Chargers Say They’ll Fund Their Own Stadium Downtown (Sort of)

by on February 25, 2016 · 2 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Homelessness, Media, Politics, San Diego, Sports

SD Convention CenterOh, to have been a fly on the wall at city hall as the local football franchise went public with a ‘no thanks’ to the officially blessed plan of building a stadium in Mission Valley.

Once again the mayor and his minions have been left out in the cold.Last time they were spurned for an alliance with the Raiders to build a facility in Carson. This time it’s even worse, as the Chargers have thrown their support to a political coalition including the ne’er-do-well Cory Briggs.

In making this move the Chargers have rejected $350 million in city and county support –and the strings that came with it– saying they would get their own financing.

How’d they do that? Well, it’s complicated.

Something for Nothing?

The details are sketchy, but a big part of the plan involves support for a citizen initiative that includes a makeover of the municipal shakedown of tourists. So, yeah, there are tax dollars involved. Because the proposed reforms send those dollars to the general fund, only 51% support would be needed at the ballot box in November.

From the Union-Tribune:

The Briggs initiative – which is designed to require a simple majority vote – would raise hotel taxes for the city’s general fund and then enable the local hotel industry to apply for tax credits to fund tourism marketing and additional convention space away from the bay. If it reaches the November ballot and passes, the initiative will reduce state environmental hurdles to stadium construction in either Mission Valley or downtown, and encourage the city to designate the Qualcomm Stadium site for university and park uses.

Whether or not the Chargers will need a separate initiative to make a stadium happen is still being considered by team management. The UT article says the team needs to have a plan drafted by late March with final language ready for signature-gathering to begin in April in order to make the November ballot.

If you dig down through the layers of legalese and rhetoric, what is really going on is a power struggle over profit. We have rich white guys Team A (status quo) versus rich white guys Team B (new boss, probably not much different than the old boss). Government’s role in facilitating those profits is the real question being posed.

The Chargers have aligned their interests with the insurgents and in doing so will have to reach out to various interests not currently in the game.

A Three Dimensional Chess Game

Although the devil is in the details, this conflict could represent an opportunity for others not at the table to ask for concessions mitigating the inevitable consequences (convention center/stadium or not) in developing the eastern reaches of downtown. Other developers are proposing an expanded entertainment district, with neon signs and craft beverages as a draw.

Serious displacement is already occurring with the gentrification of Barrio Logan. What one activist calls ‘land pirates’ are seeking control of commercial corridors, interested more in the profit of flipping lots than the qualities making those properties attractive in the first place.

Other groups are seeking to transform the East Village into a hub for arts, education, and technology. The University of California–San Diego’s second largest employer– is considering expansion into a downtown learning/living/research hub near City College. Urban advocate Bill Adams and others envision a synergy drawing high paying jobs and artistic excellence into the area.

And then there’s the question of the homeless population, who inhabit the sidewalks, alleys and underpasses of the area, largely because they have no place else to go. The ballyhooed revitalization of downtown has replaced low-cost residential hotels, with nothing but empty promises from the developers who displaced them for former inhabitants.

homeless2Those are some of the questions that should be answered before we can even get down to whether or not a stadium/convention center hybrid is even desirable. Looking at this topic as a yes or no proposition fails to take into account that what’s really going on her is the San Diego equivalent of a three-dimensional chess game.

In the absence of mass movements for social change, allowances for the needs of the pawns have emerged from such conflicts in the past. Make no mistake about, regardless of what you hear or who you hear it from, there will be no concessions without public demand.

Meanwhile, here are some tidbits from the usual suspects in the local media…

A New Battle…

Scott Lewis at Voice of San Diego characterizes yesterday’s developments as a “New Battle Between the Mayor and the Chargers,” and there are lots of explainers and background to be found in this story. Do click on the embedded links.

Not a lot actually happened Tuesday except that an unprecedented coalition of big shots, a reviled (but often successful) public interest lawyer and a longtime community activist politicians have joined with the former owner of the Padres and his allies to challenge the mayor and existing downtown power structure in a fascinating way.

NBC7 San Diego quoted the response from Mayor Kevin Falconer and Supervisor Ron Roberts:

A drawing of JMI's original plans

A drawing of JMI’s original plans

“Most experts we’ve talked to have concluded that building a stadium Downtown – on land not owned by either the City or the Chargers – would increase costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and take years longer to complete.

“However, it now appears that the Chargers intend to pursue a stadium in Downtown. It remains unclear how the Chargers intend to finance a Downtown stadium. But it is abundantly clear that a ballot measure that raises taxes for a stadium must be approved by two-thirds of San Diego’s voters. This is an extremely high hurdle to clear. We remain committed to maintaining an open dialogue with the Chargers as we learn more details about their plan.”

The Union-Tribune’s Dan McSwain devoted lots of bytes to the proposal, including this:

Although the team released few details, the new Chargers concept closely resembles its 2014 proposal with JMI to build a hybrid stadium/convention center in the East Village on parcels occupied by city-owned Tailgate Park, an MTS bus yard and private companies.

“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,” the team said Tuesday.

“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.”

Twitter and Facebook went nuts following the team’s announcement. The twitter feeds for Cory Briggs and Eric Brovold (with Tony Manolatos–former stadium task force spokesman–casting lots of shade) all contain lots of nuggets suggestive of the debate likely to occur in coming months.

Is this proposal a good thing or bad thing? I don’t know yet. Trust me, I’ll have plenty more to say in coming months…


This is an excerpt from Doug Porter’s column at our allied San Diego Free Press.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Gerhardt February 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm

A downtown stadium will cost the public millions, no matter what the Chargers or City say beforehand. Thinking to spend billions of anyone’s money on a structure used 8-10 times a year is ridiculous given the state of our highways and homeless. Any additional events will compete with Petco Park. These are very rich people who compare their virility by constructing these edifices. The concept of loyalty and “it’s business” are incompatible given such a large institution. I expect loyalty. And remember, several studies have indicated having an NFL team makes zero difference in local economic success.


mjt February 25, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Boy they sure are commercializing San Diego. With commercialization comes decay.
The old essence being torn away.

Football sucks, so do large crowds.
My vote is no.


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