Nick Stone introduces the “Wait for SD” campaign at the San Diego Polo Fields, where the Surf Cup youth soccer tournament was set to begin. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Updated at 3:15 p.m. July 24, 2017

Thwarted in its effort to secure a public vote on its plans in November, the backers of SoccerCity launched a “Wait for SD” campaign Monday to secure a Major League Soccer franchise.

The league has indicated it will award the next round of franchises in December, but the SoccerCity proposal will not go to a public vote until November 2018 because the City Council declined to fund a special election.

“There’s too much enthusiasm in the market to give up,” said Nick Stone, project manager for La Jolla-based FS Investors. “We think it’s worth fighting as hard as we can fight to secure a franchise.”

“No city in the Untied States is better suited for an MLS franchise than San Diego,” added, arguing that before the council vote, San Diego was at the top of the list for a new franchise.

The SoccerCity plan for the Qualcomm Stadium site would include a hybrid soccer and college football stadium, a park along the San Diego River, 2.4 million square feet of office space, 740,000 square feet for retail space, 4,800 multi-family residential units and 450 hotel rooms.

The project has drawn opposition from San Diego State University, which has eyed the site for its own expansion, and developers in the area with large housing projects.

Stone said the “Wait for SD” campaign would includes aggressive use of social media and stretch for 15 months, when the plan will be on the general election ballot.

He said the chance of convincing the league to award a franchise to San Diego despite the delay wasn’t a certainty, but “we don’t believe the odds are zero.”

FS investors had gathered 108,000 signatures in 12 days in March on its ballot initiative, requiring the council to either set it for a vote or adopt it outright.

The council on Tuesday is expected to vote on whether Qualcomm Stadium is “surplus” property, a move that would allow San Diego State or another developer to purchase it. However, the City Attorney’s office has said the council cannot make a decision on the property until there is a vote on the SocceryCity initiative.

An MLS spokesman issued a statement that said the league plans to announce two expansion cities, for the 25th and 26th franchises, by the end of this year.

“MLS has not yet determined the timetable for the selection of clubs 27 and 28, but also intends to set the timetable by the end of 2017,” the statement said.

— City News Service contributed to this story.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.