The Heart of SoccerCity SD
Posted on May 1, 2017
If there’s a question about the future of sports in San Diego, chances are really good that the SoccerCity SD proposal may be the answer. By now, most San Diegans have heard of the planned live/work/play development in the heart of the city that will rise from the dust that was the former home of the San Diego Chargers — Qualcomm Stadium. The concept was presented in such detail so quickly after the Chargers announced their exit that it was clear a significant amount of groundwork had been laid prior to its big reveal. That the timing coincided so closely to the Chargers’ news was unintentional; simply a result of the city’s deadline for any proposal to be filed. “It ended up being very coterminous, but that was an accident, honestly,” says Nick Stone, Partner at FS Investors, whose founder and managing member, Mike Stone (no relation) has been a driving force behind the project. FS Investors is part of the larger group, Goal SD, that’s leading the campaign to bring the project — and Major League Soccer — to San Diego.
The SoccerCity SD proposal covers virtually every angle of the development and addresses practically any opposing argument. The multi-use venue will play host to more than soccer, eliminating any off-season dormancy. A stadium provides a new, desperately needed long-term home for San Diego State Aztec football with a “meet-you-halfway” price tag from FS Investors. Taxpayers won’t foot the bill; the project is privately-funded. And upon completion, the site will deliver what the project’s backers have dubbed “The Ultimate Live Work Play San Diego.” What the plans can’t show is the heart at the core of this plan, driven by a group of people who share a love for the city of San Diego, a love and appreciation for family and a goal to unite the two through this project, and a willingness to put their own money where their mouth is to boot.
Meeting with three of the handful of key players in this project — Stone, celebrated soccer pro Landon Donovan, and Steve Altman, the former Qualcomm president who’s now a senior advisor at FS Investors — provides a better understanding of the deeper “why” for the people behind the plan. To say this trio is a powerhouse team is an understatement. Stone is a Harvard alum with a Stanford business degree and a delivery so reasonable, logical, and heartfelt it seems impossible to find any flaw in the plan. Donovan, who only recently settled in San Diego, has a soft-spoken demeanor that is in direct contrast to his larger-than-life soccer persona. Altman’s generous contributions to business, education, health, and charity in San Diego are already well known and celebrated.
It’s very clear talking to the trio that this is not just another investment deal. “It’s for the city,” says Altman. “I’ve been here since ’83, my kids were born here, this is the city where we’re going to live for the rest of our lives.” Stone echoes the sentiment. “There’s a group of investors around this who really care about the legacy that they’re leaving behind. They want to walk their kids and grandkids through this in 20 years,” he says. “That piece of the equation for me is really relevant.”
For Donovan, who recently joined FS Investors as a partner in the project, his interest was originally sparked by the soccer aspect but quickly evolved into something much more. As a new San Diegan, Donovan explains, “I’m not a SDSU fan naturally, but I have a son and one on the way. I don’t know if they’re going to be soccer players, but they may love birds, they may want to walk through a river park one day and hang out there all day and then go play on the soccer fields that all the community can use. The soccer piece was enticing enough, but there are so many pieces that are really exciting.”
The mixed feelings that longtime Charger fans had losing their beloved team were shared by Altman, who admits that he will be developing his soccer fandom. “Unlike these guys, I haven’t yet become a soccer fan, but there’s no doubt that once we have an MLS team here and a stadium that’s built and designed for it, I’m going to be a bigger fan than these guys if that’s possible,” he laughs.
While there are many milestones to be met before the projected first kickoff in 2020, all signs point to the plan’s continuing momentum. “Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet,” says Donovan. “This nails that on the head.” soccercitysd.com Deanna Murphy
Portrait: Photo by Vincent Knakal Renderings courtesy of Gensler