On Monday morning, representatives from FS Investors met with local media for an update on the proposal to bring Major League Soccer to San Diego.
Investors Nick Stone and Steve Altman sat for several small sessions with various media groups in an intimate room at the La Jolla Map Museum, opening with a prepared statement before fielding questions. The full proposal is due to be published this week, and from there, the signature gathering process begins for the planned Citizen’s Initiative mechanism that the group has elected to use in order to have their proposal approved by San Diego’s City Council.
Intimacy appears to be a recurring trend with FS Investors. Since taking their project public shortly after the Chargers skipped town, members from the FS Investors group have held multiple media days, met with local youth soccer leagues, been active and engaging on social media and via their SoccerCity SD website where fans have been invited/encouraged to share ideas for team names, and have had productive meetings with members of the Mayor’s office and City Council.
While the merits of their plan are many, what stands out most is the scope and scale of the project, which has deliberately been crafted to appeal to as many constituents as possible within the community of San Diego. New renderings released on Monday show the proposed layout of the stadium, the retail and residential spaces, and the river park detailed in the full proposal.
“We have this unique opportunity before us with a very limited window,” said Nick Stone, the de-facto spokesperson for the group. “Our plan is the only one that can bring an MLS team and the significant synergy it creates for SDSU football. The Qualcomm site has been studied for over a decade with remarkably similar results: a stadium, a community river park, transit oriented housing and mixed-use development. We’ve incorporated the best components from the various plans to create a vision that meets these needs. All without a penny of taxpayer spending.”
San Diego State University however, has yet to buy in to the vision of FS Investors. Although the investment firm has gone out of their way to construct a win-win-win scenario for all parties, San Diego State issued a statement shortly after the conclusion of the firm’s event that indicated the university was less than thrilled with the initiative as it stands:
“We have reviewed the rendering and descriptions presented by FS Investors and we wish to clarify two critical issues. First, given the proposed density of development in the stadium area, there is no prospect for future expansion to 40,000 seats. Second, while the proposed gift of stadium ownership may convey tax advantages to FS Investors, it conveys no revenue or rights of ownership normally associated with a gift. We look forward to working with the Mayor, the City Council and the San Diego community to construct a mixed-use stadium that will serve the needs of SDSU’s top 25 football program.”
The internet reacted:
— Joel (@SDSU_Alum2003) February 20, 2017
The Mayor responded with a statement of his own:
“This concept offers exciting opportunities for Major League Soccer, more parkland and Aztecs football without public subsidy. Now it’s time to examine the plan in details to make sure it makes sense for taxpayers. I look forward to reviewing the proposal presented to the public today, as well as the public discussion to come.”
The internet reacted once more.
@Kevin_Faulconer TO SAY THIS IS FOR AZTECS IS A SLAP TO OUR INTELLIGENCE. . 20,000 SEATS WITH “ABILITY” TO EXPAND TO 30,000 IS PATHETIC!!!
— Vinny Ibarra (@xchinoiii) February 21, 2017
The crucial detail that many SDSU backers seem to have misunderstood, is that the FS Investors plan is a soccer specific initiative, designed with the larger community in mind in order to optimize the value of the opportunity at hand. The project was not designed specifically for SDSU, but it is sensitive to the university’s needs and the needs of San Diego at large.
Jose Ocampo, Director of Coaching for San Diego Force Football Club, a youth soccer organization based in 4s Ranch insisted that “soccer is not the most popular sport in the world for no reason. In our community here, there kids, they dream big. Our culture in America has built a great base of dreamers and I do think they aspire someday to be professional soccer players.”
In addition to the soccer community, support has also manifested in other forms. On Monday, January 30th, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber formally accepted the FS Investor’s bid for entry to the league aboard the deck of the USS Midway. Present that day was Kerri Kapich, Chief Operating Officer of the San Diego Tourism Authority. Kapich noted that, “We really have no doubt in our mind that the ownership group’s vision to make San Diego an internationally recognized center for amateur and profession soccer will help the tourism economy. The economy employs 1/8 people in SD, so it is so important that we are working together to invite people here.”
On Wednesday, FS Investors formally published a Notice of Intent to Circulate Petition in the Union Tribune, and beginning March 15, they will start to collect the required signatures needed for City Council to decide whether to adopt the proposal or send it to a public vote.
Major League Soccer is due to announce the two teams selected for the next round of expansion by the second or third quarter of 2017, which takes waiting for a public vote during the 2018 mid term election off the table as an option.
If San Diego is to awarded an expansion slot in MLS, the time is now, and FS Investors are the only group who can seal the deal. According to the San Diego Union Tribune, “six city council members voiced support of various elements while the three others declined comment. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who will not have a vote, has endorsed the concept, if not the exact details.”
The timelines are tight and the margins for error or obstruction are narrow, but if all goes according to the plan laid out by FS Investors, San Diego might just be the next Soccer City.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!