Without a dime from taxpayers, SoccerCity will transform the Qualcomm Stadium site.

It’s time the world’s most popular participation and spectator sport is welcomed to San Diego, and SoccerCity will do just that. A successful Major League Soccer franchise playing in a spectacular Mission Valley stadium will reinvigorate our professional sports scene while anchoring a major redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium site.

Commentary - in-story logoThe previous tenants of the Q are gone, leaving our city with a $12 million annual carry cost on a worn-out stadium. It’s time to pull it down and move on. It’s time to put the site to a new and better use – a use that incorporates much needed housing, plus hospitality, leisure, office, retail and commercial development.

The economic benefits from this development are compelling, totaling $2.8 billion a year according to an analysis by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. The project, according to the analysis, would create 25,700 permanent jobs and 42,700 construction jobs as well as tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the city, county and schools generated by taxes and fees.

On top of these powerful numbers are the infrastructure and city amenities included in the SoccerCity deal. The development will include the creation of the long-awaited Mission Valley river park that will encompass 43 acres of riverfront land developed to the specifications of the San Diego River Park Foundation.

SoccerCity will also add riders to the San Diego trolley, bringing soccer fans to games or shoppers to stores while homeowners will be able to commute to jobs. The SoccerCity team will contribute an estimated $50 million to construct improvements along Friars Road near I-15 to make sure traffic runs smoothly. There isn’t another major development site in San Diego that offers adjacent major freeways and mass transit plus surface streets like the Qualcomm site does.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Despite what critics are saying, SoccerCity is not a land grab – far from it. I know something about land values, having been responsible for the development of numerous communities in Southern California. I also served as president of the California and San Diego Building Industry associations. This deal is straightforward: The city will determine the value of the land just as it does with other city properties. SoccerCity is proposing creative solutions to take account of our political system’s incredibly lengthy approval process while creating a world-class development that will be the envy of other major cities. SoccerCity is taking a negative situation – the loss of an NFL franchise and the financial sinkhole known as the Q – and making it into a positive with a MLS franchise, modern stadium, major city river park, improved transportation, housing, hospitality, office space and shopping.

As a lifelong soccer fan, I am excited by the strong growth of this worldwide sport in America. It’s a game played and supported by men and women of all nationalities and ages, is affordable to attend for working families and uniquely San Diego if you look at our diversity and culture.

SoccerCity also keeps open the prospects of Aztec football remaining close to home with a ground-sharing program. Soccer and football played on the SoccerCity pitch would provide frequent sporting events throughout the year and generate an exciting community for residents, visitors and the local workforce.

We San Diegans need to make sure that this November, voters will have the opportunity to support the privately financed SoccerCity proposal at the ballot box. This is our opportunity to put the past behind us and move forward into a new sporting era with a game that excites millions of people around the world and can do the same here.

Mick Pattinson is a former president of the San Diego Building Industry Association and the California Building Industry Association, and past vice president of the National Association of Homebuilders. Pattinson’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

    This article relates to: Opinion, SoccerCity

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    35 comments
    Mike Burrows
    Mike Burrows

    Why are we still operating based on the Chargers' narrative that the existing stadium is defective?  Why can't the existing stadium be altered to accommodate soccer (& possibly Aztec football) & save money, possibly making the development more viable?  All of the other proposed development could be included in a stadium renovation scheme, just not in the exact location of the rendered plan shown to us.


    I'm neutral on the stadium use itself, but one of the big arguments for supporting the deal is fair market value realized by the City.  If we are maximizing income from the site shouldn't we be encouraging competitive bidding from all types of development?

    Bjorn Steller
    Bjorn Steller

    @Mike Burrows In a way this site is open for bidding for about 15 years now. The Chargers wanted it badly for their redevelopment plans in 2004 and had a plan that looked pretty good with no tax dollars involved but the city was not able to part with the land for unknown reason. SDU has laid claim to it, peddling ideas reaching 2050 and later for use and development, but made no offer. And that is the end of that story. No one has made any serious offers on it but handicapped or killed the only 2 offers made on that site, the Chargers in 2004 and now FS investors/SoccerCity SD.

    I believe that there were studies of saving or rehabbing that old stadium way back when but those were pretty much dismissed as too expensive or undoable. Even the expansion in 1998 was questioned by many as too expensive for the results but this was a strange time with strange decisions in San Diego including the ticket guarantee and the pension crisis.

