San Diego Chargers Not On Board With Mayor’s Stadium Plan
Faulconer says he knew the process would be a challenge.
Friday, January 16, 2015
Mayor Kevin Faulconer came out as a big-time San Diego Chargers cheerleader this week, promising to get a ballot measure for a new stadium before voters in 2016. But the team’s chief spokesman on the issue didn’t warmly embrace all of the mayor’s pronouncements.
The Chargers' effort to replace the 47-year-old Qualcomm Stadium began nearly 13 years ago. The first pitch was in April 2002 to then-Mayor Dick Murphy. The team proposed a $400 million stadium on the city-owned 166 acres where the "Q" sits now.
That proposal didn't go anywhere, nor did a couple of others. Along the way, the Chargers also announced they weren't interested in building a stadium anymore at the Qualcomm site.
Today, the most-talked-about location surfaced when officials began discussing a San Diego Convention Center expansion a couple of years ago. The Charges suggested building a new stadium downtown in the East Village that could also serve as convention space. But tourism officials argued an expansion needs to be contiguous, so the plan didn't gain much support.
Now that the plan for a contiguous expansion is in jeopardy, the mayor decided on a new way forward during his State of the City speech Wednesday.
Faulconer announced a group of "civic leaders" will study two options and drum up a funding plan by this fall.
“We will fight to keep our Bolts in America’s Finest City!” Faulconer said. The words were bold and underlined in a text copy of the speech.
The task force members will look at two locations for the stadium — the current Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley or one downtown that could be part of an expanded Convention Center, the mayor said.
“They will explore all possibilities to finance the project, with the clear direction that it must present a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers,” Faulconer said.
The latest price tag for a new Chargers stadium: $1 billion. Faulconer didn’t mention that figure in his speech, but he did call the team “an important part of the fabric of our community.”
On the Convention Center side of things, Faulconer said Steve Cushman, who chairs the Convention Center Corporation's board of directors, will "continue to lead on this effort."
Despite the mayor's rah-rah attitude about retaining the team, Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the president of the Chargers, said he was disappointed with the announcement.
"Over the entire time we have been working with Mayor Faulconer and his staff, we have only ever asked for one thing — and we asked for it at the very first meeting we had with the Mayor’s staff: ‘Please do not assign Steve Cushman to work on this issue; instead let’s try to find some new voices and fresh perspectives to add to this 13-year-long process," Fabiani said in a Q&A posted on the Chargers' website.
In the post, Fabiani claimed Cushman spiked plans for a new stadium in the past, including a joint-use proposal.
Faulconer said he knew the process would be a challenge.
"Ya know, I'll tell ya, I knew this wasn't going to be easy," he told KPBS in a phone interview. "If it was, it would've been done 10 years ago."
Faulconer said his focus is on finding a stadium deal that works, and that Cushman won't be on the task force.
“My commitment is to pick the site that works the best. No ifs, ands or buts," he said.
Faulconer will unveil the task force members later this month. Cushman could not be reached for comment.
KPBS' Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to Evening Edition segment of this story.
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