Kauf Drops: A City Full of Inaction, Entitlement

The fight for this real estate is ugly and there may be no end in sight. (Image: Minerva Vazquez, Wikimedia Commons)

“Attorney Mara Elliott recently opined that the SoccerCity initiative provides no guarantee that a professional soccer stadium or river park will ever be built….”

Those were words written by District 1 city councilwoman Barbara Bry back on June 1st in a piece for Voice of San Diego. It outlined her opposition to a re-development plan put forth by FS Investors, located in La Jolla, to tear down SDCCU Stadium (once known as Qualcomm) and build a brand new facility that would house an MLS (Major League Soccer) team as well as a new home for San Diego State football. Not to mention a total gut job of the Mission Valley area to put in new housing, retail, and a river park.

Here’s what Bry won’t say in the piece. Everything she wrote is based on an assumption. And, as we all know, assumptions are never based on fact. But she certainly seems to pass her assumptions off as fact in this piece. She even brings up the lack of a guarantee on an MLS team again in the very next paragraph.

“Ultimately, San Diego soccer lovers might turn out to support a plan that does not even guarantee us an MLS team. Without a stadium or a professional sports team, SoccerCity becomes just another development in Mission Valley.”

But the San Diego State plan she seems to want to get behind doesn’t guarantee an MLS team either so how does that differ from that of SoccerCity?

The simple answer is, it doesn’t.

The city assumed the NFL was bluffing when then commissioner Paul Tagliabue told the city that they need to completely update the existing stadium, or build a new one, or the Super Bowl would never be back. It was also the assumption that the Chargers would never leave San Diego because, come now, it’s San Diego.

How did those two assumptions work out for the city?

Isn’t it time this city council finally sit at a table and figure out how they can finally get something done? Isn’t it time for them to finally take some responsibility for what needs to happen instead of pawning it off on someone else?

They can blame the mayor all they want, there’s little doubt that he shoulders a lot of the blame on what’s happened over the last four years, but they can’t continue to point fingers or think that it’s someone else’s job to figure this out. It’s that kind of thing that has led to the inaction that has led them to where they are now.

“SDSU is well on its way to becoming a top 50 public research institution, and leadership is clear that this proposal does not meet their academic nor athletic needs.”

SoccerCity had a plan to build new student housing and an option for campus expansion as part of its re-development. But because San Diego State didn’t think it was enough they decided to turn their nose up at it and, along the way, compare themselves to University of California at San Diego (a UC school). A comparison that is not only a long way from factual but irresponsible as well.

“Consider that in the 1950s, the city gave land to UCSD and zoned the surrounding area for research and development. Over the decades that followed, UCSD and the surrounding research institutions laid the groundwork for our innovation economy.”

UCSD has nothing to do with Mission Valley so I don’t know why they are even being brought up in this conversation at all.

As for the athletic needs I wonder where Bry gets her assumption for that particular part of her thinking? SoccerCity, the plan run by FS Investors, had in their plans a brand new stadium that would seat 23,500 but expand 10,000 seats to 33,500 for San Diego State home football games.

That apparently wasn’t enough for SDSU as their plan wanted a standard 35,000 seat stadium, which they didn’t get close to averaging during home attendance in 2017 (28,619). While they reached that number three times (UC Davis, Stanford, Boise State) their season finale against New Mexico, a game that would be the final home game for the nation’s leading rusher Rashaad Penny, drew just 18,934. A far cry from what should have been a sold out crowd.

So how did SoccerCity’s stadium plan not meet San Diego State’s athletic needs?

“I wonder what San Diego might look like in 50 years if we took the time to thoughtfully shepherd a project that is economically beneficial, socially responsible and affirms our city’s identity as an international hub for innovation.”

You want to take 50 years to put this project together?

I’m all for “thoughtfully shepherding a project that is economically beneficial,” Ms. Bry but you and I both know that the city of San Diego, nor San Diego State, can wait 50 years to put this together.

  1. SDCCU Qualcomm Jack Murphy Stadium is already crumbling around itself and the council has already talked about tearing down before the 2018 calendar year is out.
  2. It will cost the city, and the taxpayers, millions of dollars to keep that stadium open, and empty, for that amount of time. Not to mention keeping it a complete eye sore to everyone who drives by it.
  3. Where will San Diego State play when/if you do tear that stadium down
  4. How will the San Diego State football program look to expanding athletic conferences if they have to bring in opponents to play in a old, decrepit, falling down, unsafe, stadium?
  5. A follow up to question 4 is what will that do to the athletic program if they lose money because they have to play in said stadium?
  6. San Diego State University can’t wait 50 years to expand the campus and that would hurt them in the long run academically.

