Redevelopment is coming to Sports Arena Blvd., but what will it look like?
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 02/28/20 - 01:00 PM | 2508 views | 4 4 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Point Loma residents are largely taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the City’s recent issuance of a request for proposals (RFP) seeking to redevelop, rehabilitate and operate the 48-acre site commonly known as the sports arena.

Currently, home to the Pechanga Arena, retail businesses and a parking lot, the six-parcel site is in the heart of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area. The area includes a large industrial warehouse district, a commercial strip and affordable housing expected to add about 10,000 more units over the next 30 years.

Under the terms of the RFP, the City will accept proposals from qualified organizations. Bidders can propose renovating and rebuilding the existing Pechanga Arena with new commercial retail, office and residential space offerings.

Walter Andersen of the nursery bearing his name at 3642 Enterprise St., said the arena “is a huge problem.” He asked, “Does it stay — or does it go?”

Andersen claims the Midway-Pacific Highway community has been getting mixed signals about the arena’s fate.

“For years they have said the Sports Arena is outdated and is suffering from settling and cracking, like ‘it can’t be fixed,’” said Andersen. “Then we hear they might extend the lease,” which he said includes DixieLine Lumber, the Salvation Army building, and the now-empty Pier One building.

“It’s a huge property that we (Midway planning) don’t want to be messed up,” continued Andersen. “They (City) have come to Midway planning showing concept drawings of residential developments, small commercial designs, canals with water features, many different things over the years. It’s like they have no ‘real plans.’” 

Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, recently completed its community plan update, the neighborhood’s blueprint for future development.

Cathy Kenton, Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group chair, believes the arena could use a redo.

“My understanding is it’s beyond cost-effective to try and renovate the existing facility,” Kenton said. “But if we are going to have an indoor sports facility, that is probably the best location. There isn’t another good location in the city.”

Noting she “doesn’t have a strong opinion” about how the arena is ultimately redeveloped, Kenton added, “The sense of the community during the planning process was that there are a lot of folks who would like to see some form of entertainment venue retained in Midway. What [RFP] calls for is mixed-use. It’s not going to be a tear down that leaves a big parking lot. It’s going to be a mixed-use community with one or more parking structures.”

The City said qualified RFP proposals for the sports arena area are due June 4 by 5 p.m.

“The City will accept proposals from qualified organizations that will help achieve the City’s vision of a pedestrian- and transit-oriented landmark that sustainably incorporates a mix of entertainment, office retail, residential, affordable housing, recreational, public and park/plaza uses and is looking to ground lease the site,” said City spokesperson Racquel Vasquez. 

Concerning whether the arena will be preserved or torn down, and whether current tenants — Kobey’s Swap Meet, Gulls hockey, Seals lacrosse, Sockers soccer, and Strike Force football — will stay or go, Vasquez said, “This will be up to the proposers.”

Vasquez added whatever changes are made to the arena will be “authorized by the City Council.” She added, “The City reserves the right to reject all proposals and re-issue the RFP.”

Today, the area is home to the Pechanga Arena San Diego on Sports Arena Boulevard. Besides sporting events, that venue is used for concerts and touring events like “Disney on Ice.”

Mayor Keven Faulconer welcomes a sports arena area update.

“This is an opportunity to breathe new life into the Midway and unlock its full potential as an entertainment district for all San Diegans to enjoy,” Faulconer said.

Of redevelopment, District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jen Campbell said, “This urban location, with its close proximity to downtown, could become a vital connector to our beach and bay communities while remaining a lively entertainment destination. If done correctly, Midway can become an example of how visionary San Diego can be.”

Pechanga Arena seats between 12,000 and 15,000. According to the venue’s website, the arena hosts 125 events and 750,000 visitors annually.

The venue first opened in November 1966 as the San Diego International Sports Arena. By 1970, it dropped the “International,” and became just the San Diego Sports Arena. The arena has changed names many times over the past 53 years.

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