San Diego’s New Arena Plan May Be Derailed

A California law could spell the end of putting a new arena in the Midway District.

In November 2020, San Diego voters said yes to a referendum that could have paved the way for a new San Diego arena. The new law would have allowed structures to be over 30 feet in height in the Midway District. In 1972, San Diego decided to limit development near the city’s coast line by not allowing structures over 30 feet in height. But all the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and the city’s plan could fall through because of a California law which requires public agencies and affordable housing developers to have the first option on a property being sold by public agencies. A proposed arena and arena village would go up on city of San Diego property that presently houses the current city-owned arena and that property would end up in the hands of a private developer. San Diego claims the city actually would lease the property and should be exempted from the California statute. But the state said the law applies to leased property.

There are people in San Diego who are pushing to do something about replacing the city’s 55-year-old arena and envision a Midway District building and entertainment district. But San Diego has an anchor tenant problem. The National Basketball Association is not interested in returning to a city that did not work for them twice and the National Hockey League is probably not going to be adding any teams. Additionally, the NHL would not be very interested in San Diego because the city does not have a large corporate community. There would be interest from minor league teams but an arena needs more than minor league sports and concerts to survive. Owners do need money because the COVID-19 pandemic has limited revenue, so expansion could be on the table.

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