San Diego Sockers make plans to build indoor arena in Oceanside

The San Diego Sockers hope to build an indoor, multi-use sports arena in Oceanside. The plan, which would create a 5,000- to 8,000-seat building in the El Corazon SoCal Sports Complex, has reached the staff-review stage with the city.

If approved, the Sockers would cut long-standing ties with the San Diego Sports Arena, now operating as Pechanga Arena.

Sockers General Manager Sean Bowers said that in addition to the soccer team, the facility could host events ranging from concerts to CIF high school contests and championships.

“For sure, we’ll be a multi-faceted arena,” Bowers said. “The scope of what we’d like to do is broad. We want to evolve as an up-and-coming arena.”

City documents show that San Diego real estate-development company Sudberry Properties has handled planning and management of the project for Sockers ownership. Records indicate an addendum to the El Corazon planning document was filed May 28, adding “the word ‘arenas’ to allowable uses in the commercial recreation and entertainment districts.”

Bowers said the capacity of the multi-level facility could range from 5,000 up to 8,000, depending on the event, by adding floor seating, standing-room areas and more.

Asked if any other current tenants of Pechanga Arena could or would join the Sockers in North County, Bowers said he was uncertain. He was unclear if the AHL’s Gulls, the Seals of the National Lacrosse League or Strike Force of the Indoor Football League knew about the Sockers’ project.

“I know I haven’t had discussions with any of them,” he said.

Oceanside Mayor Peter Weiss offered one clue about whether or not hockey would be involved.

“I don’t think (the plan) includes ice,” he said. “At one point they were considering that, but they don’t have a user right now.”

The cost of the project has not been released and Weiss said he was not aware of financial projections. Owners David Pike and Carl Savoia were not able to be reached through a request with the team.

Confirmation of the plan surprised Pechanga Arena GM Ernie Hahn, who said he has not spoken with the Sockers about an arena initiative.

“I’d heard a rumor that they were working on a smaller building up there,” Hahn said. “Other than that, I don’t know anything about it.”

Hahn’s contract to operate the arena expires in May, and the city decided in August to negotiate a new operating lease with Anaheim Arena Management, which owns the Gulls and Honda Center in Anaheim. Any new deal would have to be approved by the City Council.

Bowers said owning a facility offers advantages for the Sockers, specifically by eliminating rent payments. A move also would allow the team to control its playing dates.

“We’re not a high priority on dates, so sometimes the Gulls pick their dates, then the Seals pick their dates,” he said. “Of our 12 dates, we have one or two Saturdays and the rest are Sundays. But the No. 1 reason is budgetary. Rent is our No. 1 line item. It’s a pretty good chunk of change.”

Hahn countered that operating a facility drives up costs, including payments for water and electricity, which the Sockers currently do not handle in their current home. He said the arena also has not charged the team for using parking lot space for an outdoor practice facility on days the main arena is booked.

Though conflicted about the possible departure of a tenant, Hahn said he understands some of the motivation.

“I like (coach) Phil (Salvagio) and Sean and the whole team,” he said. “They’ve been advocates for us, as we have for them. But if they have an opportunity to build a facility that’s the right size for them that doesn’t really compete with us, I tip our hat.

“We’re doing about 135 events a year right now and currently (12) of those are Sockers games. So it’s not a financial driver for us, really. We do it as sort of a civic deal with all the tradition, history there.

“But I hope if it happens, they let me know personally because that’s the right thing to do.”

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