People in Your Neighborhood: Meet soccer entrepreneur and La Jollan Noah Gins

PEOPLE IN YOUR LA JOLLA NEIGHBORHOOD:

Whatever happens with soccer in San Diego in the next few years — and something big is likely to — La Jollan Noah Gins will probably play a part in it.

In 1999, while still playing for the San Diego Flash, Gins took over the Albion Soccer Club, one of San Diego’s oldest youth leagues. Gins grew Albion from six teams to 140, and has since helped it place more than 300 college athletes. Gins also developed the Albion Pros in 2015, now renamed ASC San Diego, a top contender in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) that currently plays at Mission Bay Stadium.

Gins is hoping to see the first Major League Soccer (MLS) team in San Diego established in the not-so-distant future, and hoping that ASC San Diego will be it.

The Light chatted with Gins in his office overlooking Prospect Street, just two hours before news broke of a lawsuit filed by the La Jolla investment group funding the SoccerCity proposal to redevelop the former Qualcomm stadium site. (The lawsuit attempts to remove the rival SDSU West initiative from the ballot next November.)

So, yes, something big is likely to happen soon with soccer in San Diego.

What part are you hoping ASC San Diego will play in the San Diego’s soccer future? We really are trying to make ASC San Diego the household professional name for soccer in this city. We have huge aspirations as far as being that team and having a stadium and certain players that we want to sign professionally … But a lot of it is stadium development and there are different situations that could present themselves there. So I’m working different angles on that, because ultimately, you need a viable, professional stadium. It doesn’t need to be a 30,000-seat stadium. For soccer, it can be 8,000-15,000 for soccer and multi-use. We’ll see what happens there.

What do you make about the SoccerCity vs. SDSU West proposals?

Growing soccer in the City is definitely a good thing. I was supportive in working in some alignment with SoccerCity and FS Investors to potentially be involved with them. It’s still going to be on the ballot in November. So I don’t know that it’s dead in the water, but it's a long shot at this point. I think just the political landscape.

Is there an existing San Diego stadium now that can accommodate your vision?

The only one that really exists now is Torero Stadium at University of San Diego, which different sports are trying to allocate for different things. We’re talking to them and that’s an option, but it’s not the best option long-term.

How far out are you from achieving your goals?

Some stages are right in the middle, some are on the tail end and some are just beginning. ASC San Diego is two years in, as far as establishing the foundation of this pro team. But where we want to go with that, I’d say we’re 3-4 years out, in terms of getting to the league and the stadium and everything we want.

What are your proudest accomplishments with the youth club?

It’s one of the top youth clubs in America. Ariel Lassiter (of L.A. Galaxy) was a home-grown player. I actually coached him for six or seven years. And we have players playing abroad and nationally.

Why did the San Diego Flash fold?

It was actually very successful from ’98 to 2001. The owner, I think, had some pretty big aspirations. At that time, we were expected to be an MLS team and he was trying raise money to build stadiums and I think he just burned some bridges and didn’t get the money he needed. And, after four years, the team folded.

Which is better for San Diego, for a team to fold or for Los Angeles to steal it?

That’s a good question (laughs). I think I’d rather L.A. take the team.

How badly do you think San Diego wants a pro soccer team again — and can it ease the pain of the Chargers leaving?

I think the soccer community wants a pro soccer team here at the highest level, which is MLS. So, if that could be accomplished, you’re going to have an enormous amount of people who want that — from the soccer community down to sports fans. But if MLS is not achievable, then we’re looking at the USL (United Soccer League) and/or other alternative professional leagues, like the NPSL that we’re in.

Southern California is a great market, it’s a hotbed for soccer. It’s got more players playing, it’s got the weather, fields. It’s definitely a good place for the game.

There was another team supposed to start up in Oceanside, too, called 1904 FC. What’s happening with them?

NASL (North American Soccer League) has folded, so now, they don’t have a league to play in. So that has eliminated them, for the time being, as a competitor to us and what we’re doing and what we’re trying to accomplish. We kind of looked forward to a rivalry — especially if they were in North County and we were here and we were playing in the same league or potentially in different leagues with the ability to compete. It would have been great.

How did you know it was time to retire from playing?

The start of the pain in my knee was my first year in San Diego. I was working out — I think leg extensions — and from then on, it kind of carried. It was wear-and-tear. The cartilage was down to the bone, so it was just bone on bone. I was able to get through games, but training became very hard. I played three years with that pain. And so it just got to a point when it got too hard to play. And ultimately, San Diego made it very comfortable for me to stay here, and then I had the opportunity to take over Albion Soccer Club and build out that program. Between the knee, wanting to make San Diego home, and having the opportunity to transition from playing to coaching, I moved in that direction.

Why did you choose to live and work in La Jolla?

La Jolla’s just a beautiful, beautiful setting — being on the water and the green and the luxury of it. And people, I think, are very European, multi-cultural and very educated. And it’s quiet. It’s not a fast place. It’s relaxed. This spot is one of the jewels of the world. I always feel good here.

How long have you lived here?

I lived in the UTC area when I first moved to San Diego, by the Hyatt. When I played professionally, we were put up there. I lived in Mission Beach for a period of time, then moved to La Jolla when my son was born in 2007. He goes to Bird Rock Elementary.

That makes him 11 now. Does he play soccer?

He does, for me, for Albion. Same with my daughter.

Did they even have to try out?

Absolutely (laughs). No privilege, no politics.

— “People in Your Neighborhood” shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

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