Efforts To Build Football Stadium In Los Angeles Moving Forward
The talk about building a new NFL stadium in Los Angeles got more serious this week. First, billionaire Phillip Anschutz said he would be willing to finance a new stadium in downtown L.A. if certain conditions are met. Plus, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn is leading efforts to fast track the Anschutz Entertainment Group's stadium proposal. What does this all mean to the Chargers? Which city will win the race to build a new NFL stadium?
Andrew Donohue, editor of voiceofsandiego.org.
JW August, managing editor for 10 News.
Bob Kittle, director of News Planning and Content for KUSI.
This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.
GLORIA PENNER: What's happening now is that there is a move in Los Angeles from a private individual to privately fund NFL football stadium in Los Angeles. And the question is whether that is an enticement that might make the Chargers decide that they really are going to spend their last year in San Diego in 2011, and move on from there, tell us about that, please, Andrew.
DONAHUE: For the last eight years plus, we have had this sort of other thanking looming over us in local politics and local affairs and local sports. The idea that the Chargers want a new stadium, and have sort of thinned to leave if they didn't get it. But over these last eight years, I think, the one thing that's been lost -- or two things that have been lost in that whole conversation, one is that there has never been a credible plan in another city that would move them away. So they had very little leverage in that sort of aspect. People talked about Los Angeles or San Antonio or LA, but there was never any real plan, and never any stadium being built anywhere else. The second part is that the Chargers never put forth a finalized stadium plan for the public or politicians in San Diego to say yes or no. It's all been talk and exploration and walking around at different sites. That changed, I think, this week, with the news that Philip Anschutz, a billionaire entertainment magnet had said he would finance this stadium in LA if a certain amount of conditions would be met. This is it a very serious man who owns sports franchises and stadiums around the world, and he is the one man who could actually get it done, and we are the -- Chargers are one of two teams probably that are primed to move.
GLORIA PENNER: Okay. But there are several other teams that might be in the running right?
DONAHUE: There's a couple, I mean there's the Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers, perhaps the Jacksonville jaguars, but I think the Chargers are the natural one considering they're the easiest out of their contract. They're closest, they have overlapping ban bases, etc., etc.
GLORIA PENNER: Bob Kittle.
KITTLE: Well, there's another threat that faces San Diego in terms of losing the Chargers, and that is that the governor wants to eliminate redevelopment agencies, and the plan that the Chargers and the city have been talking about is to build a stadium down close to the water front with redevelopment dollars, if the redevelopment agencies are abolished by the legislature, I frankly don't think they will be, but if they are, the hopes of building a new stadium in San Diego virtually evaporate over night. So if you take that combined with, as Andrew says, the Chargers have an easy out. If they had left last year, they would have had to pay 50 some million dollars on the bonds outstanding for the expansion of Qualcomm stadium. If they leave in 2011 and they have already made it clear that they're not leaving in 2011.
GLORIA PENNER: That's this year.
PLAINTIFF: That's right, they're not leaving this year bump the payment drops down to 25 million. Next year, it drops down even lower. So within a few years, it's almost as if the skids have been greased in terms of that commitment, making it easier for them to go somewhere else.
GLORIA PENNER: Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Are you horrified or pleased at the possibility that the Chargers might end up in downtown Los Angeles, pulled in by the temptation of a privately financed NFL football stadium? Again, 1-888-895-5727 P. And Bruce from Rancho Bernardo is with us, Bruce, you're on with the editors.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi, you know, I've weaned myself off supporting the Chargers starting years ago of it was clear to me from the very beginning that Alex Spanos has no commitment to San Diego. He doesn't live here, he's not a San Diego team supporter, he's just been trying to soak as much money out of the public coffers as he can using this team. You know, I think it's a foregone conclusion, he's out of here, bye-bye Chargers.
GLORIA PENNER: Okay. And thank you Bruce. Bye-bye, and thank you Bruce. What do you think about that, JW? Do you think that enthusiasm for the Chargers after all these years of talk about with will they stay, will they go, has really waned in San Diego?
AUGUST: Well, I don't think so. They still have a fan base. They may have some trouble selling out some games. They had some blackout issues this year. But the interesting thick about going to LA, there's a couple things if I may, first, let's try to watch how they sell it to the suckers up there, 'cause we can learn from that, they're gonna over state the benefits of building the stadium, and under state the cost that's gonna cost the citizens. So that's gonna happen here too. Of the second thing is, this guy says he's gonna put them up for free. But the fine prints, in order to have the foot print to have the stadium down this, they're gonna have to knock down some of the Convention Center. The Convention Center paid for by some of the taxpayers of Los Angeles, that they're still paying $48 million a year for, where's that money gonna come from? Now, the taxpayers have gotta pick that up. Does that sound hike it's a free ride?