    Jeremy Hansen
    Jeremy Hansen

    @Mike Burrows Hi Mike, here's one thing to consider, the soccer city proposal has now been out for almost half a year. And yet, no other developer has (seriously) stepped forward with their own master plan to counter it. I don't know why - perhaps they want FS Investors to lay out all the capital while they sit back, and then try to swoop in at the end and "win" the site? Maybe other motives? Maybe they only want to buy 5 acres at a time so they only have to pay for their own high-rise and not all the parks and mitigation? Who knows. Given that it's these developers business, I think they could have something together and presented by now if they really wanted to.


    Manchester threw something together months ago that included a new sports arena and a renovated stadium. I think the renovations were around $600million. I read through their presentation. Personally as someone who grew up in this city and went to every Chargers game the past 13 years, I thought the proposal was weak and cost a lot of money to be weak. It involved lowering the field (increasing distance from all seats to the field), then adding more field level seats to fill in closer to the sidelines - except if you've been to games you know the low field level seats are the worst because they are obstructed view due to the low angle and players on the sidelines. So the new "best" seats are not good, and all the other seats in the stadium are worse than before renovation. Sounds like a lose-lose. There also was no mention of seismic retrofitting and stuff, which I suspect it needs, I've heard before that place will crumble to the ground if/when a moderate earthquake hits it. I'd have a real hard time supporting that plan.


    Last thing to consider... soccer city looks to add tens of millions of dollars additional revenue to the city every year. Compare to the open process some are calling for - which would likely delay the end result by 5-10 years due to RFP, evaluation, selection, SEQA, etc. And who knows, maybe another ballot measure, and a couple lawsuits... If you assume $20million per year delayed (probably a conservative estimate given the stadium is losing $12 million per year), that's $100 - $200 million lost, by being slow. Of course no one sees those losses, it's not a line item somewhere, so it's not politically expensive. It's a hidden loss, but there is huge cost to delaying action - one which I don't believe will be recouped by the process at all.


    I put it a different way to a friend - that's missing out on $55,000 for every day that goes by in the name of waiting. Think about that - and the firefighters and police we could hire, the streets we could fix, the storm drains and sewers, money for the arts, homeless shelters, etc. When I hear "what's the hurry" and "false urgency", I find myself surprised.

    wadams92101
    wadams92101 subscriber

    Would you take the word of a single contractor bidding for a home repair or improvement job that "it's a great deal"?  Of course not.  Due diligence requires you first determine the scope of the project then get at least three bids.  It's the same reason many public agencies have open competitive bidding requirements.  So it should be with public land.  (1) There should be a public process to determine what is wanted for the land; (2) Next, a public request for proposals (RFP) should be issued; and (3) Finally, a formal and transparent selection process should be utilized to award the project.  Instead we have a private investor group that has over 20 private meetings with the Mayor then conducts a marketing campaign to convince the public it's "a great deal" and this is an "emergency" requiring a rushed special election and the exclusion of a public process or any competitive proposals.  Yeah right! 

    Bjorn Steller
    Bjorn Steller

    @wadams92101 kind of a wrong comparison, no one is bidding to repair something but to buy something. If somebody offers you a fair amount for your house determined by you, and allows you access to the new swimming pool (ie riverfront park) he is building at your old house, you might not necessarily wait for another offer if there is just no interest into your neighborhood and no house has been sold in 15 years.

    wadams92101
    wadams92101 subscriber

    @Bjorn Steller @wadams92101 It's not at all a "wrong comparison."  In fact, its even more important to have an open competitive process because, among other reasons: 


    1) The complexity of large acquisitions and projects; 


    2) The heightened need for protections when there are valuable public assets at issue; 


    3) The potential manipulation of public officials vulnerable to lobbying activities; 


    These factors can mean that FMV is illusory, with offsets possibly reducing the purchase to a real $10k.  Additionally, "ballot box planning" inevitably results in a dumbed down process, in which there is an end run on representative government and thoughtful considered process; Replaced by slick marketing.  It lends itself to land grabs and mismanagement of public assets.  Process is important.  This is not good process.  

    Jeremy Hansen
    Jeremy Hansen

    @wadams92101 If the first contractor said he could have the work done right away (citizen's initiative), and the others said they'd let me know in a few years and may have it done in 10 (standard public process), and I was losing more money on my home problem every year that outweighs any possible savings by waiting for the other bids (Qualcomm cost+lost opportunity cost of leases and tax revenue), and I had a 3rd party estimate of what a "fair price" for the work is (independent appraiser), then yes, I'd absolutely hire the first contractor without waiting for the others. (vote yes)

    craig Nelson
    craig Nelson

    4th rate minor league soccer won't invigorate anything other than sales of orange slices and the pocketbooks of the New York City private equity guys at FS Investors when they sell their 20,000th condo in Mission Valley from the free land they heist from the city under this flawed deal. 

