San Diego MLS Plan Unveiled

San Diego MLS Stadium rendering

The proposal for an MLS stadium in San Diego was unveiled on Monday, an announcement that comes as investors work to finalize their expansion bid. 

The group led by Mike Stone of FS Investors has released plans for 20,000-to-30,000-seat stadium in San Diego that would house both an MLS expansion franchise and the San Diego State Aztecs football program. Among the key elements of the proposal include a plan for the group to purchase the Qualcomm Stadium site from the city at a to-be-determined market price, demolish the facility, and broaden the development to include amenities such as housing, offices, retail, and more.

At its current estimate, the total project is expected to wind up costing $1 billion, with the stadium accounting for $200 million. With MLS expansion applications due at the end of this month, and the league expected to make its decision later this year on which cities will be teams, the proposal’s backers hope that this plan will receive a strong reception. More from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

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.”

While San Diego was named as one of 10 candidates for MLS expansion in December, there has been more focus on the city’s effort since the NFL’s San Diego Chargers announced earlier this month that they are leaving Qualcomm Stadium and moving to Los Angeles for the 2017 season. That closes the door on the NFL for now, though the proposal presented on Monday allows for land to be set aside for five years to develop a new stadium in the event that the NFL returns.

The new MLS stadium would open by the 2020 season.

RELATED STORIES: San 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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