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SDSU ends talks with ‘Soccer City’ investors

SAN DIEGO — San Diego State University announced Tuesday that it has ended negotiations with the group behind the Soccer City development proposed for Mission Valley, and called on the city of San Diego to issue a request for other proposals for use of the Qualcomm Stadium property.

SDSU officials previously expressed reservations about the Soccer City plan, which would include a joint soccer and college football stadium, a river park, housing and commercial space. The 166 acres became available when the Chargers announced their move to Los Angeles.

La Jolla-based FS Investors created the plan for the development, which could go before voters in November.

Last month, the developer turned in signatures in support of the project to the county Registrar of Voters. If enough are valid, the City Council will have to schedule a public vote or approve the plan outright.

“For well over a year, San Diego State University has engaged in discussions with FS Investors on a possible partnership opportunity at the Mission Valley site,” a school statement said.

“Unfortunately, a fair, equitable deal that would provide opportunity for the long-term success of SDSU and Aztec football, as well as a transparent deal for the citizens of San Diego, could not be reached.

Recently, Mayor Kevin Faulconer reached out to SDSU in an attempt to facilitate a deal on behalf of SDSU with FS Investors,” the statement continued. “SDSU reiterated our offer to purchase land and to provide our fair share of infrastructure costs, but still no agreement could be reached.”

Matt Awbrey, Faulconer’s deputy chief of staff & chief of communications, said, “We have been very clear that the city cannot afford to keep Qualcomm Stadium open past 2018 and the Padres have clearly stated that the Aztecs can only play at Petco Park for one year after that.

While we are still willing to engage with SDSU, this decision has unfortunately put the university in a situation where this process will move forward without their involvement.”

Nick Stone, Soccer City project manager, called the move a sad chapter in the saga of departing university leadership moving the goal posts.”

“Unbelievably, they continue to walk away from people trying to help them. It’s clear this decision will jeopardize Aztec football,” Stone said.

“One would have hoped an issue of this magnitude would warrant a meeting with the new administration, and yet the person making this decision will be at a new East Coast university safe from the aftermath his lack of leadership has created,” he said, referring to departing SDSU President Elliot Hirshman.

“Despite this announcement, we stand ready to work with new leaders at SDSU to support the long-term goals of an institution we care about deeply.”

On Monday, California State University Chancellor Timothy White appointed longtime SDSU executive Sally Roush, who had retired four years ago, as interim president beginning July 1.

Some observers suggested that Roush — experienced in university financial, real estate and athletics matters — could bring a different approach to the talks with FS Investors.

However, school spokeswoman Gina Jacobs told City News Service that Roush “was fully briefed and agrees with this approach.”

SDSU officials have long eyed the Mission Valley property for expansion in order to handle future growth. In its statement, the site is described as “a once-in-a-generation chance for SDSU to expand its research, tech transfer, collaboration space and other future needs.”

In March, SDSU presented Faulconer with a wish list that included 35 acres for campus expansion and an additional dozen acres for a stadium for the football team.

While Soccer City plans included a home for Aztec football, SDSU athletics officials considered the venue too small and contended that making it bigger in the future would not be financially feasible.

City officials plan to shutter Qualcomm Stadium after the 2018 football season. SDSU would probably play at Petco Park the following season.

The Soccer City backers — who include investment manager Mike Stone, former Qualcomm President Steve Altman and Peter Seidler, part of the Padres’ ownership group — said they will pay fair market value for the land, and won’t require taxpayer dollars. The Stones are not related.

While they would build the stadium first, they also plan to create about 55 acres of parks and open space, around 5,000 residential units, more than 2 million square feet of offices, 740,000 square feet of retail space and nearly 18,000 parking spaces.

The group has also applied to Major League Soccer for an expansion franchise.

The registrar’s office has one more week to verify the petition signatures.

Interviews with SDSU and Soccer City spokesmen:

SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker discussed the future of the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley with FOX 5’s Troy Hirsch. During the interview, Wicker said the school would like to expand its campus in that area and would like to have a 35-40,000 seat stadium.  Listen to his interview:

Landon Donovan shared his insights on the “Soccer City” plan to bring a Major League Soccer team and a new stadium to San Diego during an interview with FOX 5’s Troy Hirsch. Listen to his interview: