Rich persons float plan to build stadium for non-NFL footballing

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Hordes of SDSU football fans unable to get into a 30,000-capacity stadium, theoretically.

Some encouraging San Diego stadium news happened yesterday, a welcome departure from other national events a person may or may not be slightly terrified about at any given moment. So behold: RENDERING.

Hell yeah, a soccer-specific stadium to be shared by MLS [team name here] and San Diego State football! Kind of amazing how quickly the Chargers leaving has moved this all forward. Things are moving fast. Real fast. Too fast?

After many years of typical byzantine incompetence by local government and the dumb poo poo head Chargers sabotaging any hope of a solution with their duplicitous chiseling, San Diego apparently has to decide what to do with the Qualcomm Stadium site in one week. I’m sure that won’t be any problem.

The plan is an outline of a plan, of which you can read a writeup or two from various outlets. A few thoughts at first glance:

It’s some rich local dudes proposing this

These wealthy persons signaled their intentions six-plus months ago in a piece by the AP’s Bernie Wilson after he unearthed emails between SDSU and the investor group. At that time they were merely “interested.” Now they have an exclusive option to apply for a San Diego MLS expansion franchise.

Mike Stone appears to be a hedge fund guy with solid San Diego bona fides (no, nothing to do with Stone Brewing). Steve Altman is a former president of Qualcomm, so. And Peter Seidler – nephew of the O’Malley family – is the lead investor (though not Executive Chairman, for now) of the Padres. They seem legit and serious in their intent.

Their proposal is for “up to” a 30,000 seat stadium

An intimate stadium with a capacity between 20-30k is great for soccer. But that isn’t quite what SDSU was hoping for. From Wilson’s piece last June:

In April, SDSU endorsed turning the Qualcomm site into a campus annex once the Chargers leave Mission Valley. The stadium would be demolished and replaced with a smaller stadium. School officials envision the capacity at between 30,000 and 40,000 for the Aztecs and possibly an MLS team.

40,000 makes more sense to me, from an SDSU perspective if not for MLS. Aztecs football sells 40k-plus for big games and could average that much at a stadium that isn’t a falling-down relic with no atmosphere and terrible sight lines. The Holiday Bowl historically brings well over 40k, but could be headed for the baseball stadium since Mr. Seidler wants to make this MLS/Aztecs stadium work.

The prospective San Diego MLS franchise owners could dream big and aspire to sell 40,000 per game. Bigger crowds, better atmosphere and a greater chance to be an MLS powerhouse. As it stands the team would be “replacing” (yes, not really) the NFL Chargers, similar to the Seattle Sounders kind-of (no, not really) replacing the NBA Sonics.

There are valid reasons the investors might want a 30,000-capacity stadium, however.

  • Regular-season MLS games averaged 21,692 last year, a new league record.
  • The maximum capacity of a soccer-specific stadium in MLS is 30,226 (Toronto’s BMO Field).
  • The new Orlando City SC stadium capacity will be 25,500.
  • A stadium built for 30,000 is easier to build than one for 40,000.

It’s understandable. 30,000 is less expensive, less complicated and fits a model for MLS soccer. But as Aztecs football fans (supporters?) we can hope and advocate for an intimate, lively setting of 40,000.

This is a preliminary proposal, despite the tight deadline

The investor group wants to build a stadium for an MLS team they would own. Construction costs and ownership of the stadium would be split by the MLS investor group and SDSU. The university reacted to today’s news thusly:

“We have been engaged in discussions (with FS Investors),” said Gina Jacobs, a spokeswoman for SDSU. “We received the proposal at the same time it was released. We’re reviewing it and are excited to see what the rest of the proposal is.”

She said the university’s priorities are finding new room for student housing, developing research facilities and creating a home for the Aztecs football program. SDSU would prefer a stadium with between 30,000 and 40,000 seats, she said.

Today’s announcement was a broad sketch. There presumably isn’t a stadium design yet and we don’t know if any of this will move forward. We might know soon though. With San Diego State funding half the thing and today’s restatement that the school prefers 40k, we can hope old alma mater will push for the higher capacity.

Field of dreams? It’s got to be natural

Nothing I read yesterday addressed the playing surface of the proposed stadium but let me say this about that: GRASS. The new stadium has to have a real grass field.

There’s no retractable roof on this thing and no need for one. It’s San Diego! Perfect weather is the star attraction here. The glorious Southern California sun shouldn’t be shining down on a field of plastic grass and crumb rubber, as was planned for the bloated $1.8 billion never-neverland downtown convadium the Chargers wanted, and soon will have in their plastic-roof monstrosity subleased from the Rams in Inglewood. Fake turf fields are bad. They’re cheaper but we shouldn’t let Aztecs/MLS stadium have one.

In conclusion: May these rich fellers thread the needle of local bureaucracy, get San Diego a soccer team and build this sucker for 40k with a beautiful grass field.

Go [MLS team name]!

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Author: lemonverbena

Californian/Washingtonian, co-editor of Kabeer Thirty.

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