Port considers adding more entertainment attractions on Harbor Island

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SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — In a sharp turnaround from the prevailing thinking ten years ago, the Port of San Diego is now actively seeking to add more entertainment options to Harbor Island, rather than the mega-hotels once envisioned.

“It’s a really exciting time. We have a really unique opportunity,” Shaun Sumner, the Port’s Vice President of Business Operations, told ABC 10News in an interview Wednesday. “(East Harbor Island) hasn’t been available to the public in 70 years. It’s been industrial uses. It’s been rental cars. Things that the public can’t get to.”

Port leaders have long since planned to redevelop the property, most of which is currently used as a parking lot for rental car companies. However, the original plan was to allow multiple large hotels on the site. When TopGolf expressed interest in the property in 2015, the Port was not especially interested. However, after multiple “false starts” with hotel developers, the Port began to rethink the impact of going with a sports/technology/entertainment venue instead.

“It really began to get our attention focused on maybe what we should be focused on is increasing the length of stay, giving them something else to do,” Sumner said.

The TopGolf project cleared another hurdle this week when the Port commissioners approved a non-binding negotiating period on a 20-year lease with options that could extend that to 40 years.

Sumner says having TopGolf on board as an anchor tenant opened the door to reconsidering the entire property as a new entertainment district. “We started getting inquiries from other potential operators who said ‘Hey, I hear you’re working with TopGolf, can we be close by? What’s going on?”

A report by Port staff suggested multiple styles of entertainment venues, including pickleball, mini-golf, bowling, and arcades. Sumner envisions any potential operator would include indoor and outdoor use of the site, as well as dining options. It’s a concept dubbed “eatertainment”.

The TopGolf project is projected to get a final vote from commissioners by the fall of 2024, which construction possible by late 2025. Sumner says the other possibilities should move at a faster pace, with the entire entertainment district possibly done by 2028.

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