San Diego State University plans to build a stadium near the site of its current football home, SCCSU Stadium. (Getty Images)

They’ll sell naming rights and premium seating, serve as owner’s rep for stadium project

San Diego State University has hired the team of Legends and JMI Sports to sell naming rights and premium seats and to serve as owner’s representative for the school’s new football stadium project, sources said.

Derrick Grice, San Diego State’s executive associate athletic director for the Mission Valley development, could not confirm the information. An announcement could be made today on the firms selected, Grice said.

Legends and JMI have strong connections in the market. CSL International, which is part of Legends, has already conducted market research for the proposed 35,000-seat facility. JMI initially consulted on the project.

In addition, Erik Judson, JMI’s chief executive officer, spent 10 years with the San Diego Padres and was principally involved with the development of Petco Park, the Padres’ ballpark, which opened in 2004.

Grice said officials are finishing the stadium budget, which has been estimated at $250 million.

San Diego State, part of the Mountain West Conference, plans to build the new facility on a site just northwest of SDCCU Stadium, where the NFL’s San Diego Chargers played for 50 years before moving to Los Angeles in 2017.

A mixed-use district is part of the project, to include an 80-acre park along the San Diego River; 4,600 residential units an innovation district situated south of the stadium, tied to the university; and a hotel/convention center. The stadium site sits about five miles west-northwest of the school.

The total project, including the new stadium, covers 132 acres. University and city officials are still negotiating the sale of the property, Grice said.

The goal is to break ground next spring and open the stadium for the 2022 season, he said. The Aztecs have played at SDCCU Stadium, formerly Qualcomm Stadium, since 1967.

School officials plan to fund stadium construction through the sale of bonds, philanthropy, ticket sales and other stadium-related revenue such as naming rights and the sale of premium seats, he said.  

San Diego State selected Gensler to design the stadium after Populous, the architect for Petco Park, completed a preliminary design and renderings were issued for public consumption.

“The reason we chose Gensler is because we liked their innovative approach,” Grice said. “They brought some new ideas to the table. One of our goals is to create a stadium unique to San Diego, one that will provide the best possible environment for college football but equally as good for professional soccer, concerts and civic events.”

Gensler’s headquarters in Los Angeles also played into the decision, Grice said. Populous has an office in San Francisco but nothing in Southern California.

“The projects Gensler has done and their sports background, and what they did with Banc of California Stadium in LA, Chase Center and The Star in Dallas … we felt they were the right partner.”

San Diego State’s facility will be designed to Major League Soccer standards with the flexibility to add a roof canopy should the city land an MLS franchise, he said. The school has had initial conversations with potential team owners to bring pro soccer to San Diego, according to local reports.

School officials are looking to Banc of California Stadium, the $350 million home of LAFC, for inspiration in terms of its premium outdoor spaces and Southern California vibe in general, Grice said.

“The steepness of the bowl and creating an intense atmosphere stands out,” he said. “They did some unique things with premium areas for various levels of patrons. Those are some aspects we’re hoping that we can help elevate what we’re doing in the stadium for our fans.”

Petco Park’s use of local food vendors and use of the architecture and landscaping native to San Diego is another good example for San Diego State to emulate, Grice said.

In the college space, Apogee Stadium, the 7-year-old home of North Texas State football and the first LEED Platinum college facility in the country, is a model, he said. Grice worked at the Denton, Texas, school for three years before going to Georgia Tech. He spent three years there before San Diego State hired him in February.

“There’s a lot of different venues that we’re looking to pull inspiration from,” Grice said.