Proposed Fresno USL stadium faces obstacles

A proposed Fresno USL stadium is facing obstacles, as the city contemplates a proposal by Fuego FC ownership to buy the Selland Arena site and build a new soccer facility in the parking lot.

The proposal from Fuego FC owners Juan and Alicia Ruelas calls for the purchase of Selland Arena, Valdez Hall and a parking lot for an end price of $2 million–$5 million minus $3 million in city tax credits. Right now the city runs Selland Arena and Valdez Hall at a loss, and a big selling point for the USL League One team owners is that the sale would take the facilities off the city books and serve as a base for additional development. The proposal calls for Fuego FC to build a 7,500-seat, $14-million stadium on the parking lot of the Selland Arena site as part of a $40-million privately financed development that also calls for $3 million on capital upgrades and an additional $21 million in capital investments over 15 years. Valdez Hall would be converted into a sports center focusing on sports like martial arts and yoga, while Selland Arena would continue to host basketball and hockey. In addition to the money spent on the downtown development, Fuego FC is proposing a separate training facility with nine soccer fields.

A $40-million investment in sports is a pretty ambitious move for a Downtown Fresno sports endeavor, to be sure, and comes at a time when sports investments are not seen that favorably in some City Council circles. To wit: the ongoing investments and rent reductions at Chukchansi Park, home of MiLB’s Fresno Grizzlies.

At $2 million, the sale price seems low, and other entities are reportedly interested in the property as well. Writes the Fresno Bee:

City leaders should think long and hard about unloading Selland Arena and Valdez Hall at cut-rate prices, even for the promise of pro soccer. Those buildings may be a drain on city finances today (part of some $700,000 in annual debt for the entire Fresno Convention Center complex), but that doesn’t mean they always will be.

In addition to Chukchansi Park, the three properties (Selland, Valdez Hall and the parking lot) occupy some of the valuable city-owned real estate in downtown. That land, already zoned for buildings up to 15 stories, might be worth a heckuva lot more in 20 years than it is today. Especially if high-speed rail ever materializes.

So why sell low now?

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