infrastructure and a 55-acre park along the San Diego River and; and do all this at no cost to taxpayers. The whole venture could top the billion-dollar mark upon completion.

“I certainly understand there are procedural complexities and a historical bias that we as a nation, state, local, to always kick the can down the road.” Stone said. ”This won’t be there to kick unfortunately.”

Applications to the MLS for an expansion franchise are due on January 31. Stone and his group are slated to present their application during an event at the USS Midway Museum on Monday

RELATED STORIES: San Diego MLS Plan UnveiledSan Diego Close to Revealing MLS PitchSan Diego Looks to Advance MLS Stadium Push; Residents Polled on New San Diego MLS StadiumPadres Owner Among Potential San Diego MLS Leaders; San Diego Eying MLS Team

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