“It is never a good idea to sign on the dotted line when someone is pressuring you with the threat of now or never. It would be a calamity to approve a plan because we were swindled into believing it is our only option.”

Because that argument worked so well with the NFL 14 years ago. Or almost 20 years ago if you go back to the first time they issued the ‘now or never’ ultimatum in 1999. The NFL said fix this problem or we leave was your only option. The city council balked.

And lost.

The words sound strong and might read well with the voters, Ms. Bry, but the problem is your arguments are full of holes.

The worst part of every argument for Mission Valley is this “fair and transparent process” everyone seems to throw around.

Fair to who? Transparent to who?

FS Investors has made themselves available to anyone who wanted to ask questions of the plan the put forth.

Isn’t that transparency? Or is it just that you didn’t like what they had to say so you wanted the type of ‘fair and transparent’ that you could agree with.

Let me be clear about all of this before we go on.

I don’t support one plan or the other. I don’t support one group or the other. I won’t sit here and say that SoccerCity is the only one that makes sense.

I grew up in San Diego and it’s a place I’m proud to call my hometown. I’m a die hard San Diego Padres fan and I remember sitting at Jack Murphy Stadium for the team’s final game before moving to Petco Park. I remember watching Steve Finley, Andy Ashby, Sterling Hitchcock, listening to Hells Bells while Trevor Hoffman came out from the left field bullpen (if you want to call it that) and Ryan Klesko hitting a walk-off home run in one of the very first home games when Petco opened.

I want San Diego State to be one of the best Group of Five football teams in the country. I want to see an Aztec win a Heisman Trophy Award (even though Penny should have been at least invited), and San Diego deserves to be excited about this team and the kind of football season they can put together.

But I won’t tell you what you want to hear. I will tell you what I believe to be true and what I believe to be true is there’s a particular university in San Diego says they want what’s best for the city of San Diego. What they really mean is they want what’s best for San Diego…..State University.

San Diego State wants you to believe that it’s about what’s best for the city of San Diego by telling people that people who graduate from there will stay in the city and the economy will benefit from it. Not that they can guarantee that but I’ll go with it. Where the two plans, SDSU and FS Investors, come apart centers on the stadium and what San Diego State wants. While it doesn’t seem to differ all that much you have to read between the lines but since a lot of people don’t read I’m going to show you the ‘between the lines’ reading so you don’t have to look for it.

  1. SoccerCity stadium plan is MLS with expansion for San Diego State football. It also leaves a parcel of land to build a new NFL stadium if the opportunity to bring another franchise back to town presents itself.
  2. San Diego State’s plan is SDSU with room for an MLS franchise and expansion for a possible NFL team
  3. The NFL isn’t coming back to San Diego and SDSU knows it.
  4. SDSU doesn’t care about recruiting MLS otherwise they would have stood with SoccerCity to try to get a deal done before the 2017 calendar year ended.
  5. SDSU spokespeople will tell you that MLS wait to make a decision on San Diego as long as possible (because balking at a professional team has worked before…..oh wait)
  6. SDSU doesn’t want a roommate. They want the marquee all to themselves.

Here comes the entitlement part of the piece where I tell you what rubs San Diegans the wrong way about this university and how they’ve handled this particular process for the last year.

When the Aztecs didn’t make it to the conference title game, something that came as a complete surprise to most who picked them to win the conference at the beginning of the year, they were chosen to go to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas to take on Army.

They weren’t happy about it and the San Diego media who covers them made that perfectly clear just days before the game took place.

San Diego Union Tribune’s Bryce Miller blamed the Mountain West Conference for where the Aztecs ended up. Because apparently the team shouldn’t take responsibility for getting run over by Boise State and Fresno State in consecutive weeks but I digress. After all, they beat Stanford and Arizona State during their non-conference schedule and that has to stand for something right? Let’s just forget Arizona State finished 7-5 and turned out to not be as good as some first thought.

“This is not a bowl reward for the Aztecs, not when 54 teams — 54 — were picked for games kicking off later on the schedule. This is not respect, not when your own conference scrambles at the wire to find a spot, any spot, for you to land.”

