Best of 2017, #7: SoccerCity On Hold

Proposed SoccerCity development San Diego

We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #7: the San Diego SoccerCity proposal receives serious opposition in City Hall.

It should have been a slam dunk: a proposal to bring MLS to San Diego in the wake of the Chargers’ departure to Los Angeles, with a megadevelopment anchored by a new soccer stadium. Instead, politics delayed and may have killed any chances a SoccerCity plan at the Qualcomm Stadium site. This stunning reversal makes the effort to bring MLS to San Diego one of our top stories of 2017.

On paper, it was the perfect plan. The investment group, FS Investors, contained plenty of local business owners with deep pockets: Former Qualcomm president Steve Altman, Bridgewest Group technology entrepreneurs Massih and Masood Tayeb, San Diego Padres managing partner Peter Seidler , former player Landon Donovan and sports media executive Juan Carlos Rodriguez. That’s a lot of sports-management experience in that group as well. Add in the void in the local sports market after the loss of the NFL’s Chargers to Los Angeles, and you had a leading contender for an MLS expansion team. Indeed, we had ranked the San Diego effort highly in our monthly MLS expansion rankings.

But, alas, finalizing the deal in time for the 2017 expansion decision was not to be. A group of rival developers opposed the project from the get-go. Then there were issues with the valuation of the Qualcomm Stadium site, with some accusing FS Investors of proposing to pay less than fair market value. Finally, the city pushed a referendum on the project to 2018, eschewing calls for a 2017 special election to determine the project’s fate before the first round of MLS expansion. (Yes, San Diego politicians can be a dysfunctional lot, and the same forces of inertia that drove the Chargers from town also ended up paralyzing the SoccerCity project.) Then, and perhaps more decisively, San Diego State University—pitched as a partner for SoccerCity—jumped in with their own stadium and development pitch. Under the current specifications, a new 35,000-seat Aztec Stadium would be configured to host college football and professional soccer. It would also have the capability to be expanded in the event that the NFL returns to San Diego, offering the potential for an additional 20,000 seats and more luxury boxes. The current timeline calls for Aztec Stadium to open by 2022.

So, to sum up: Yes, the SoccerCity plan exists, but it’s on hold. Whether it goes to the voters in November 2018 remains to be seen, or whether the plan from SDSU wins out–or whether there will be an MLS expansion team to nab by that time.

Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List:

#8: Louisville City FC Pitches a New Stadium
#9: Banc of California Stadium
#10: Phoenix Rising FC Explodes on Pro Soccer Scene

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August Publications