On November 30th, the UT San Diego published an editorial arguing that after 14 years, it was time for San Diego and the San Diego Chargers to start getting to work on a new stadium.
The editorial makes the case that Qualcomm Stadium is antiquated, briefly endorses a public-private partnership, mentions an examination of different locations, and hints at discussing potential financing options. It's a nice, unobtrusive editorial, which stands in marked contrast to the last attempt the UT San Diego made to move the needle on the stadium issue. The only downside to this editorial seems to be the timing, coming out the evening before the first blacked out NFL game of the 2013 season.
Anyone who's been to a game at Qualcomm Stadium in the last few years would likely agree it is an outdated (if not dilapidated) venue. Just in terms of age and usage, only Lambeau Field has served as the home field for its team for more consecutive years than Qualcomm has for the Chargers. Second, remember that Qualcomm was designed as a multi-purpose facility, which means many seats are either obstructed view or have poor sightlines. Add nearly $80 million worth of deferred maintenance, and you get the idea.
It's probably bad luck this editorial comes on the heels of the first blackout in the NFL this season, after the Chargers were unable to sell approximately 5,300 seats prior to the 72 hour deadline on Thanksgiving afternoon. It's not the local newspaper's fault the NFL maintains its blackout policy for no legitimate reason, or that Qualcomm Stadium exceeds the market size by at least 7,500 seats, or that the Chargers have been especially terrific this year (even by their recent standards) at finding ways to lose games they absolutely should be winning.
Honestly, the gist of the editorial is correct. What everyone should note here is the timing.
Timing Is Everything
Before we start... Everyone should understand that when they're reading a UT San Diego Editorial Board column, they're getting the opinion of Doug Manchester - UT San Diego Publisher (and former owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt), or John T. Lynch - CEO of the UT San Diego (also owner of XX Sports 1090). It's also no secret that one of the main priorities for Manchester and Lynch, after taking control of the UT San Diego, has been to push for a new stadium.
First... As I mentioned two weeks ago - and was reported in an article by the Voice of San Diego - current City Councilman and Republican candidate Kevin Faulconer entered this mayoral election as the hand-picked Republican candidate of several wealthy Republican boosters (among them Manchester and Lynch) back in August. According to that article, one major source of contention between Manchester and former Mayor Jerry Sanders was the lack of movement on a new stadium. Furthermore, Manchester's preferred candidate was former Mayoral candidate and current Congressional candidate Carl DeMaio.
Second... The UT San Diego editorial comes on the heels of a very recent mayoral election (November 19th - two weeks ago), one which identified Faulconer and Democrat David Alvarez as the two finalists to replace disgraced former Democrat mayor Bob Filner, with the final vote taking place in February. Based on the results of the November election, Faulconer is the clear favorite.
And on Monday, according to a Voice of San Diego Member Report, Manchester and Lynch were scheduled to host a private luncheon with assorted movers and shakers in San Diego, with the express purpose of "strategizing how we can best move San Diego forward in support of Kevin Faulconer as Mayor."
The agenda for this luncheon was as follows:
"We all know the need to preserve and protect San Diego from losing the Chargers, fix the pension system, and create incentives that will allow San Diego to reach its full potential and recover from what we have experienced over these past several years. We also want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving as we live in the greatest country in the world and with your help will continue to enjoy the finest City in the land."
Notice the focus on the Chargers in this agenda. It seems clear that Manchester's and Lynch's enthusiasm (and possibly a fair share of support from the paper) is directly tied to Faulconer's willingness or ability to get a stadium deal done.
What Happens Next?
Over the next few months, leading up to February's election, you should see a dovetailing of support for Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer with UT San Diego editorials and proposals for a new stadium in San Diego. The coming barrage of editorial proposals can't help but be more realistic than the previous plan, which proposed a new stadium, arena, and bayfront park at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal for the cool price of $1.5 billion or more (like another $1.5 billion more).
Faulconer himself has been at least lukewarm in his support for a stadium:
"As mayor, I'm going to work to ensure that we keep the Chargers in San Diego. I'm less concerned about where a stadium may or may not be located. What I'm primarily concerned about is any financing plan has to protect the taxpayers. That'll be my number one, two and three objectives."Faulconer, in an interview with CBS 8 on 11/14/13.
However, if Doug Manchester and John Lynch have anything to say about it, that may change significantly over the coming months. Especially in cases where the potential elected official isn't exactly regarded as a leader.