Aztecs Play Big Role in New Stadium Proposals

SDSU will likely be putting up a lot of cash for a new facility

The investment group attempting to build a new stadium in Mission Valley is expected to share more in-depth details of the plan, possibly as early as this week.

A lot has been made of the proposed new facility and how it would impact San Diego’s ability to bring soccer or pro football to town. What it means to the future of San Diego State’s surging football program has gone largely unexamined.

The Aztecs are being asked to contribute to a new build, as well, so they are going to play a big role in what a new facility looks like … or even if a new facility is built at all.

“I think the key is there’s a stadium involved and we definitely need a stadium in the future,” said new SDSU Athletics Director John David Wicker. “Qualcomm is not viable in the long-term. We’re excited to potentially have a partner in a stadium whether it’s this MLS proposal or whatever else may happen.”

Wicker says San Diego State will have further discussions with the local investment group vying to bring Major League Soccer to San Diego. One of the key topics is how much money the university would be pumping in to the project.

The number that’s been thrown around is $100 million and Wicker says that amount is viable for the school. The money would be raised through fundraising efforts. If the Aztecs are going to put up that kind of cash they will want a say in how big the facility is.

“30,000 is the number that’s out there,” said Wicker. “A little higher would be great. Expandable to 40,000 is a must but we’ve just begun conceptual designs. There’s nothing that says it can’t be a little bigger than 30,000 if need be.”

That is a negotiation that the MLS group seems willing to entertain.

Of course there is that other idea floating around. You know, the one that has the Oakland Raiders moving to San Diego and helping build a new stadium in Mission Valley for the National Football League, Major League Soccer and the Aztecs to share. Would Wicker get involved in that kind of project?

“We can support a stadium if it supports us. We’re excited to partner with whomever to put some money in but it has to be viable for us from a financial standpoint and an atmosphere standpoint.”

Atmosphere is where capacity comes in to play. If you put 37,000 people (that’s the average attendance for Aztecs games in 2016) in to a stadium that holds 68,000 the place seems like a mausoleum. If you put that many people in a stadium that holds 40,000 … all of a sudden that place is rippling with potential energy.

Head football coach Rocky Long says he has no say in the stadium plans but he certainly has an opinion on it.

“What they’re talking about fits us just fine,” said Long. “One that we can share that can be 30,000 to 40,000 people that we can get a full house and loud crowd so there’s energy in the building. It would be brand new with all the newest kind of equipment which would be easy to recruit to. It’s all good for us.”

Long has built the Aztecs in to a program that reached the Top-25 and is already drawing a higher-quality of recruit. Having a shiny new facility to show off could help SDSU grow in to a perennial Top-20 team.

“When anything you build is brand new and exciting and they see the bells and whistles they’re more likely to come here,” said Long.

Unlike the Measure C idea that the Chargers muddled their way through a year ago the MLS/SDSU proposal has at least one very important supporter.

“The plan that is on the table offers a lot of excitement,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer when discussing his ideal method of redeveloping the Mission Valley land where Qualcomm Stadium sits. “To me it’s always been about how do we make sure we have a permanent home for the Aztecs? To be able to combine that with soccer is great. How do we get the river park going for our community and for our families? How do we create something special with some mixed-used opportunity? So I think you start putting all that together and that’s the makings of something real special.”

The current proposal from the MLS group does include a park area that FS Investors founder Mike Stone says will be at the forefront of the project, not the end.

Faulconer also said he has had multiple discussions with the NFL about the possibility of the Raiders or any other NFL team moving to San Diego and does not believe an MLS/Aztecs facility would block professional football’s return.

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