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Massive rent hike looms for SDSU Football

Posted: 5:16 PM, Jul 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-23 23:41:34-04

San Diego State University could soon be forking over a lot more money to play football at SDCCU Stadium in Mission Valley.

The University and the city are nearing a deal that would increase the Aztecs' rent from about $90,000 a year to more than $1.1 million, plus revenue from concessions and parking all to the city. 

"If this were a 20-year lease and we were signing it, it would be different, but this is two years," SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker said in an interview. "We'll make it work."

The city had previously discussed plans to close the aging venue after the 2018 season, but this lease would extend the Aztecs' stay through 2020. Wicker says the university will be able to handle the lease without raising ticket prices or student fees. The city is losing millions a year keeping the aging venue open. 

SDSU is currently in a heated political battle over the future of the 166-acre site. 

The University wants to turn the land into a West Campus, with a new 35,000 seat football stadium.

"We have an SDSU Mission Valley plan that talks about a great stadium and a great river park and a campus expansion and mixed use retail and residential," Wicker said. 

SDSU is competing with SoccerCity, a privately funded venture to transform the stadium into an entertainment district with housing, offices, and a stadium for a Major League Soccer team.

"As we saw with the Chargers, San Diegans can love a team but not want to provide multimillion-dollar annual subsidies for them; that’s why SoccerCity is 100 percent privately funded and also provides a solution for Aztec Football without asking taxpayers for a dime," Nick Stone, of FS Investors, which created Soccer City, said in a statement. 

Laura Fink, a spokeswoman for the No On SoccerCity campaign, said the proposal suffers from a lack of transparency.

"The fact is, the out of town hedge fund billionaires behind SoccerCity want taxpayers to write them a blank check," she said. "They want taxpayers to pay to fix traffic, to fix environmental contamination and to give them the land at a price that SoccerCity sets behind closed doors."

San Diego voters will decide in November. 

A memo from City Councilman Scott Sherman, whose district includes the stadium, says San Diego is losing about $6.6 million just operating the stadium, so he isn't certain yet whether he will support the new lease. 

Sherman endorsed SoccerCity because he says it will generate more tax revenue for San Diego. 

In a statement, Craig Gustafson, a spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer, said the lease would help keep SDCCU Stadium operating beyond this year. 

"The SDSU contract expires after the 2018 season so this new agreement was negotiated to increase revenue to the City and keep the stadium open in the near-term for Aztecs football and other revenue-generating events," Gustafson said. 

SDSU currently pays the city $1 in rent for every ticket sold. A city staff report says it works out to about $90,000 per year. The Aztecs averaged about 28,000 fans per game in 2017, but students get in for free.

The new $1.1 million lease goes before the city's Smart Growth and Land-Use Committee on Wednesday.