GLORIA PENNER: Well, it sounds to me as though they would have to sell some bonds in order to be able to make --
AUGUST: But what do the headlines? Say? Oh! Lees putting the stadium up for nothing. No, these guys don't get rich by doing stuff for nothing.
DONAHUE: Yeah, that phrase, privately financed, any stadium is a huge misnomer. Because they found many different ways, it used to be, just sort of a cash subsidy, now, they do much more creative ways in getting land or entitlements or doing swaps or doing all sorts of things.
GLORIA PENNER: Bob Kittle. The.
KITTLE: I think what Andrew and JW are saying are very important cautionary notes from Los Angeles, but I didn't hear any caution from the LA City Council this week from the Anschutz plan was announced, it was, let's get this on a fast track, let's get it done.
DONAHUE: There's one really important thing to watch. Right now, the entire 2011 football season is in jeopardy. There is no labor contract between the players and the owners, well, the current one expires in March, they will from all indications very far apart. So what the league is saying that absolutely nothing can help with any team relocating until there is actually a new contract. So they're actually on the fast track in LA, and they want to get this done by March. And they might have a lot of clarity by March. But we might not even know if there's going to be a 2011 season in March.
GLORIA PENNER: When will we know?
DONAHUE: Well, the contract expires in March, but could possibly have notions going up until the fall, seasons right up to the fall.
GLORIA PENNER: Okay, let's hear from Tom in Escondido now. Tom, you're on with the editors.
NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, I've been in San Diego for about 30 years, and I've been watching -- I'm speaking from a, why would we keep the bawl team here in San Diego.
GLORIA PENNER: Sure.
NEW SPEAKER: It seems to me, they haven't wanted to say, they've threatened to leave several times, hey, if you don't pay we're leaving, they didn't file for several years, you know, if they want to go, if they want to go, they don't area about their fan base, why should they beg them to stay, from a fan standpoint.
GLORIA PENNER: Bob Kittle.
KITTLE: I want to set the record straight on one thing. The Chargers have not overtly threatened to leave, they have been very careful not to threaten to leave. The implicit threat has always been there, the handwriting is on the wall. But the Chargers, when you hear them speak, they have been very careful not to go there. Not to say, if you don't do this, we're out of here.
GLORIA PENNER: Well, perhaps they haven't said, quote, we're leaving, but it has -- the threat has been there, and they have done nothing to tamp it down, necessarily. Either I think -- I think it's a great point, there's a stadium expert who calling the NFL a cartel. For that very reason that they know they have that teams and they have 60 cities around the nation that want them, and they know they can play each other off, and can try to contract as much money out of these cities as they can, because, frankly, they always know that there's going to be another city that they can play this home city off of.
GLORIA PENNER: And JW, do you agree with our previous caller, you know, who said, at least he's hearing that they're not giving San Diego any promises that they're requesting to stay.
DONAHUE: No, they don't, but they -- again, Bob was write, they haven't said, hey, we're out of here, if you guys don't do this. Or they haven't done it publicly. They may be wrestling with the mayor in the back room and saying that. But as far as public consumption, they haven't done that.
GLORIA PENNER: But you mentioned the mayor, and we do have a couple of seconds left, who is his commitment here? What is -- what --
AUGUST: Well, the mayor said he wants the Chargers to stay, I think he's been pretty clear about that.
GLORIA PENNER: Yes, he has said that. But would he put himself on the line for that, Bob Kittle?
KITTLE: I think this mayor does not want to be named for losing the Chargers, but I noticed in his state of the city last week, the Chargers got one line, one quick line, and he moved on to his plans for the four. I think it's a very intractable situation to try to keep the Chargers by building a new stadium with $500 million in redevelopment money that the voters would have to approve. I don't see the voters approving a $500 million public subsidy for the Chargers.
GLORIA PENNER: Five hundred million, that's about the same amount that is a half of the projected deficit for the UC system.
KITTLE: Don't bring in issues like that, Gloria.
GLORIA PENNER: Okay.
DONAHUE: We're talking sports!
GLORIA PENNER: Okay, well, with that little warning from Bob Kittle, I want thank our editors for being with us today, Bob Kittle from KI, and from Ten News, JW August, and from voice of San Diego.org, Andrew Donahue. Thank you very much, thanks to our callers and to our listener business, and we'll be back with you again next week. This has been the Editors Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.