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Despite Study, Fans Tepid About Chargers Stadium

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

The results of a team-commissioned study are positive for the San Diego Chargers, but fans remain unswayed about the prospect of a stadium/convention center in East Village. 

The Chargers have built their case for the project around the notion that if the hotel tax rate is increased to fund a joint stadium and convention center, tourism numbers in the city will see a jump. Thus far, several key groups–including the hotelier-run Tourism Marketing District–have dispelled and criticized the Chargers’ theory, but the team has released a study that shows more flattering results.

Conducted by Hunden Strategic Partners, the Chargers’ report shows that a joint stadium/convention center project would bring, on average, $12.5 million more per year in hotel tax revenue. The study also stated that an additional 900,000 visitors would stay in the city annually, something that those involved in the report emphasized. More from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

 “I started out as a skeptic,” said Robin Hunden, the firm’s managing partner, referring to his hiring by the Chargers in May to conduct an independent review of the concept. “They have a pretty sound proposal here.”

“This is not going to be competitive to the existing convention center,” he said. “The focus is on making the pie bigger.”

The Chargers have qualified an initiative, dubbed Measure C, for the November ballot. It would increase taxes on hotel stays to 16.5 percent from the effective rate of 12.5 percent, with most of the resulting revenue devoted to building and operating a convention center and National Football League stadium near Petco Park in downtown’s East Village.

Be that as it may, the proposal is still struggling to pick up public support. A recent YouGov poll surveyed prospective  voters, and found that 52% of those asked are strongly opposed to the plan. This falls in line with a negative trend for the Chargers, as a Union-Tribune and KUTV poll in July found that 40% of voters are against the proposed tax increase.

The Chargers acknowledge the difficulty of pushing the intiative, but had some questions about the polling. More from USA Today:

“We knew it was a tough climb when we got started,” said Fred Maas, the Chargers’ special advisor on the stadium initiative. “It’s a tough climb today, but I’m an eternal optimistic. I believe that when people really understand that this is about so much more than just football, that it’s about who we are as a city and how important this team is to the fabric of our town, hopefully we’ll persuade people… We’re not in denial about the climb we’ve got.”

Maas questioned the accuracy of the poll by YouGov, an international firm that conducts polls online. In response, a spokeswoman for the company said its online polls were trustworthy because traditional phone research polls weren’t as effective at reaching younger people. She said YouGov’s results were balanced by gender and age and that Pew Research showed the company consistently outperforms competitors on accuracy.

The overall message from the YouGov data still jibes with what the Chargers already know:  They’ve got a long way to go to get to two-thirds approval. Getting more than half won’t be easy, either. But if they at least reach the simple majority threshold, it’s conceivable they would have enough political influence to induce a different stadium solution in San Diego using other public funding sources.

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August Publications