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San Diego's MLS expansion bid opts to put stadium deal proposal to public vote

San Diego's MLS expansion bid is confident its proposal for a stadium, which will require no public funding, will pass in a November vote.

St. Louis had no choice but to submit their proposal to a public referendum. San Diego didn’t necessarily have to go that route. After collecting the required number of signatures during a campaign this month, the bid fronted by local private equity investor Mike Stone (and including Padres managing partner Peter Seidler and new San Diego resident Landon Donovan) could have pushed the city council to decide on its own whether to permit the MLS hopefuls to build their arena on the Qualcomm Stadium site.

Instead, SF Investors and SoccerCity SD want their proposal placed on the November ballot.

“We think this vote will reflect in no uncertain terms the taxpayers’ overwhelming support for our plan, which will turn this city’s liability into a massive city asset with no taxpayer dollars,” Stone said at a Tuesday news conference.

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The SoccerCity group initially was reluctant to put their proposal to a vote because it feared the delay would ruin its chance of being awarded one of the two MLS spots awarded this year. But that’s no longer an issue. FS Investors told San Diego media that MLS won’t make its decision until after the Nov. 7 vote. While that certainly doesn’t contradict the league’s timeline—it always has said its deadline is the end of 2017—it confirms that no decision will come before then. With St. Louis’s exit, MLS will need all the time it can get to evaluate other bids.

SoccerCity is confident its proposal will pass. Polling has been decidedly in its favor and it’s asking for no public funding, as Stone indicated. The group wants to purchase the 166-acre Mission Valley property, which is city-owned, at market value. It then will demolish Qualcomm, split the cost of the new $200 million stadium with San Diego State, add mixed-use development and a 55-acre riverfront park and still leave space for a potential NFL stadium if that league opts to return.

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San Diego investors have told that they expect opposition from rival developers and perhaps environmental groups that prefer more parkland.