Bottom Line: Against formidable odds, Southwest Strategies launched a successful ballot measure to secure the much desired San Diego County Credit Union Stadium (formerly home of the San Diego Chargers) property for San Diego State University (SDSU), guaranteeing future students access to a world-class higher education.
January 2017 signified the beginning of a dark time for San Diego: The San Diego Chargers announced they were moving to Los Angeles, leaving a vacancy in the hearts of diehard fans, as well as the city’s SDCCU Stadium and 180-acre parking lot in the heart of Mission Valley. Making matters worse, a group of out-of-town investors were already working behind the scenes with San Diego’s leadership to secure development permits in order to create SoccerCity, an entertainment project featuring a shopping mall and a new soccer-specific stadium for a potential Major League Soccer team. When it became clear that the SoccerCity plan was actually a massive giveaway of public land that sidestepped normal environmental review, public input and city oversight, Southwest Strategies joined local stakeholders to forge a path ensuring three objectives: 1. SoccerCity would be subject to a citywide vote on the November 2018 ballot; 2. SoccerCity would be defeated at the ballot box; and 3. An opposing ballot measure would be developed – and ultimately passed – to better serve the San Diego region.
As the new group of SDSU boosters emerged with a competing vision, our team went to gather research that would hone a successful opposing initiative that the community would embrace. The result was the SDSU West initiative, which would allow the popular and well-supported university to expand its existing landlocked campus.
With our concept for a competing initiative in place, our next steps were to get both initiatives on the ballot, while simultaneously building community support for the new SDSU West initiative. Efforts included:
- Diverse support coalition development
- Earned media engagement to drive visibility and ensure favorable coverage
- “SuckerCity” television commercial campaign
- Aggressive digital advertising campaign
- Fundraising for SDSU West campaign
Our initial round of outreach secured spots for both SoccerCity (Measure E) and SDSU West (Measure G) on the November 2018 ballot. With limited time left on the clock, our team moved to our final play: the No on E, Yes on G effort. Our strategies included:
- The broadest supporter coalition in SD history for SDSU West
- 115 community events
- A suite of collateral, including videos, testimonials and promotional material
- Traditional and nontraditional tactics to compete against opponents’ exponentially larger budget
Despite being outspent by a margin of nearly 4-to-1, SDSU West prevailed at the ballot box. Construction is now wrapping up on the new Snapdragon Stadium which is anticipated to be complete by September 2022. Additionally, crews are expected to begin construction on the affordable housing developments and the new university campus later this year, transforming Mission Valley into an education and research hub, and cementing the university’s legacy as one of the region’s most valuable resources.