A San Diego NASL team is expected to be announced shortly, with an ownership group that includes European star Demba Ba and three of his former teammates, eventually playing out of a privately financed modular stadium north of the city.
The team would play out of USD’s Torero Stadium initially in 2018, followed by a move to a 10,000-seat stadium in North County sometime in the 2018 season, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The new NASL team could end up competing at some point with a potential MLS team, but that would not happen until years down the road and the NASL ensconced outside of San Diego proper.
Ba could end up playing for the team down the road, though he’s under contract to Shanghai Shenhua. Joining Ba in the owner’s suite: Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard, French international Yohan Cabaye and Senegalese Moussa Sow. From the Union-Tribune:
The deal with eight-team NASL was finalized last month, but Ba’s group said it “purposely delayed” the announcement so it wouldn’t conflict with the public debate over the SoccerCity proposal for the Qualcomm Stadium land and its pursuit of a Major League Soccer team, which culminated last week with the City Council putting the initiative on the November 2018 ballot instead of a special election sooner.
Formal confirmation from the NASL could come as early as Monday. The team is planning an introductory news conference in July.
“We are soccer specific,” said Bob Watkins, a local businessman and San Diego State alum who is serving as the club’s president. “We want to develop soccer through this professional opportunity. We are not in the real estate development business and want to use soccer as a ploy to get a real estate project going.
“I don’t mean that as a negative on MLS. We didn’t want to get into the fray or be painted with the same brush of either helping or not helping the MLS project. We don’t want to be the heroes on white horses. We just want to say: ‘We stayed away from downtown, we stayed away from Qualcomm. We want a clean slate going forward with a team in North County.’”
The stadium angle is interesting. The plan now is for a privately financed stadium seating 10,000 and costing up to $15 million. Instead of a traditional design, the new San Diego NASL team is looking at working with Kansas City architecture firm Populous on a modular design where stadium elements are created offsite and then assembled onsite. It’s not a new construction method, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s not frequently used in sports facilities. We’ve seen some modular projects in ballparks, such as the new suites structure at Warner Park, home of the Madison Mallards (which we’ll be covering next week in our sister site, Ballpark Digest). It’s an interesting trend, one worth a future discussion.
Image from Week 14 courtesy NASL.