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Chargers Meet With Escondido To Discuss Stadium Site

Audio

Aired 10/2/09

The NFL season is underway, and the conversation about where the Chargers will play football in the future has been renewed.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Three months and 13 games to go in the football season. The Chargers are 2 and 1. Now to fans, of course, that means they’ve won two games and lost one. Or it could mean that two local cities are interested in building a new stadium for the team and one outside of San Diego, in the LA area. So, Kent, let’s start with local interest. Both in north county. Is it true that both Oceanside and Escondido are now in discussion with the team?

KENT DAVY (Editor, North County Times): Well, yes. The latest wrinkle has been the – came to light that Charger officials had been talking or been talking for several weeks with Escondido city officials about the possibility of locating a new Charger stadium at the southeast quadrant of I-5 – or, I-15 and 78. It’s kind of in an industrial area part of Escondido, a spot that would be ripe for redevelopment by a Charger stadium. And, of course, that has Escondido city officials seeing all sorts of great possibilities. At the same time, there had been earlier, as long as two years ago, there’d been a discussion with Oceanside officials about whether or not the golf course at Goat Hill might be an appropriate site. That went nowhere but talks with Oceanside have been revived again with a suggestion of several months ago that perhaps the drive-in site near the airport would be appropriate. It does have an issue, however, that bears…

PENNER: Which airport is this?

DAVY: This is Oceanside’s airport.

PENNER: Oh, okay.

DAVY: It’s a small – a small strip.

PENNER: Okay.

DAVY: That FAA regulations don’t allow, I think, stadiums close and the stadium height would be an issue. Now the status of the conversations have to do with, well, could you site a stadium in one spot and perhaps open up land to develop because all of these deals have to have developable land in order to make the dollars work to build the stadium. You have to somehow give developers something to build, condos and retail and office space on.

PENNER: Okay, so those are the two local places. But, Miriam, there’s also a possible suitor in the Los Angeles area, the City of Industry, and it looks like the developer there, a guy named Ed Rosko – Roski is a friend of the Spanos family. So I’m just wondering, you know, whether that would give the City of Industry a leg up.

MIRIAM RAFTERY (Editor, East County Magazine): Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt, does it? I guess we’ll have to find out whether Mr. Spanos’ loyalties are to the bottom line or to the City of San Diego.

PENNER: Well, what charms does that locale, you know, a city east of Los Angeles possibly have for the Chargers that have been down in beautiful San Diego area for so long?

RAFTERY: Well, I certainly think the players probably wouldn’t like living in that area as well as they do in beautiful San Diego but I would imagine that the land is cheaper and perhaps the City of Los Angeles might offer them more financial incentives to come up there and make it an attractive proposition.

PENNER: Okay, Alisa, it looks as though the state legislature’s gotten involved now.

ALISA JOYCE BARBA (Western Bureau Chief, National Public Radio): Yeah, they have gotten involved. They’ve passed a bill which is going to make it easier for the City of Industry to build a stadium if they want to. I mean, there’s a powerful push in LA to get a team back. They’ve wanted one for a long time and they’ve oft – they’ve been courting the Chargers for a long time. And there is a certain sense that the relationship that the Chargers have with the City of San Diego, you know, the back and forth and negotiations, you know, it’s been a long, drawn out, arduous process and there is a sense that maybe they want a new spouse.

PENNER: A new spouse. Okay. Well, let me ask our listeners. You have a chance to get in on this. All right, Oceanside, Escondido, a combination of Escondido and Oceanside, or maybe it’s bye-bye Chargers up to the LA area. What are your thoughts on this? 1-888-895-5727, 895-KPBS. Alex in Rancho Bernardo is with us. Hi, Alex, you’re on with the editors.

ALEX (Caller, Rancho Bernardo): Hello. Thanks for taking my call. I think all the (audio dropout) how all three topics have to do with education but then you got to the Chargers stadium. I don’t see why they don’t put it in Santee or Lakeside. There’s ample land there. If you look on the map, there’s public transportation, cheap land, and there’s a huge fan base.

BARBA: Yeah.

ALEX: I think all this has to do with land grab. I mean, Chargers are basically trying to sucker City of San Diego the same as the Moores did and the Padres, you know, and then after they, you know, expand their values, they will end up just selling the Chargers team in like five, ten years to some other guy for ten times the price and the only losers in this deal will be City of San Diego or Escondido or Oceanside.

