SAN DIEGO (AP) — Padres lead investor Peter Seidler is one of three prominent San Diegans interested in bringing a Major League Soccer expansion team to San Diego, apparently with the idea of eventually sharing a stadium in Mission Valley with San Diego State's football team.
The other two are retired Qualcomm executive Steve Altman and Mike Stone of FS Investors. They are joined by Nick Stone, who works for Mike Stone and is managing the project on their behalf. Nick Stone and Mike Stone are not related.
Seidler said Friday that he's intrigued by the MLS and what it could bring to the city.
"I think the league is strong, the commissioner, Don Garber is strong, and those things matter to me," Seidler told The Associated Press. "Ultimately, if there was a new soccer-focused stadium, whatever that means, I think it would be a really cool venue for San Diego, just like Petco Park has proven to be such a great thing for the city."
Seidler is a nephew of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley. Seidler's group bought the Padres in August 2012.
Getting an expansion team could be years away, and Seidler stressed there's a lot of work to do.
"I look back to when I first started thinking about the Padres. On the first day it's a longshot and it takes a long time for something like that to not be a longshot," Seidler said. "Cool things like this start with one step at a time. I think Mike's done a great job of analyzing it and thinking through the relevant business as well as community issues, and there's probably a little bit of positive momentum that hopefully leads somewhere. My personal opinion is that it would be great for the city."
Seidler said any discussions about bringing the MLS to San Diego are separate from the contentious issue of keeping the NFL's Chargers.
SDSU shares aging Qualcomm Stadium with the Chargers, who tried to leave for Los Angeles last year and are now attempting to get a measure on the November ballot that would raise the hotel tax to help pay for a downtown stadium and convention center annex. Team chairman Dean Spanos recently said that building a new stadium in Mission Valley is not an option. The Chargers have committed to remaining in San Diego through 2016. If they fail to get a new stadium built here, they have the option to join the Los Angeles Rams in a new stadium in Inglewood scheduled to open in 2019.
In April, SDSU endorsed turning the Qualcomm site into a campus annex once the Chargers leave Mission Valley. The stadium would be demolished and replaced with a smaller stadium. School officials envision the capacity at between 30,000 and 40,000 for the Aztecs and possibly an MLS team.
Former Padres owner John Moores had been interested in helping bring an MLS team to San Diego but no longer is after he was twice thwarted in attempts to buy clubs in the English Premier League, most recently Everton in February.
Moores, who has donated millions of dollars to SDSU, is part of a group that has pushed the Qualcomm redevelopment concept.
MLS spokesman Dan Courtemanche said he couldn't comment on the potential investors.
The MLS board of governors has said it supports expansion to 28 clubs, with a 24-team league by 2020. Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minnesota will join in the next three years and Miami, backed by David Beckham, is the likely 24th team.
MLS expansion guidelines include a local ownership group with the appropriate financial resources, a comprehensive stadium plan where the ownership controls the venue and a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events.
San Diego State declined requests for interviews with President Elliot Hirshman and athletic director Jim Sterk, saying it was too early in the process.
However, emails obtained by The Associated Press through a California Public Records Act request show that SDSU has been in contact with Mike Stone and Altman at least since April 2015.
Sterk also was in contact with what appear to be other potential investors or consultants. Among them is Jim Morris of JBM Properties of San Diego, who is athletic board co-chairman at UC San Diego.
In late November, Mike Stone emailed Sterk, copying in Altman, saying they should consider jointly sponsoring a proposed study, "with SDSU and MLS objectives in mind."
On Jan. 13, the day after NFL owners rejected the Chargers' plans to build a stadium in Carson with the rival Oakland Raiders, Sterk emailed Stephen Coslik, chairman of the Woodman Co., a Texas commercial real estate developer. Sterk indicated SDSU's position was to work with the city-county and MLS for a stadium seating 30,000 to 40,000. "Will see what city has stomach for with this new wrinkle. If Chargers stay they have said they would only work toward a downtown stadium," Sterk wrote.
Seidler declined comment on the SDSU connection. Mike Stone and Nick Stone declined comment.