A reward for what? The Aztecs turned out to be the third best team in the conference and a post-season bowl game wasn’t reward enough? It was the actual bowl game that you turned your nose up at.

“You do zero good trashing the bowl that landed in your shell-shocked lap. Ditto for your opponent, especially when it’s a service academy.”

I think the trash talking of the particular bowl game you were going to be playing in got taken care of when you said that this wasn’t a ‘bowl reward.’ And as for not trash talking the opponent, ‘especially when it’s a service academy,’ Miller took care of that a few paragraphs later.

“Army is an 8-3 paper tiger with great tires — a run game preying on teetering tomato cans without a single victory against someone with a winning record and a loss to 5-7 Tulane.”

I wonder how Miller is feeling about that ‘paper tiger’ now? When you’re an athlete, or even a coach, you’re taught not to give the opposing team bulletin board material. I wonder if Miller may have missed that particular memo.

“You get the feeling Long would play a Power 5 team outside of a snowy bowling alley in Dayton, Ohio, tomorrow if it meant a chance to continue proving this is becoming a bring-all-comers program.”

If San Diego State wants to become a ‘bring-all-comers program’ maybe they should beat the Army Paper Tigers to start with. And maybe taking a shot at a service academy isn’t exactly the smartest thing to do especially since the guys wearing the football jerseys are more than football players, they are soldiers in the United States Army and I think they deserve more respect than this article gave them.

And just in case you were thinking that there was no entitlement in the article, well you just need to read a little further.

This team is better. It deserved better.”

This is the kind of entitlement that bothers people in the city of San Diego. They have no problem backing the football players on the field especially those who are completely ignored by the Heisman Trophy committee as well as those who vote on the Doak Walker Award for thinking that just because Rashaad Penny played for San Diego State that he didn’t deserve to be in the running for either reward.

That is the only entitlement this program should feel is on that particular subject.

“That, in a maddening nutshell is your Mountain West lot in life. In the end, as one astute Twitter poster ruminated: The Aztecs got “Mountain Wested.”

That’s not all they got, unfortunately.”

A piece that is written like that is done so under the assumption that San Diego State is going to win their bowl game against Army. It’s done on the assumption that a soon-to-be 11-win team deserves more than playing in the Armed Forces Bowl in a game most won’t be watching.

When said team loses the game to a team the writer calls the ‘Paper Tigers’ after complaining about the game they were playing in just looks incredibly bad.

Rashaad Penny decided not to skip the bowl game so he could stay healthy for a potential run at the NFL Draft. If he knew then what he knows now do you think he would have made a different decision? Or do you think the entitled SDSU fan base, after losing to Army, would have blamed their star running back for caring more about himself than the team?

The only problem is, the university cares more about itself than the city it resides in. Yet they ask for the city’s support in a plan when they have no clue how they’ll pay for the new stadium, when it’ll be done, or even where they’ll play their home games in two years if SDCCU Stadium is torn down.

They want your support. But they can’t even answer their own questions. The unfortunate part is the city council is just fine with the lack of answers and would rather support that than the answers they do have.

This isn’t what’s best for the city of San Diego. It’s what’s best for San Diego State University. The sad part is, a lot more people would respect the university if they were completely truthful about that. When people end up realizing that, if they win the vote in November of 2018, they’ll soon realize that what will be developed will only benefit the university.

San Diego State needs to expand. They need to continue to grow if the university is going to go where they want to go. This football program needs a new stadium and you won’t find anyone who will say otherwise. Not just for the betterment of the program’s future but it would benefit them greatly in recruiting as well as to potential conference suitors who are looking to expand. A new stadium would certainly make them far more attractive than they are now.

But the university wants to be first. They want to be the most important. They want to be the top name on the marquee.

I just wish they would be honest about it.


About Todd Kaufmann

Growing up in San Diego, CA, Todd made the move to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas in the spring of 2008. Since then, he has covered events such as the Byron Nelson Classic, the Colonial Tournament, the AT&T Cotton Bowl, numerous home games for the Texas Rangers as well as high school football around the metroplex. You can also find some of his written work in the weekly Prosper Times and monthly Prosper Magazine. He and his wife Kerri make their home in Little Elm, Texas with their daughter, Hannah, and yellow lab, Ranger. Contact: Website | Facebook | Twitter | More Posts

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