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No surprise: Chargers owners pitch new downtown San Diego stadium

Proposed San Diego Charger stadium

To the surprise of no one, Chargers ownership is once again pitching a new downtown San Diego stadium instead of a new Mission Valley facility, saying that it would complement existing facilities and help attract even larger events to an expanded convention center.

Chargers ownership have been pitching a downtown San Diego stadium for over a year now, and there are some compelling numbers for a joint convention center/NFL stadium, as we noted earlier this month. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, on the other hands, is pushing a Mission Valley location next to Qualcomm Stadium as opposed to a new downtown San Diego stadium. As we wrote:

The Spanos family has indeed been pushing for a downtown Chargers stadium that costs more than a Mission Valley stadium would — but that downtown project would have some potential funding sources not available in Mission Valley, would generate far more income, and would potentially have a much higher payoff than a modest Mission Valley project. Plus, putting a stadium in Mission Valley could also preclude a proposed San Diego State University project that would have a much larger payoff than an NFL facility. In many ways, comparing the two proposals is a matter of comparing apples and oranges.

Let’s begin with a look at what’s being proposed for a downtown Chargers stadium. The team has been pushing a downtown Chargers stadium next the Gaslamp District and Petco Park, perhaps at the site of a current bus-storage facility. The cost of the project would approach $1.4 billion, but $600 million of that would go toward a convention center built as part of the facility. This project would have a development partner — JMI Realty, led by John Moores, former San Diego Padres owner and the impetus behind Petco Park — and it would also be able to potentially tap into hotel taxes as a funding source. It would continue the red-hot development in the greater Gaslight District, and it would also address what is perceived to be the substandard convention-center situation downtown.

In comparison, a new Mission Valley stadium would cost at least $1.1 billion, per the parameters set by Mayor Kevin Faulconer for a facility seating 67,500 with 120 suites, 7,500 club seats and 250 in loge boxes. He’s proposing the NFL and the Chargers pay $750 million, with the city coming up with $350 million. There’s no way the NFL would sign off on that deal — the Minnesota Vikings are paying 50 percent of the cost of U.S. Bank Stadium, and that percentage was considered very high in NFL circles for a smaller-market team.

Faulconer, in his defense, is looking at political expediency when it comes to a downtown San Diego stadium vs. a Mission Valley stadium: he thinks a new Mission Valley stadium can be built with no new taxes. But it could be challenging to come up with a financial plan that passes muster with voter this fall, but so much of what happens will depend on the details, and until any sort of plan is unveiled by the team and JMI Realty (John Moores’ real-estate firm), it’s hard to predict how voters, politicians and business leaders will react. And, of course, there’s a huge elephant in the room: the Chargers could go through all the work for a new facility, fail in the referendum, and still have the option of moving to Los Angeles to share a new Inglewood stadium with the Los Angeles Rams.

Here is the full statement from the Chargers:


We have spent the last month evaluating the leading San Diego stadium sites and financing proposals. During that time, led by Chargers Special Advisor Fred Maas, we have engaged in regular discussions with Mayor Faulconer, Supervisor Roberts, City Attorney Goldsmith, and City and County negotiators. And we have carefully evaluated the arguments made by the Mayor and others regarding the merits of the Mission Valley site. We agree that, in many respects, the arguments for Mission Valley are compelling.

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. 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. 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. The downtown multi-use facility would also free up the existing Mission Valley site for potential use by educational institutions such as San Diego State and UCSD, as well as for a large riverfront park.

For these reasons, the Chargers will begin collaborating immediately with the existing diverse citizens’ coalition led by Donna Frye and JMI Realty that has already been formed in favor of a downtown convention center expansion and educational and recreational uses in Mission Valley. Our goal is to win voter approval in November 2016 for a downtown multi-use stadium/convention center facility and to facilitate the best possible community uses for the existing Mission Valley site. We will deliver regular reports to our fans and to the community about the progress we are making.

We believe that a downtown multi-use facility will attract broad support from throughout our entire community. And we hope that, as our downtown proposal is developed and as the campaign for passage begins, those who have supported the Mission Valley site will keep an open mind and consider supporting what we believe is the best way to secure a permanent home for the Chargers in San Diego.

We are very grateful for all of the hard work that Mayor Faulconer, Supervisor Roberts and City Attorney Goldsmith have done on behalf of the City and County over the past few weeks and look forward to maintaining a dialogue as our plans move forward.

RELATED STORIES: Could downtown site make for a less expensive Chargers stadium?; Goodell: We’re working to keep NFL in Oakland, San Diego; Chargers staying in San Diego — for now; Chargers Los Angeles decision could come in days; NFL shuffle continues: Raiders to San Diego?; Rams to Los Angeles; Chargers can move, Raiders denied

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August Publications