As its name suggest, soccer is the big draw in the SoccerCity proposal for redeveloping the Mission Valley site of the former Qualcomm Stadium.
“We’re really good at running major sports teams out of the city. Here is a chance for a sport that is more popular in San Diego than in any other city in America. That’s huge for the city,” said Nick Stone, SoccerCity project manager.
“There’s a degree of connectivity and excitement that comes from having great sports in a community,” Stone said.
At the heart of the $3.5 billion to $4 billion SoccerCity proposal for a 99-year lease of the land is a plan to build a soccer stadium with the intent of luring a Major League Soccer team to the city.
The SoccerCity initiative — Proposition E on the November election ballot — covers 166 acres which make up the Qualcomm Stadium site, 20 acres of land on Murphy Canyon Road which was used as a training site when the Chargers were in San Diego, and about five acres of land north of the stadium site which would be used as a park.
A central element to the SoccerCity plan is a 740,000 square-foot entertainment district that would include everything from movie theaters to a grocery store, restaurants, brew pubs and a fitness center.
“The point of that is, it is an area where people can come and congregate,” Stone said. “We’ll have a food hall as part of that,” Stone said. “It serves the stadium, it serves the people who live on the site.”
Plans also call for indoor and outdoor live performances in the district.
The entertainment district would be next to the stadium, away from nearby residential neighborhoods, Stone said.
“People can pour out of the stadium into a vibrant entertainment district,” Stone said.
60 Acres of Parkland
Also in the plan are 60 acres of parkland along the San Diego River and Murphy Canyon Creek.
“We will actually buy and deliver a 60 acre park that goes up to Murphy Canyon,” Stone said.
Included in the parkland would be six soccer fields and bike and walking trails around the site.
“We will construct them and maintain them — all of the parkland, for 99 years,” Stone said.
Under the terms of the ballot initiative, SoccerCity would have to start developing the parkland within seven years.
“We have to start it no later than the completion of our stadium, and our stadium has to be done in seven years,” Stone said.
SDSU’s Available Acreage
SoccerCity also would give SDSU the right to acquire 35 acres of the 57 acres that’s earmarked for office development, Stone said.
SDSU could use the property for expansion.
The university said it needs to expand to meet a growing demand, with only 11,000 undergraduate students accepted this year of the 103,000 people who applied.
SoccerCity contends that its proposal could provide all that SDSU needs.
The SoccerCity plan also sets aside 16 acres to the west of the existing SDCCU Stadium — formerly Qualcomm Stadium — which the city could buy back as the site of a National Football League stadium, with a five-year deadline for the city to buy it back.
The 16 acres are part of what SoccerCity has designated for housing and office use, should the city decide against buying it back.
The SoccerCity stadium would have either 23,500 seats or 32,000 seats with room for 1,500 people to stand, Stone said.
Estimated to cost $150 million, the smaller stadium would be for soccer only and would be paid for by SoccerCity, formed by FS Investors of La Jolla. FS Investors describes itself on its website as “a private investment entity with a long term, captive pool of capital.”
The larger stadium — estimated to cost $250 million — would be part of the plan if San Diego State University opted to go in with SoccerCity to build a new home for Aztec football.
If SDSU doesn’t opt in, then SoccerCity would build the smaller stadium.
The Aztecs have been playing in the former Qualcomm Stadium, originally called Jack Murphy Stadium. The Aztec’s have played in the stadium since it opened in 1967.
A competing measure on the ballot — Proposition G — by SDSU West would build a $250 million stadium for a SDSU football stadium for the Aztecs as part of a university plan for the overall development of the Qualcomm site. Proponents said the SDSU West football stadium could be used for soccer as well.
The university is prohibited by state law from sponsoring a ballot initiative on its own regarding the future of the Qualcomm site or undertaking political activities supporting a ballot measure.
If Both Measures Fail
If neither ballot measure gets more than 50 percent of the vote, they both fail and the responsibility for deciding what to do with the property goes back to San Diego’s mayor and the City Council.
If the larger stadium is built under the SoccerCity plan, SoccerCity would pay $150 million of the construction costs with SDSU paying $100 million, Stone said.
Under the plan, SDSU also would pay half the operating costs, but Stone said Soccer City would “gift” the stadium itself to SDSU.
If SoccerCity doesn’t get a Major League Soccer team within seven years, the property would revert to the city.
“The city has the right to take the land back,” Stone said, but he said he fully expects Major League Soccer to bring a team to San Diego.
While the soccer stadium is the big draw to the SoccerCity plan, most of the stadium site would be used for housing, offices, retail shops, an entertainment district and a river park.
4,800 Housing Units
SoccerCity would build 4,800 housing units — a mix of apartments and condominiums.
About 800 of the units would be for students and about 48 would be designated as affordable.
The plan includes 2.4 million square feet of office space and two hotels with a total of 450 rooms. About two-thirds of the rooms in one hotel and one-third in the second, Stone said.
According to estimates from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, SoccerCity would bring in about $4 million annually in tax revenue over 99 years.
Based on a report by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., SoccerCity estimated that its plan would generate nearly 42,000 construction jobs and 25,750 permanent jobs with an annual economic impact of $2.8 billion.
SoccerCity’s ballot initiative is more than 600 pages, with more than 2,000 pages of attachments that include an environmental review of the project.
The reason the initiative is so long is partly that it’s a legal contract, outlining precisely what SoccerCity will do with the property.
‘Trying to Be Transparent’
“We were trying to be transparent, here’s what you’re really going to get with us,” Stone said. “We did all the environmental work, we did all the planning work and presented a really detailed plan to the public rather than a plan to plan. There’s no way to be faster than us and I suspect, if we win, to be starting construction in 2019.”
Build-out will likely take 10 to 15 years, depending on market conditions, Stone said.