By Raoul Lowery Contreras
Now is the time for all hundreds of thousands of men and women who have attended San Diego State University (or College if you are old enough) to create the greatest lobby ever seen in San Diego to snatch victory from defeat.
Goal: to save the stadium land in Mission Valley from the vultures who are circling above it since the Spanos family skipped town with the Chargers, leaving the 50-year-old Qualcomm (now SDCCU) Stadium to car dealers, swap meets and San Diego State football.
We must support San Diego State’s purchase of the land at fair market value — $82 million — so it can expand to 50,000 or more students. Montezuma Mesa by itself cannot fill the needs of the city and people.
50,000 students? Yes, that is what is needed to graduate 12-15,000 students-a-year — graduates that are critical to the 21st century local and state economy.
A 50,000-student population with 45 percent being historically underserved minorities — Hispanic, Asian and African American — along with facilities, staff and faculty necessary to serve that many students adds millions of dollars to the local economy. Billions over the long run.
For example, Amazon recently announced a search for a new headquarters city with a potential staffing of thousands. San Diego qualifies for consideration.
Add 12-15,000 graduates every year from SDSU and 10,000 from UC San Diego, plus more from Point Loma Nazarene, the University of San Diego and others, and bingo, Amazon can work here.
How much would that add to the local and state gross domestic product?
Overcrowding has been the SDSU norm since the 1950s; during my time (1958-1966) construction was everywhere.
When I visited the campus last year to attend a nephew’s master’s thesis defense, I was stunned. Every inch of what used to be open space or parking lot when I attended was built up — every inch. There is no more room to build at SDSU. Across town, UCSD builds on hundreds of still vacant acres of land it inherited from the old Marine Corps’ rifle-training facility, Camp Mathews. Its total campus size is 2,141 acres, compared to SDSU’s 238.
Thanks to Spanos family perfidy and short-sighted San Diego voters who couldn’t muster a 50 percent vote for a downtown stadium and convention center annex, the Mission Valley stadium property with its huge parking lot and massive game-day trolley availability sits essentially idle.
The former Qualcomm Stadium money pit annually costs the city $12-14 million in staffing and maintenance. San Diego State’s football lease expires next year. Where can it play then? In Downtown’s Petco Park?
San Diego must decide what to do with the stadium property. Should it sell to a private development called Soccer City that wanted the land to develop commercially and to partner with a deep-pocket San Diego State to split the cost of an inadequate, 30,000-seat stadium for a soccer team that doesn’t exist? It wanted to develop all 166 acres with housing, commercial space and a “river park,” leaving horrendous traffic problems and a few acres for San Diego State to sub-lease and build on. San Diego State bailed on Soccer City months ago.
The university is now asking the city for leave to buy 35 acres to build university facilities and another dozen acres upon which to build a stadium for 40,000 that could be expanded in the future.
The 43,000-plus Aztec fans who experienced the ecstasy of whipping 19th ranked Stanford University on a field it has played on for 50 years need to join State alumni in organizing to develop the stadium property with university facilities, dorms, a hotel and a modern major college football and soccer facility.
San Diego State is prepared to pay fair market value for the property: $82 million dollars. That is a good start. A stadium can be paid for with bonds State can issue under current California State University authority. No referendum is necessary.
Organizing a “Committee of 100,000 for SDSU Mission Valley” is needed concurrent with the planned Dec. 1 unveiling of San Diego State renderings of its proposed stadium. Privately financed dorms and a hotel, plus research and classroom facilities are part of the plan.
Some 81,080 people applied for SDSU admission in 2015. It needs more physical space. It could easily increase enrollment if it expands to Mission Valley; it can expand to Mission Valley if it makes a deal with the city.
This is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity; we cannot let it get away.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant and the author of “The Armenian Lobby & American Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade.” His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.
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