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Sports Arena Renamed Pechanga Arena San Diego, But For How Long?

Ernie Hahn, General Manager of Pechanga Arena San Diego, speaks to the member...

Credit: Matt Hoffman, KPBS News

Above: Ernie Hahn, General Manager of Pechanga Arena San Diego, speaks to the members of the San Diego City Council, Dec. 4, 2018.

The San Diego City council voted Tuesday to approve renaming the building long-known as the Sports Arena in the Midway District.

The arena's previous name, Valley View Casino Center, expired on Nov. 30. That left the arena without a name until the Pechanga name was approved Tuesday.

Pechanga Arena San Diego was approved 7-2, but many of the council members seemed unhappy about the last minute process.

"I remember when we were discussing the naming rights for Qualcomm it came to committee, this didn’t, why?" said Councilwoman Georgette Gomez.

"I don’t know why it took so long," said Councilwoman Barbara Bry. "It’s just very frustrating. It shouldn’t be this way, that we’re making these decisions at the last minute with so little time."

"I just think this is a really dumb process and I hope we change it," said Councilman Mark Kersey.

"We’re under the gun because of what?" said Councilman Chris Ward. "Why wasn’t this discussed in committee last September, when you knew that this deadline was coming here?"

"I just feel like this one is like not a great deal," said Councilman David Alvarez. "I don’t know if anyone else feels this way and I feel like there could be more for the city."

The arena’s general manager Ernie Hahn said the Pechanga deal happened over a three-week period after a potential sponsor pulled out.

“The time sensitivity and why it’s here quickly is we’ve got literally 20 events that are going on… hopefully not coming from the no-name-arena.”

The arena is privately owned but sits on city-owned property. Under a 2002 operating agreement, the arena’s management negotiates naming rights which then requires council approval.

"The city under the operating agreement — whether you like the operating agreement or not — has essentially no role in negotiating any type of sponsorship or naming rights for this facility," said Councilman Chris Cate.

RELATED: Valley View Casino Center Ponders Future As Midway District Community Plan Moves Ahead

Pechanga Resort and Casino will pay $400,000 per year for the naming rights. Out of that, the city will pocket 10 percent or $40,000 per year. The deal under the Valley View Casino Center name was $300,000 a year.

"This is not a large amount of money for the city," Kersey said. "I'm sure there were good arrangements why this was worked out in 2002. I would hope moving forward that we can make this cleaner."

The name Pechanga will be on the building until at least May 2020, that is when the arena’s lease with the city expires. A recently completed Midway/Pacific Highway Community Plan calls for redevelopment of the land where the arena currently sits.

"Of course there’s a lot of options that might be coming down the pipe for the entire parcel," said Ward.

Gomez also pointed out the importance of the land.

"What happens to this location is pretty critical," she said.

Despite the push for redevelopment, the arena is trying to ink a deal to stay open through 2023.

"I’ve had a lot of conversations with Real Estates Assets about this extension over the last year and a half — two years," said Ernie Hahn who is general manager of Pechanga Arena San Diego. "So it’s not something we’ve just started talking about. We expect to be in front of the city within the next month with more details about that."

Currently, the San Diego Gulls, San Diego Sockers and the new Seals lacrosse team call the arena home. That’s in addition to 40 or so concerts a year.

"There’s a need for a new arena, we agree with that," Hahn said. "But in the meantime, this arena is doing well for everybody."

Hahn hopes to sign the new extension soon. He said the arena has events it wants to book past May 2020.

Pechanga Arena San Diego will be the new name through at least 2020 when the arena's lease expires with the city of San Diego — after that, the future is uncertain.

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