Central Valley Fuego publicly made its case to the Fresno City Council on Thursday, presenting its vision for integrating minor-league soccer and revitalizing a downtown in the doldrums.
The prospective soccer franchise has been in negotiations with city officials for months seeking to purchase Selland Arena, Valdez Hall and the adjacent parking lot to build a soccer-specific stadium.
Fuego President Chris Wilson outlined the plans for the property, which includes a 7,500 seat stadium in the parking lot, an active Selland Arena that will be open for sporting events and concerts and the transformation of Valdez Hall into an indoor sports center.
“This project is more than just a real estate transaction, it’s a cultural advancement to our city,” Wilson said. “The Fuego and the City of Fresno have an amazing opportunity here to be able to lead into the next generation of sports and developing the youth in our community.”
Thursday’s presentation marked the first time the Fuego moved these negotiations in front of the public. Previously the Council had only discussed the sale during closed session.
Following previous actions, Council members refrained from discussing or debating the proposal during open session, instead opting to discuss the deal after the fact in closed session once again.
With both sides being unable to strike a deal up to this point, Fuego owner Juan Ruelas directly pleaded his case to the Council in the hopes of pushing the negotiations forward.
Ruelas also asserted that he has the financial means to purchase the property – the price has not been made public – and does not need the city’s help to do so.
“My motivation for developing an entertainment hub started many years ago after seeing a lot of the Fresno families traveling outside of Fresno to find a place where their kids could play competitive sports,” Ruelas said.
“My vision for the project is to have Selland Arena and Valdez Hall transformed into an entertainment hub for concerts, conferences, graduations and community events.
“I humbly tell you that I do not need nor want to borrow money from the city to fulfill my vision. I have the financial resources and the financial backing in place to remodel, construct and operate this facility.
“Please give me the chance, give me the opportunity to develop an entertainment hub for the families of Fresno.”
At least one additional proposal for the Selland Arena site has been rumored: USA Wrestling, the governing body of Greco-Roman wrestling in the United States, is believed to be seeking out the arena as a potential site for competitions and training.