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Design & Development

San Francisco exploring soccer stadium, Loyal to fold

London Breed

Featured image credit: City of San Francisco

The City of San Francisco has partnered with design and architecture firm Gensler to explore the potential of developing a new soccer stadium, while San Diego Loyal will depart the USL Championship amid ongoing venue challenges.

Mayor London Breed this week announced that the City is working on the conceptual design of a potential stadium that would be located on the site of the current Westfield San Francisco Centre downtown shopping mall.

Breed said the City and Gensler, which is headquartered in San Francisco, are conducting “some preliminary design work on what potentially is possible” for a stadium at that location, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Breed made her comments about a stadium after a speech to business leaders in which she emphasised progress she said her administration is making to revitalise the city’s downtown. “We of course want to give people an understanding of what could happen and get a developer and others excited about making investments into the stadium as a way to diversify what happens in the downtown area,” Breed said.

Breed highlighted the area’s strong public transport connections and suggested that a stadium with a seating capacity of around 25,000 could attract concerts, as well as professional soccer matches. “We hope to be able to share that information with the public fairly soon and potentially get the ball rolling,” Breed said, adding that “there has been a lot of interest in the Westfield mall” property.

San Francisco does not have a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, but the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in April awarded its 14th team to an investment group representing the Bay Area.

Bay FC last month announced it will call PayPal Park, home of MLS team San Jose Earthquakes, its initial home stadium when the team plays its inaugural NWSL season in 2024.

Conceptual renderings of a San Francisco soccer stadium have been reported by the San Francisco Standard, with a Gensler spokesperson telling the news organisation: “These are some early conceptual renderings by Gensler as part of its feasibility study solely for testing purposes.”

Stadium challenges spell end for San Diego Loyal

Meanwhile, in other California-based soccer news, USL Championship team San Diego Loyal will fold at the end of the current season after long-running struggles to secure a viable stadium plan.

Led by principal owner Andrew Vassiliadis and supporting owner, US soccer legend Landon Donovan, the Loyal joined the second-tier USL Championship in 2020 and has played its home matches at the 6,000-seat Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego.

The team has qualified for the USL Championship Playoffs two years in a row and is currently above the playoff line in the Western Conference standings. However, its long-term future has been questioned after MLS in May fulfilled long-held ambitions to place a team in San Diego, with the League’s 30th franchise to play at Snapdragon Stadium.

The United Soccer League (USL) announced yesterday that it will transition the franchise rights held by the Loyal SC’s ownership group after a “viable near- and long-term stadium solution” in the market did not materialise. The club has announced that 2023 will be its last season in the league.

“Having a modern, commercially viable stadium solution is vital to our clubs’ long-term success and is a pillar of the USL’s growth strategy,” said USL deputy CEO, Justin Papadakis. “Despite collectively pursuing multiple potential options with SD Loyal’s leadership in the San Diego area, an appropriate stadium solution has not materialised.”

In an emotional video message to fans, Vassiliadis added: “I’ve come to the conclusion that this will be the last season for San Diego Loyal. For those of you who got to know me, spent some time talking to me, you know how much this hurts for me to say. I love our city, I was born and raised here, and I will always be loyal to San Diego.

“I don’t see myself taking this project anywhere else, and I refuse to put an inferior product in front of you.”

The USL in June explained to TheStadiumBusiness.com the strategy behind stadium development across its membership. Papadakis added yesterday: “Bottom line, no matter how well a team performs on the field, having the right stadium situation is essential for all professional sports teams.

“We are working with our current and expansion clubs to develop soccer-specific stadiums that will ensure a strong commercial foundation for the clubs and give fans a place to call home for decades.”