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Chargers Plan To Pursue Downtown San Diego Stadium Project

Aired 2/24/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Chargers Plan To Pursue Downtown San Diego Stadium Project

GUEST:

Fred Maas, special advisor, Chargers Stadium Initiative Project

Transcript

Aired 2/24/16 on KPBS News.

In a Tuesday statement, the Chargers said they will pursue a stadium project in downtown San Diego, rejecting a proposed replacement for Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

The Chargers will pursue a stadium project in downtown San Diego, rejecting a proposed replacement for Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, the team said in a statement Tuesday.

The decision to pursue the downtown stadium, in conjunction with an expanded Convention Center, comes after a series of meetings with city and county officials.

The team said its goal is to win voter approval at the ballot box this November for the project. The city already spent more than $2 million planning for a stadium on the current Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley.

"We believe that a downtown multi-use facility will attract broad support from throughout our entire community," the team said in the statement.

Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said the arguments for Mission Valley were compelling in many respects.

"At the same time, we have considered the potential benefits to both the greater San Diego region and the Chargers of a multi-use stadium/convention center facility downtown," Fabiani said.

"The multi-use facility, when combined with Petco Park, the existing convention center, the Gaslamp Quarter and a revitalized East Village, would create an unparalleled entertainment and sports district that will host Super Bowls and will ideally be a permanent home for Comic-Con and a Comic-Con museum," he said. "All of our research demonstrates that voters are more likely to approve a multi-use facility that would generate economic activity on hundreds of days per year, including by attracting major sporting and convention events that San Diego cannot now host."

Fabiani said a downtown project would free up the Mission Valley site for potential use by San Diego State University and UC San Diego, both of which have eyed the property for years for expansion. The Qualcomm stadium site could also be used for a large riverfront park.

A coalition that includes former Councilwoman Donna Frye, lawyer Cory Briggs and the development firm of ex-Padres owner John Moores formed last year to push such a project. Their plans include building more convention center space not attached to the existing facility, so it wouldn't be the contiguous expansion sought by tourism officials.

The decision came after two weeks of talks between Chargers representatives, and negotiators for the city and county of San Diego — including Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Supervisor Ron Roberts.

Prior to those talks, National Football League owners voted to let the Rams return to Los Angeles, and rejected a joint proposal by the Chargers and Oakland Raiders to build a stadium in Carson.

The Chargers, which have a one-year option to be the second team, along with the Rams, in a future stadium in Inglewood, subsequently announced they would play the 2016 season in San Diego while trying to find a local solution to the stadium quandary.

Mayor Faulconer and Supervisor Roberts released the following joint statement on the Chargers decision:

“We want the Chargers to remain in San Diego. After consulting with numerous experts on stadium financing and conducting a large-scale public outreach effort last year we proposed a straight-forward plan to finance a modern NFL stadium at the existing Mission Valley site. That plan would build a new stadium without raising taxes.

Most experts we’ve talked to have concluded that building a stadium Downtown – on land not owned by either the City or the Chargers – would increase costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and take years longer to complete.

However, it now appears that the Chargers intend to pursue a stadium in Downtown. It remains unclear how the Chargers intend to finance a Downtown stadium. But it is abundantly clear that a ballot measure that raises taxes for a stadium must be approved by two-thirds of San Diego’s voters. This is an extremely high hurdle to clear. We remain committed to maintaining an open dialogue with the Chargers as we learn more details about their plan.”

At a news conference, Chargers stadium consultant Fred Maas said a joint project with the convention center could provide some "economies of scale" to lower prices. Team officials will explore their financing options to try to craft a financing plan that requires a simple majority vote.

Maas said the Chargers will have to file their initiative with the City Clerk's Office by March 24 in order to begin the process of collecting petition signatures to qualify for the general election ballot.

"We really focused on the opportunities — do we really want to replicate another Qualcomm, or do we want to try to do something really special downtown," Maas said.

SDSU officials declined to comment until they learned details of the Chargers plans.

With Qualcomm Stadium likely to be leveled if a new Chargers facility is built, school administrators would have to decide whether to build a smaller stadium for the Aztecs football team either on campus, the former Qualcomm Stadium site, or play downtown — a significantly longer trip for students.

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