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With Case Still in Limbo, Chargers Boast Stadium Project

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

The San Diego Chargers are continuing to pitch their stadium-convention center project, arguing that the team’s presence will make for a more vibrant convention scene.

One of the underlying concerns for some is the potentially harmful implications of having both events and Chargers’ games at the same time. Chargers chairman Dean Spanos, however, argues that the two can work in unison.

The team tapped consultants to recommend some design and scheduling processes that could make the project easier on both sides. For one thing, the Chargers claim that they can work with the NFL to make the team’s schedule known well advance for convention organizers, and would undertake the same approach for potential weekday games.

Two other areas addressed are taxes and the development of another convention center. An argument from some stadium opponents is that the increase from a 12.5% to a 16.5% hotel tax will stifle the tourism economy, but the Chargers and their consultants have presented a counter argument. More from the San Diego Union Tribune:

In repeated surveys, “taxes paid on hotel rooms doesn’t make the top 25” of the chief concerns among planners and convention attendees, said David O’Neal, the head of Conventional Wisdom, a consultancy that has advised hundreds of projects around the world.

Not incidentally, O’Neal ran the nation’s largest convention center in Orlando through four expansions, to its present size of 2 million square feet.

He said that big conventions like Comic-Con, always a minor share of the market, are becoming fewer and smaller. At 385,000 square feet, the second center the Chargers propose for San Diego would help the city grab more of the mid-sized conventions that dominate the U.S. market.

Events at just the new convention center side of the project could boost revenue for downtown hotels by $60 million a year and produce enough demand for lodging to support construction of 800 new rooms, the consultants estimate.

The timing in this instance is a bit curious, though perhaps not coincidental. The Chargers are releasing these results as San Diego hosts Comic-Con International. Comic-Con has grown beyond the convention center and is hosting some of its events at other locations in San Diego, but organizers have made it clear that they are not a fan of the proposal for the stadium/convention center and that they still prefer a contiguous expansion of the existing space.

Speaking of timing, the fate of the Chargers’ plan may still hinge on a ruling from the California Supreme Court on whether the proposed tax increase requires either a two-thirds or simple majority for approval. City attorney Jan Goldsmith has made it clear that he wants the court to reach its decision before November, but his attention right now is on a different case.

Goldsmith is arguing that the court’s decision in a pending case involving marijuana dispensaries could affect the Chargers. In Upland, the California Cannabis Coalition collected signatures to trigger a special election on whether three dispensaries could legally operate through a $75,000 licensing fee.

The City of Upland, however, argues that imposing a fee is no different than a tax, which would require placement on the general election ballot. In Goldsmith’s opinion, a ruling on this case could have an implication on the Chargers. More from The Press Enterprise:

In his letter, Goldsmith said San Diego city officials need resolution on the matter — for approval, how many votes do the November measures need?

“Accordingly, I write this letter to request help that only this court can provide — to make an expedited final determination … in the Upland case,” Goldsmith’s letter to the chief and associate justices says.

Attorney Roger Jon Diamond, who is representing the coalition, said he was contacted by Goldsmith, who asked if he opposed the request.

Diamond said he does not.

“I’ve never seen it before,” Diamond said, referring to an outside party asking for a case to be accelerated. “It’s a very bizarre situation where two subjects are linked in a very strange way.”

Goldsmith added that, even if the court cannot reach a decision in the Upland case by November, that it needs decide how the Chargers’ initiative can proceed. Along with the Chargers’ proposal, the ruling would affect the Citizens’ Initiative, a competing proposal that, among other things, calls for a 15.5% hotel tax to pay for parkland and other development in Mission Valley and requires public approval of any downtown stadium project.

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August Publications