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San Diego State Athletic Director: University Explores Stadium Options After Split From Developer

San Diego State University surprised many people last week by withdrawing from discussions with the developer FS Investors. The developer was hoping to partner with the university on a stadium that could host soccer and college football games. SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker sat down with KPBS Reporter Erik Anderson last week.

Reported by Nicholas Mcvicker

Q: Where will the Aztec football team play?

A: We’ll see what happens after ’18. It could be going to Petco, it could be staying at Qualcomm. Our hope is that we can open a new stadium in Mission Valley, by September of 2020, that we’re playing in.

Q: How do you open a stadium (at) Qualcomm if you’re not already working with an investor?

A: Well, one, we’ve publicly said we can build a stadium right now. San Diego State University can build a stadium. We can finance approximately a $150 million stadium. We think we can build a $150 million stadium — 30,000 to 35,000 seat. We just need the property.

Q: This idea of an annex campus seems to be a pretty strong, driving, consistent point that the university has talked about publicly. Explain to me what that is and what you see that being.

A: I feel like I have a little bit of a unique perspective, having spent the last 17 months at Georgia Tech. And Georgia Tech had something similar where 20-plus years ago they’re bordered on one side of campus by the 75/85 interstate. Well, they jumped across the interstate and started buying up property. Built an overpass over the interstate, and now they have what’s called technology square. Their business school is located there. They have a lot of mixed use retail. They have a hotel, convention center. And they have a lot of commercial space that is leased to Fortune 500 companies that come in and do research and development, tech transfer, entrepreneurial ... and all of that is collaborated with Georgia Tech staff, Georgia Tech students, Georgia Tech professors. So you’re raising the image of Georgia Tech because you’ve got great research going on. It’s a draw for students to come in. It's an opportunity to get major corporations to come in and be apart of midtown Atlanta and be a part of Georgia Tech.

Q: Kind of an annex and ancillary campus for San Diego State, that has this technology park, maybe something like UCSD Connect, an incubator a tie in with the local life sciences industry, is that what you are looking at?

A: Yeah, I mean along those lines. You look at our Zahn Innovation Center. That’s something that could move down there and flourish. Whatever, as we look to research, and Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences building where that’s a lot of lab space and things like that where people can come in and do research and development. Whatever it might be. And it’s not something we’re ready to jump into in the next five years. It’s further down the road. It’s 20, 30, 40 years. But initially, we can go down there and build out space that’s thoughtful for what we would need. And rent that space and be generating revenue back to the university to help the university as a going concern. And then as we need the space, take it back over time.

Q: What do you think is the strongest selling point to the people in San Diego?

A: I mean, so many of our graduates are here in San Diego. I mean we are an economic driver. We drive tax base. We drive innovation. We are San Diego. So I would think there’s great pride in San Diego and seeing an economic driver like San Diego State University grow and flourish in the city to become that top 50 research institution that we want to become. It’s what people would want to see that their children and their children’s children have an opportunity to attend the great San Diego State University and get a degree.

RELATED: ‘Soccer City’ Economic Impact Could Be Huge

Q: Is the split (with FS Investors) final? Or is there a chance you could find some common ground in the future?

A: Again, we’ve talked for almost two years. We’ve outlined what our needs are in Mission Valley from both the stadium standpoint and the university. And quite frankly, it’s time to move on. It’s time ... we’re running out of time before what could potentially be on a special (election) in November. This city council still hasn’t said there’s going to be a special (election) in November. They actually have to act on that. So we decided it was time to move forward and we’re looking for a (request for proposal) process that the city council and the mayor’s office could lead and have an open and collaborative process in developing Mission Valley.

RELATED: SoccerCity Proposal Scores Enough Signatures To Qualify For San Diego Ballot

San Diego State Athletic Director: University Explores Stadium Options After Split From Developer

GUEST:

Nick Stone, partner, FS Investors

Transcript

SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker talks about the school's desire to have a new stadium and more room for its research programs.

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