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San Francisco business owners divided on downtown soccer stadium plans

John Konstin Jr., who co-owns John’s Grill in Union Square, said a soccer stadium would boost foot traffic and improve the city’s economy. | Source: Eddie Sun/The Standard

A preliminary plan to turn the struggling San Francisco Centre, formerly the Westfield mall, into a soccer stadium was recently touted by Mayor London Breed as a way to revitalize the city economy. 

Local business owners and storefront managers around the mall—who all said they’ve seen a decrease in foot traffic compared with pre-pandemic times—have mixed thoughts on whether replacing the retail space with a stadium will draw consumers back to Downtown.

READ MORE: Downtown San Francisco Soccer Stadium Plans for Former Westfield Mall Revealed

Among the hopeful is John Konstin Jr., who co-owns John’s Grill, a staple in the neighborhood that’s been around since 1908. He said a stadium would be a boon for business, and he is optimistic that city officials and developers will work together to get it built. 

“[A stadium] would make the Downtown area complete,” he said. “You’d have an entertainment venue space with all the restaurants, bars and shops in the area. Think about 25,000 people in the area and what it would do for business.”

But other managers are skeptical a stadium would do much to bring more foot traffic to the neighborhood. 

Elias Gonzalez, the manager at Mel's Drive-in on Mission Street, doesn't think a soccer stadium would boost foot traffic in the area. | Source: Eddie Sun/The Standard

Elias Gonzalez, who’s managed the Mel’s Drive-In on Mission Street across from the mall for 10 years, said an event space would only draw customers for games or shows and would diminish business during weekdays.

Gonzalez added that city officials would be better off refocusing their priorities. 

“The first step is cleaning up the streets,” Gonzalez said. “You can have a nice stadium, but if the surroundings are bad, then people won’t want to be there.”

Jade Cordero, a barista at Caffé Centra in Union Square, said city officials should focus on addressing crimes and homelessness before building a stadium. | Source: Eddie Sun/The Standard

This sentiment was also reflected by Jade Cordero, a barista at Caffé Central, a coffee shop on O’Farrell Street just north of the San Francisco Centre. 

“[City officials] should do something about the crimes and homelessness in the area first before doing all this development,” Cordero said.

Jarrod Jones, the assistant general manager at Delarosa Downtown, a pizzeria down the street from the mall, said a soccer stadium may help, since the restaurant tends to get more customers during Giants and Warriors games. 

Jarrod Jones, a manager at Delarosa, said the pizzeria gets more business during Giants and Warriors games. | Source: Eddie Sun/The Standard

But Jones also added that the city should focus on “cleaning up Downtown, cleaning up the Tenderloin” and devoting resources to programs for the homeless population before building a stadium.

Breed spoke briefly on the soccer stadium plans during a meeting at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. Previously, Breed touted the idea of turning the mall into lab space.

City officials and architectural firm Gensler are working on preliminary plans and a feasibility study for the soccer stadium. Renderings for the project, which are conceptual and likely far from what a finished product would look like, were obtained by The Standard.

Numerous stores have closed in San Francisco’s Downtown core, many of whose owners cited unsafe conditions in the area. The new Ikea that opened Wednesday nearby on Market Street announced that the store will feature round-the-clock security.