A rendering from the proposal of the Midway Sports & Entertainment District team.

By Dennis Cruzan, Aruna Doddapaneni and Warren Smith

With a decision by the mayor and city staff expected in the coming weeks, San Diegans will soon know what’s in store for the city’s 48-acre Sports Arena property. We believe our plan, the Midway Sports & Entertainment District, will be by far the best of the two short-listed contenders to catalyze the long-desired revitalization of the Midway-Pacific Highway neighborhood.

Our plan works because it was created by San Diegans for San Diegans, because it’s anchored by a 12-acre park, because it leads with soccer, because it includes a refurbished or new arena, a live music venue, and much more. The public benefits are why our plan has picked up endorsements from the community, from labor, from business, from the soccer community, and from leaders like Bill Walton, Landon Donovan, Virginia Tinley, and Malin Burnham.

We designed MSED to honor our city’s active lifestyle, our local sports and innovation culture, and as a link between our two bays. It’s a place that will nurture and grow the adjacent craft district with its breweries and startup “maker businesses,” and as a neighbor to the future regional “grand central” transit hub on the NAVWAR site.

We started with a major open space concept as we sculpted our plan, centering it around a 12-acre public park that has rightfully emerged as the soul of the project.

Also critical and exclusive to our plan is that it will lead off with soccer, as the home of the San Diego Loyal Soccer Club for about a decade as the team grows its fan base large enough to build a permanent stadium or perhaps move to the new SDSU Mission Valley stadium. A modular stadium can be constructed and ready quickly, possibly in time for the team’s 2022 season, and it will immediately activate the Sports Arena site with soccer plus other pop-up uses while the plan’s other elements are being entitled and built.

Of course, a key question for San Diegans is what will happen to the aging Sports Arena. We first envisioned reinventing and modernizing the Sports Arena, working with designers with extensive experience in arena design and development to preserve the current arena and its history.

But once our proposal went public, feedback from the community told us that we also should explore a new arena. At the same time, sports facilities developers began to see the potential for a new arena in the middle of what they could see would be an incredibly vibrant place. We hired Erik Judson — a prominent sports facility developer and CEO of JMI Sports — to help us structure a deal for a new arena that doesn’t require taxpayer funding. Within days of announcing his hire, we had in hand a letter of interest from a major arena developer indicating their desire to build a privately financed arena. Erik was the lead developer of Petco Park and the soon-to-be-built SDSU Mission Valley Stadium.

Further good news for San Diegans is that our plan can be achieved without a public subsidy; no taxpayer dollars are required. The MSED plan includes prevailing wage for all construction trades and on-site affordable housing. Our team believes these community benefits can be delivered by structuring a public-private partnership with the city that appropriately balances the costs and rewards of the project.

So, what makes our plan better than that of Brookfield/ASM Global, our competition? To start with, the MSED proposal is all about public benefits. The Brookfield/ASM Global plan has just five acres of open space and nothing new on the entertainment front; it merely plans for a massive retail and housing complex – 590,000 square feet of commercial space — that offers little for the public and that, frankly, has no San Diego flavor and could be built anywhere in the world. Their proposal is even silent on plans for the Sports Arena. It’s also important to point out that nothing generates more traffic than commercial development.

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan lays out a vision that calls for a bespoke village environment, and to fulfill that, we assembled a collection of talented and experienced architects, developers and collaborators with different ideas and vision — but it’s backed by a master developer, Toll Brothers, with decades of experience and an impressive balance sheet to ensure we can bring our plan to life.

We will soon know the city’s selection for a team to make the most of this important site. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and our team is the one who strived to create something all San Diegans could enjoy and feel proud of. That’s why the MSED team and our plan will be the best partner for the city and the community to realize the full potential of the Sports Arena site.

Dennis Cruzan is CEO of CRUZAN. Aruna Doddapaneni is vice president of BRIDGE Housing Corporation. Warren Smith is CEO and co-founder of the San Diego Loyal Soccer Club.