PENNER: All right, let me ask…

ALEX: So give up…

PENNER: Let me ask Miriam about this because she’s from the east county. What about Lakeside or Santee for Charger Stadium? Has there been any activity there? Any interest? Anybody talking about it?

RAFTERY: This is the first I’ve heard of it but certainly if the land was available it would certainly help boost our economy out in east county and put some of those out of work people back to work so I think it’s a fascinating idea.

PENNER: It’s all about money, isn’t it, Kent?

DAVY: Sure. The reason to go to LA is because you could be the team on LA television stations and it’s – it is the huge market that has no NFL team. It has had several in the past. The issues that I suspect the Chargers probably more are looking at with regard to both Oceanside and Escondido and the advantages would be the freeway access and the access particularly in the point of view of Oceanside to the Orange County market. To a lesser extent, I think that works as well if it’s in Escondido. It’s, oh, about 19 miles to cross the 78, also pulls in people from Riverside County, southwest Riverside County, so there’s a big, big potential market sitting there and one of the principle things there, can they move fans in and out easily.

PENNER: Okay.

DAVY: What’s the transportation like?

PENNER: All right. Alex, thanks for your call. Let’s hear from Jose in San Diego now. Jose, you’re on with the editors.

JOSE (Caller, San Diego): Last quick question. Why is it that the City of San Diego a couple of years ago rejected the Chargers’ proposal to take over the land of Qualcomm, tear it down, rebuild a new stadium. I believe they already had the investors lined up also. And sign over the rights of the new stadium to the City of San Diego and even take care of the maintenances. I understand that they wanted premium real estate, which is Mission Valley, but I would think that was the easiest and fastest way to get a stadium built.

PENNER: Yeah, and what do you think about that, Alisa? And besides, when they leave Qualcomm, they’re going to have to pay something to the City of San Diego.

BARBA: You know, Kent probably remembers the details better than I do but I don’t think it penciled out. I think in the end they weren’t able to get enough money.

DAVY: I think the city was unwilling…

BARBA: Yeah.

DAVY: …unwilling to give the kind of subsidy to the Chargers that would make that deal work.

BARBA: Umm-hmm.

PENNER: Wasn’t there also a problem with the land underneath? That there was a plume of noxious material underneath that had to be cleaned out? You don’t know about that.

DAVY: I don’t remember.

PENNER: Okay.

BARBA: Yeah, I’m not familiar.

PENNER: Okay. Last thoughts about this? Chargers staying here? Going bye-bye, what do you think, Miriam? Final thoughts.

RAFTERY: Well, as a Charger fan, I’d certainly like to see them stay and I know that it has to pencil out from them. Certainly, from the city’s standpoint, they were burned in the past on the Charger ticket guarantee so maybe they were a little bit gunshy about ponying up the amount of incentives needed to keep them here in Mission Valley, which I agree, would seem to be the most logical – the logical place for them and it’s central to our county.

PENNER: Well, you know, they’ve tried it with five of our cities, so far I count five, there’s still 13 cities left. So, you know, if they keep the conversation…

RAFTERY: Talk to Santee.

PENNER: …keep the conversation going, who knows, they may strike gold in one of our other 13 cities.

DAVY: We didn’t talk about the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

PENNER: That is true. Okay, Kent, final thoughts?

DAVY: I think that ultimately Chargers probably stay here. I think that they are shopping. They’ve still got some time before they have to come to a decision and it’ll take about four years to get a new stadium built. I don’t know whether this Escondido thing’s a real possibility but I think it – it is certainly worth everybody talking about.

PENNER: Well, my understanding is that next season, year – the season 2010-2011, that’s when the Chargers’ payment to the City of San Diego would be half of what it would now be if they left now so might that be the time that we see a decision? What do you think, Alisa?

BARBA: You know, as you said, it’s all about the money and I think that they will be courting their best suitor. We’re going back to my earlier analogy. They’re going to be looking for the best spouse in this.

PENNER: Okay, well, thank you all very much. Thanks to Miriam Raftery of East County magazine, and from NPR, we thank Alisa Joyce Barba for visiting with us. And Kent Davy coming down from north county, the North County Times. Appreciate it very much. I want to thank our listeners and our callers. Remember, you can go to our comment page, that’s KPBS.org. Go to the Editors Roundtable page and leave your comments. This has been the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.

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