San Diego MLS expansion group aims to put stadium plan up for public vote

San Diego standing rendering - 2017 expansion bid

The group attempting to bring an MLS team to San Diego plans to put its proposal for a $1 billion stadium development at the Qualcomm Stadium site before city voters as part of a special election in November, it was announced on Tuesday.

FS Investors said they would ask the San Diego City Council to place their proposal on a Nov. 7 ballot rather than ask for outright approval of their development, which has been dubbed “SoccerCity.” In the plan, FS Investors would demolish Qualcomm Stadium – the former home of the NFL’s Chargers, who are set to play their first year in Los Angeles after leaving San Diego in January – and replace it with a soccer stadium and mixed-use development.

FS Investors announced last week that they had obtained more than 118,000 signatures in a 12-day drive to gain quick approval of their master plan and development agreement. According to TheSan Diego Union-Tribune, the group is planning on submitting the signatures for certification in “two or three weeks.” If the minimum required 71,646 signatures are confirmed, the measure must be presented either to the City Council to approve or to refer to city voters. A simple majority is required for passage.

The SoccerCity plan would be entirely privately financed by FS Investors. San Diego is currently spending $12 million per year in maintenance and debt payments on Qualcomm Stadium. According to the Union-Tribune, two San Diego-area development companies are opposing the plan and plan on campaigning against it.

“We think this vote will reflect in no uncertain terms the taxpayers’ overwhelming support for our plan, which will turn this city’s liability into a massive city asset with no taxpayer dollars,” FS Investors principal Mike Stone said in a news conference at the Qualcomm Stadium site on Tuesday.

Groups from 12 American cities, including San Diego, formally applied for an MLS expansion team in January. Four cities will ultimately be selected for expansion, with the first two set to be announced before the end of 2017.

Waiting for San Diego to vote on Nov. 7 would push the decision toward the end of that timeline, though MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche told the Union-Tribune on Tuesday that the league still plans on announcing its next two expansion teams by Dec. 31.

“MLS is in regular discussions with the ownership group looking to bring an expansion team to San Diego, and we are supportive of their plan to bring the soccer stadium proposal to a public vote,” Courtemanche told the Union-Tribune.