    According to the City Manager the initiative does not even require they build the park or the too small to play football field. 

    Just say no to carpetbagging developers!

    BRYAN HERRING
    BRYAN HERRING

    SOCCER? The Mexican's will love it. Nobody else cares.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    The Mexicans? You are stereotyping and acting racist.  I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and not say you are absolutely racist, but you're getting there.  Plenty of non-Mexicans like soccer and I'm sure there are people of all nationalities, ethnic groups, creeds and religious groups who don't give a damn about the sport.

    Jose Cervantes
    Jose Cervantes

    @BRYAN HERRING Mexicans* No apostrophe needed. It's not possessive and there is no contraction needed. I'm sure you only speak one language. You should work on your understanding of it.

    bgetzel
    bgetzel subscriber

    There are so many questions that need to be answered by the developer, before people can intelligently vote on the proposal. Not the least of these is the precise definition of, and the cost of completing, the infrastructure improvements that would be the city's responsibility. Without that information, the voyers would be asked to buy a "pig in a poke". Let's take the time to know the pig better!

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    Thanks for posting. There is intrigue throughout the MLS expansion world.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Cohen: I think what these stories outline, among other things, is that absent valuable land that can be developed (in the San Diego case), the proponents of these projects typically want a lot of tax money. That the proposers in the San Diego case want no money indicates how valuable the land is to them. It's easy to say they will build a stadium for free if there is offsetting income to them, but what is not clear to anyone is exactly how valuable the land is. You only determine that by competitive bidding. Giving away valuable land is not a free transaction. There is a major cost of an unknown magnitude. An alternative scenario, for example, is that the city sells the land for $500 million with a codicil that X amount of affordable housing is built, Y amount of park space, etc. Is that an unrealistic amount of money? Maybe. Probably. But the point is that no one knows what we are giving away in terms of market value because we have not tested the market.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    @Chris Brewster Yes, FS Investors is not doing this for their health.  There is a profit motive. Nothing wrong with that.  When they first proposed their project they bragged about paying FMV.  A little later it came out that they would pay FMV with adjustments.  The devil is in the details, but a public bidding process would best determine what developers are willing to pay.

    Bruce Higgins
    Bruce Higgins subscriber

    If this is such a good deal, then we can take the time to fix the problems that the city attorney found in the initiative wording.  In addition the backers can find private funding for the infrastructure improvements the city must make for this to happen and they can address the traffic issues that all those apartments will bring.  The 'No Cost To Taxpayers' deal requires a great deal of government support on the back end to make this happen.  Lets make it a truly no cost deal, just like any private investment.

    Bob Stein
    Bob Stein subscriber

    From a rhetorical perspective, this argument is a classic use of a false dilemma and slippery slope.The writer is essentially saying that unless we vote now we’ll never get a soccer team.

    The falseness is in its assumptions and its lack of an examination of the issues.

    It assumes voters want a soccer team; that a soccer team is a good idea; that we only have one shot at it and it’s now; and that there’s no other way to draw a team or stadium to San Diego.

    It also assumes soccer is more important than the will of the people as expressed last November in the vote for Measure L.

    The question to answer is should we ignore the will of the people in order to bring a soccer team to SD?

    It is not should we override the will of the voter to show the soccer league we want a team?

    Bjorn Steller
    Bjorn Steller

    @Bob Stein I don't think that even with a vote you could force the NFL or MLS to send an expansion team to your city at any given time. If that opportunity arises, you either have an investor trying to make money of that deal or a city acting as so many have before and pay with tax dollars. We, the people, have shown that we do not spend taxpayer dollars on private enterprises. But sometimes you also have to show that you are willing to go with the timeline of others if you want something. This Mission Valley site is literally up for bidding and ideas now for 15 years. That is a very long time in any development cycle.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    I'm glad Mr. Pattnison is a soccer fan. I'm sure it provides him with great pleasure.  But soccer isn't the issue in Mission Valley.  It's real estate.  And what is being proposed through a Citizen's Initiative is a massive real estate development that includes on a small portion of the site a soccer stadium.  This development may be absolutely swell.  I'm not smart enough to know about potential economic benefits, but I do know that the use of a Citizen's Initiative is a clever way to get around normal planning processes.  Also, the fact that the MLS, via FS Investors, is putting a gun to people's head saying vote for it now or you will forever be missing out on our exciting and growing sport is insulting.  No community should be held hostage like that.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    I'm not really sure how thousands of condos on the Qualcomm Stadium site will "Reinvigorate the San Diego Sports Scene".  Along with a too-small stadium (23,500 capacity--without SDSU involvement).

