Friday, November 13, 2009
JOANNE FARYON (Host): The San Diego Chargers are more than half way through their football season. But as the weeks tick by, many fans and local officials continue to worry about whether the team will pull up roots and head north. That is, unless San Diego or another city in the county can promise a new stadium to the team. Joining me now to talk about this ongoing issue is Liam Dillon, staff writer for VoiceOfSanDiego.org. Welcome, Liam.
LIAM DILLON (Voice of San Diego): Thank you for having me.
FARYON: So why do the Chargers want a new stadium?
DILLON: Well it's been about seven years since they've been looking for one. And basically the deal is they don't feel that they could be competitive with some of the larger markets in the NFL unless they get new revenue that would come with the new stadium, from luxury boxes and things of that nature.
FARYON: So what are they looking at right now in terms site?
DILLON: Right now in terms of San Diego County, there's only one site left on the table at the moment, and that is downtown San Diego. This was announced a couple weeks ago, and the site is east of Petco Park. It's about 15 acres; it includes the Wonderbread factory building.
FARYON: And why there?
DILLON: Well, the team likes it because it saves a lot of money on infrastructure. I mean, they've been putting the stadium price at about a billion dollars. I spoke with the team's special council, the person in charge of the stadium search for the Chargers, this morning and he mentioned to me building downtown could lower the cost to about $750 million. So it's a big savings once you have transportation infrastructure, parking, things like that in place.
FARYON: What happened to cities like Chula Vista, Oceanside, even Escondido? Weren't they all talking about building a new stadium?
DILLON: Well, everyone is and the big hurdle that they all faced and none of them could get over is the financing issue, the money issue. And so, you know, the hope is if you have a place where there's infrastructure that's in place already, you'll be able to save some money like they have downtown, and that could potentially make the question easier to resolve.
FARYON: Now, isn't there a wild card in all of this, another city in Los Angeles County?
DILLON: Yes, the City of Industry in Los Angeles County just received a substantial boost from the governor in terms of waiving some environmental review that they would have had to do for a stadium project. And they're looking at wooing seven teams from the NFL to come to move to their stadium and one of those teams that they're targeting is the Chargers.
FARYON: So is this going to be our main compentition then if we're going to be talking about San Diego City wanting this?
DILLON: Well, for right now that's all that's left. I mean, every other deal in San Diego County is off the table at the moment so it's really a San Diego versus LA issue. Now it's important to note that the Chargers have said for seven years and are continuing to say that their number one priority, their only options that they're looking at are in San Diego.
FARYON: Now we keep hearing about the year 2011, that this is somehow the make it or break it year. Why is that?
DILLON: Well, the lease that the Chargers have with the City of San Diego for Qualcomm Stadium has an out clause every year. But in order to excercise that out clause, the team has to pay a buyout fee. Right now, that fee is in the $55 million range but once you hit 2011 it goes down to the $25 million range so that's a substantial savings the team would have.
FARYON: So what happens next in terms of this process?
DILLON: Well, we're looking really at the beginning of the new year. That's when the team hopes to have a preliminary financing plan in place for the City of San Diego, and that's also when LA's developers are looking to present their financing plans to all the teams in the NFL that they're targeting.
FARYON: We've been hearing about a lot of new projects in the City of San Diego: a new library, a new city hall, an expanded convention center, and now this. How likely is it that something like this, that would take some public money, is really going to get built?
DILLON: Well it's a matter of -- the idea that the mayor's office keeps talking about is different pots of money. So only certain dollars can go toward certain places. The library, for example, you'll have a state grant that could only go toward building a central library. And so that's the sell, is if you can get support for projects where the dollars either could only go toward this project or could only substantially go toward certain projects.
FARYON: Great, thanks Liam Dillon.
DILLON: Thanks for taking the time.