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Study Criticizes San Diego Chargers Stadium Proposal

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

As the San Diego Chargers continue to lobby for a stadium/convention center, a study commissioned by a hotelier organization raises significant questions.

Seeking answers about the proposal, the hotelier-run Tourism Marketing District hired HVS of Chicago to study the Chargers’ proposal. The significance of this is that the Chargers–in asking voters to approve a hotel tax increase from 12.5% to 16.5%–are arguing that the stadium/convention center will boost tourism economy, thereby justifying a higher tax. While the local Chamber of Commerce has backed the initiative, the hotel industry sought its own outlet with this study, which delivered some blows to the Chargers.

The fundamental argument of the study is the stadium/convention center’s economic impact will not justify the tax increase. Among the issues that the study cites are limited convention space, a likely inability to retain growing events, and limited power in generating hotel stays–particularly over football season–as compared to a separate convention center project. With these findings, HVS levied some criticisms toward the proposal, objections that the Chargers maintain are unfounded. More from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“If you weigh the investment required to generate that impact, it doesn’t add up,” said Thomas Hazinski, managing director of HVS, a sports and entertainment facilities consulting firm hired by San Diego’s hotelier-run Tourism Marketing District. “There’s a big gap between what you’re investing and what you’re getting back, and it really doesn’t move San Diego forward in a significant way as a convention destination and we know that San Diego is facility-constrained.”

Hotel owners and tourism industry leaders continue to push for an expansion of the city’s bayfront convention center, although the project has long been stalled because the financing plan relied on a hotelier-approved hotel tax increase that was ruled unconstitutional.

The Chargers, who will soon be releasing their consultants’ formal analysis of the convention center portion of the project, were immediately critical of the report’s conclusions.

“The results of this study were pre-determined from the outset by a few highly self- interested hotel owners who have once again wasted taxpayer money on a misbegotten effort to justify a contiguous convention center expansion that has already been struck down by the courts and that is unlikely to be built,” Chargers adviser Fred Maas said in an emailed statement.

The Tourism Marketing District board, which oversees the expenditure of revenues raised via a 2 percent surcharge on hotel stays, commissioned the study in June to determine what benefits, if any, would be realized from a hybrid stadium-convention complex.

“We’re in charge of the marketing of the city of San Diego, and we need to know if this facility would help the marketing and to what degree,” said board chairman Bill Evans. “It appears now that some of the assumptions the Chargers are using to promote the project are not the same that HVS has come up with.

“We were careful not to prejudice the consultants. We did not tell them what we wanted the report to be.”

This angle has clearly been a concern for the Chargers. Several team officials, including chairman Dean Spanos, have tried to placate objections from various groups about the project, even as high-profile entities such as Comic-Con International criticized the plan.  HVS’ finding cerainly deliver a sharp counter to the some of the Chargers’ previous claims–including that the combination stadium/convention center is viable alternative to a separate convention center expansion proposal, and that economic gains would be made from scheduling NFL games and events around each other.

Ultimately, countering these arguments is something that the Chargers will have to do in their campaign to sway both San Diego’s tourism industry and the voting body at large.

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