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Oceanside Council, Residents Discuss Chargers Stadium

The Chargers are negotiating with three cities in San Diego County for a possible new football stadium. Those cities include Chula Vista and National City in the South Bay, and now Oceanside up North.

Oceanside Council, Residents Discuss Chargers Stadium

The Chargers are negotiating with three cities in San Diego County for a possible new football stadium. Those cities include Chula Vista and National City in the South Bay, and now Oceanside up North. Last night the team got a glimpse at what people who live in Oceanside think of the idea. KPBS reporter Alison St John was there.

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said he cancelled an appointment somewhere else in order to appear at the Oceanside City Council meeting. The team knows however much money is spent on planning a new stadium, ultimately, the people will vote the plan up or down. 

Fabiani: We’re trying to do something that has never been done before and that is privately finance an NFL Stadium. We’ll see how far we get with this, and we’re excited about getting started and we’re excited about hearing what the people think about this tonight.

The project would not just be a big step for the Chargers, it would be an enormous leap for Oceanside. The city is already outgrowing its identity as a military town, the home of the Camp Pendleton marine base. Kim Heim, head of the business group, Mainstreet Oceanside, loves the idea of hosting the Chargers new stadium. 

Heim: This could be an extraordinary opportunity, a once in a lifetime opportunity for this city. It could really put Oceanside on the map.

But people like Frank Imbilly, a 50 year resident, are not so sure.

Imbilly: No, no no. This is not for Oceanside. I like the Chargers and I like them right where they are -- about 45 miles down the road.

It comes down to different visions for Oceanside. Nadine Scott speaks for those who love to live there because it is a small town beach community.

Scott: Chargers stadium is my worst nightmare. Chargers stadium will ruin my entire community. Mayor and council, use your common sense .a stadium will ruin our town and turn it into towns like Long Beach. Be patient , we’ll remain a smaller city like those of out more affluent neighbors -- Newport Beach Laguna Beach and San Clement. They are all beach towns like us, and remain popular because of their beach atmosphere. Not because of a concrete behemoth that will be with us for decades.

Support for the stadium came from women as well as men. Mona Merchans got into the competitive spirit and while mixing her sports metaphors, she urged the city council to take the ball and run with it.

Merchans: Please step up to the plate, accelerate, and give Chula Vista a run for their money.

Some at the meeting wondered if the Chargers’ decision to pay $200,000 for a consultant to work on Chula Vista’s bid meant Oceanside was out of the running. But the Chargers have spent millions already trying to convince the city of San Diego to cooperate on a new stadium at Qualcomm, and they are prepared to spend more on exploring all the options around the County.

Mendell Backnick warned that the city of Oceanside would be investing a lot too.

Backnick: The land is worth untold millions of dollars and we all have a warm fuzzy feeling when the chargers want to come and locate here, but it’s not going to be the Oceanside Chargers, it still going to be the San Diego Chargers - they’re just looking for a location and the location is on our parkland. 

Loss of open space and increased traffic were the two main reasons people opposed the stadium idea. Economic growth, jobs and national recognition were the main attractions.

Some, like Diana Nygard, said a stadium could turn out be a boon for the city, but sounded a note of warning, inspired partly perhaps by the infamous ticket guarantee in San Diego.

Nygard: Books have been written about how stupidly cities have negotiated professional sports contracts all across this country. And with all due respect you are no match for the millions of dollars that the Spanos organization can put into this to make sure they get what they want. Please get the help you need to make sure we get what out community needs.  

The head of Oceanside’s Chamber of Commerce, David Nydigger, was as practical as a good coach.

Nydigger: This is not the time for “what ifs” and “yea buts” - its way too early. Now’s the time for Oceanside to start spring training working on a game plan, develop our team. There’s a lot of work to do, in fact there’s years of work to do. Oceanside is up to the task

Indeed Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani also downplayed the idea a new stadium will happen any time soon.

Fabiani: Yesterday I spoke to a group of second graders. I joked with them that at the rate we’re going they’ll be able to vote on our stadium proposal 12 years form now.

Fabiani said he hoped it wouldn’t be that long. But the remark suggests a public vote on a new Chargers Stadium in any town in 2008 might be optimistic. Alison St John, KPBS News.