City has to start over with Sports Arena/Midway redevelopment
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 07/18/21 - 09:00 AM | 4692 views | 9 9 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pechanga Arena, formerly Sports Arena, would be part of the redevelopment plan for the Midway District. PHOTO By DAVE SCHWAB
Pechanga Arena, formerly Sports Arena, would be part of the redevelopment plan for the Midway District. PHOTO By DAVE SCHWAB
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It’s definitely a do-over for redeveloping the former Sports Arena area in the Midway District.

“It’s very unfortunate but we have to start over,” said District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell’s chief of staff Venus Molina. “But this also opens up an opportunity to bring in a new project.”

Molina said Aug. 3 is the date set for the City Council to declare the 48-acre sports site at 3500 Sports Arena Blvd. as “surplus lands,” as required by the state’s Surplus Land Act.

Under the Surplus Land Act, local agencies are required to give housing developers, park districts, or public school districts the first chance to purchase and develop agency-owned land declared to be no longer needed for that agency’s use, as is the case with the sports arena.

In August 2020, a City selection committee picked a proposal by Brookfield Properties and ASM Global to redevelop the former Sports Arena property now known as Pechanga Arena San Diego. Brookfield and ASM plan to transform the arena site into a vibrant community with public parks, new homes, office space, and a modern entertainment venue generating approximately 3,200 jobs and an annual economic impact of more than $300 million. 

Declaring the Sports Arena area as surplus land is the first step in starting over in rebidding the project. “It has to be offered to affordable housing developers first,” Molina said. “But because of the magnitude of the project, I don’t think an affordable housing developer can take it (project) on by themselves.”

Added Molina, “Most likely, an affordable housing developer will have to be brought in as a partner with the major developer, which could be the same one. What will likely happen is it will end up as a similar project, but with at least 25% affordable housing included. Obviously, it’s not going to look the same now that we have to include 25% as affordable housing.”

Re-bidding and re-awarding the redevelopment project is going to take some time cautioned Molina. “We could do a bid process and have a winning bidder by the end of the year,” she said. “That’s moving really fast in government time. But hopefully, we can pull that off.”

The former Sports Arena was built for $6.4 million in 1966 by Robert Breitbard, a local football hero who played for Hoover High School and San Diego State University. The arena opened on Nov. 17, 1966, when more than 11,000 pro hockey fans watched the San Diego Gulls, then a member of the Western Hockey League, win their season opener.

Following Brookfield/ASM’s selection by the City last August, a broad-based 19-member stakeholder group named the Sports Arena Community Advisory Board has been meeting regularly to determine how the area will be redeveloped. The advisory board is comprised of merchants, military, residents, and transportation officials.

Point Loman Byron Wear, a member of that advisory board, said the group has “talked mostly about the big picture around the development, linking activity, and park space and how that might look and feel. We’ve talked about needing a good design, something that will be mixed-use and attract people. There is going to be housing and parking amenities, some kind of revamp of the Sports Arena, and Kobey’s Swap Meet continuing to exist there. There might be some outdoor entertainment space as well as some park space that might include sports facilities.”

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