With the San Diego Chargers on the verge of announcing their plans for a downtown stadium and convention center, a key roadblock to the plan could be moving toward being cleared.
According to a report that first surfaced on San Diego’s local NBC affiliate KNSD-TV on Saturday, the Chargers were targeting as early as Tuesday afternoon to reveal their $1.8 billion proposal, which would advance the process of getting the plan on the ballot for a public vote in November.
In what is being called a “Convadium,” the Chargers’ plan calls for a downtown stadium just east of Petco Park, home of the Padres, combined with expansion of a convention center in the East Village section of the city. The ballot initiative would call for a hotel tax hike to 16.5 percent to help fund the project, as well as roughly $650 million put up by Chargers owner Dean Spanos and the National Football League.
According to KNSD’s Derek Togerson, the stadium/convention center plan is more than just about finding a new, permanent home for the Chargers in San Diego. Next week, JMI Realty, which is working with the Chargers on the stadium project, is expected to release plans for a new West Campus for San Diego State University, which includes a stadium project for the Aztecs’ football team and the possibility of luring a Major League Soccer expansion team.
The site of this new stadium? The Mission Valley site that hosts Qualcomm Stadium, the current, outdated home of the Chargers.
But none of this stadium domino effect can take place without a critical contribution from San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). Currently, an eight-arce bus lot sits squarely inside the 15-acre stadium project site, a seemingly immovable object, both physically and bureaucratically.
But according to a report in Monday’s San Diego Union-Tribune, the MTS has indicated in a recent letter from General Counsel Karen Landers to Spanos that they are willing to negotiate a sale of the critical piece of land.
“MTS has no desire to impede or delay a convention center/stadium joint use facility project if the local community supports it,” Landers wrote in the letter first obtained by Voice of San Diego. “However, MTS must maintain its transit mission and its fiduciary responsibility to use its resources for public transit purposes. We believe that early collaboration and resolution of these important issues is the best way to ensure that the MTS board is able to support your project and agree to a negotiated sale of the (bus yard) property.”
But even if a sale were expedited quickly, the MTS estimates it would take 5-7 years to move the bus yard, which consists of a maintenance station for 180 buses and a management site, meaning the stadium project would likely not begin until roughly 2021, and would not be completed until 2023.
“Siting and constructing a new bus maintenance facility will require significant time and money because of the complications related to finding eight to 10 acres of industrial land near the downtown core with good ingress/egress, environmental and social justice reviews required by state and federal law, and competitive bidding requirements,” Landers said.
Chargers Special Counsel Mark Fabiani told the Union-Tribune on Monday that the team has not yet responded to the MTS letter.”We are focused on finalizing the initiative,” Fabiani said. “We will be in touch at some point (after) the initiative is published.”