    Bjorn Steller
    Bjorn Steller

    @David Crossley the capacity has been upped now to 30,000 seats but just for comparison kicks. In the big leagues in Europe where soccer is really big, Bundesliga, Premier Ligue, Liga A, La Liga have 18 - 20 teams playing in those lieges each. More than ½ of the teams in those lieges are playing in stadiums smaller than 25,000 seats. Very few exceptional stadiums seat 70,000 or more. Another example for the biggest sporting event in the world, The World Cup. The 12 stadiums used in the 2006 World Cup in Germany had 6 stadiums seating between 40k-49k, 23 stadiums of 52k capacity and 3 larger stadiums of 60-70k capacity. All of those stadiums are also used year round by the local teams playing 20+ games per season in that stadium. By all means a 30k seat stadium for San Diego appears to be plenty big and should be big enough for those true numbers of the Aztecs with 27,000 average per home-game what they have 6 off.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    Those overseas leagues (BPL comes to mind) get gobs of broadcast rights money, which allows teams that have a stadium that seats as few as 12,000 to participate in those leagues. MLS doesn't have that kind of money.

    And out of curiosity, has FSI actually said that they would build a 30,000 seat stadium without SDSU involvement?

    Molly Cook
    Molly Cook

    I'm confused.  If Soccer City won't cost taxpayers a dime - as Mr. Pattinson claims in his opening paragraph, what are we voting for on the proposed ballot measure?

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    @Molly Cook The public is required to vote on a Citizen's Initiative if enough signatures are gathered by the proponents of the Initiative.  FS Investors was able to do that, so it's up to the council to either approve the measure "as is", or put it up for a vote.  The claim of no taxes, which may or may not be true, is irrelevant when it comes to these initiatives.  Get enough signatures, you get on the ballot.

    Molly Cook
    Molly Cook

    @Robert Cohen @Molly Cook  thanks...I find SD politics more confusing than those in any other place I've lived.  I'm learning and paying attention, but the layers upon layers and old/new money intrigues here boggle the mind...

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    @Molly Cook @Robert Cohen It can be a strange place at times.  A while back I read this book called "Paradise Plundered; Fiscal Crisis and Governance Failures in San Diego".   The authors are Steven P. Erie, Vladimir Kogan and Scott A. MacKenzie.  I don't know these gentlemen personally.  I just picked up the book one day and found it an easy and informative read.  You may want to give it a shot too.

    Molly Cook
    Molly Cook

    @Robert Cohen @Molly Cook 


    Thanks, Robert.  "Under the Perfect Sun" was also recommended to me.  I have both these now on my list.  Meanwhile, it's a great place to live and I mean that!

    Jeremy Hansen
    Jeremy Hansen

    @Robert Cohen @Molly Cook Actually I think the requirement is that City Council must approve it or put it to a vote, the vote isn't the only option. FS Investors initially was going for the "approve it" path, but the criticism was "it should be voted on", so they were ok with that, to prove the public support, but they need it this year. The same critics who said "don't approve, vote" then changed course to "don't vote this year", because that benefits their interests. Consider that measure "C" last year had 300,000 voters (total votes, yes+no), the fact that over 112,000 resident voters signed the petition in under two weeks is fairly amazing. It shows a lot of support. But, that was when SDSU was "on-board" with the plan, so some will argue that the support wouldn't be as strong now. From the people I know, it didn't change their opinion at all..


    For me, the one thing I've learned, being here all my life, is that everything here takes forever. Even after approval, things get hung up for years in litigation and overrun costs because of it. It's quite ironic, the people who sue claim to be doing it in the name of the public, and in the end the public has been on the hook for all the extra cost overruns because of the delays from litigation (thanks a lot, stop trying to do things in my name, eh?) If this doesn't move forward, the city will be missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars while the land sits there for years, and when it does get developed the density will be much higher to justify the development due to the much higher costs (which happens simply from time passing). So doing nothing is politically easy but very, very expensive.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Jeremy Hansen @Robert Cohen @Molly Cook  --That's a nice story.  It really is.  There is no reason why the election can't be held when it should be, and that is November of 2018.  The deadline FSI and MLS have created for an expansion franchise in San Diego is artificial, as MLS is only adding teams 25 and 26 this year, and teams 27 and 28 will be announced sometime next year.  And there really is no hurry--witness the expansion fiasco in Miami that has gone on for 3 years, with no team or stadium in sight.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    You are correct that after the required amount of signatures the city council must either approve the project outright or put it on the ballot. You are also correct that FS Investors initially wanted immediate council approval but when MLS delayed the decision on expansion date to post November, FS Investors shifted to supporting a public vote, thinking that the vote would be held in 2017.