This is not intended to be a critique of the local politicians, so I'm going to keep this first part brief.
Over the last year, most of the San Diego politicians that were asked to work with the San Diego Chargers spent most of their time trading barbs instead of trying to work on a resolution. Early on, they gave up on any hope of working with Mark Fabiani, and started working against him.
At the moment, Mark Fabiani is still employed by Dean Spanos and will still be involved in any negotiations between the city and the team. It's time for the politicians to forget everything that has been said, everything that has been done, and to get on the same page with the Chargers.
An Optimistic Future
Close your eyes for a second (not really, keep reading, but use your imagination as if your eyes were closed!).
Let's imagine that the revitalization that Petco Park brought to downtown San Diego can be replicated in San Diego. Let's imagine that it can be done to, once again, replace the worst part of downtown with the most desirable part of downtown.
Replace the section of downtown that currently is filled with homeless people crowded around a trashcan fire with a state-of-the-art NFL venue that can house Super Bowls, as well as a bunch of new commercial and residential real-estate around it. Don't forget to add some non-contiguous expansion of the Convention Center!
Now, let's reimagine the area of Mission Valley where Qualcomm Stadium sits. Instead of a big stadium with a massive parking lot, let's shrink both. A new stadium to put SDSU football/soccer on the map, and to lure an MLS team. Less parking, but maybe an even more beefed-up trolley stop. The space left over could either be an SDSU expansion, a beautiful waterfront park, or both.
It's a pretty picture, right? It's one of San Diego moving from two major-league teams to three, and upgrading the star quality of the Chargers and of the Aztecs football programs by upgrading their facilities.
This is how San Diego gets from "a big small town" to "a city", in the eyes of the sports world, and there's reason to think Dean Spanos would want to be involved.
Why Dean Spanos picks San Diego
My understanding, which is built mostly on tweets and reports that are constantly changing and updating, is that the Chargers' options in Inglewood looks like this:
- Pay $550m to move, and then $1 per year to Stan Kroenke to be a tenant in his stadium. Profits probably go down or stay even, despite the value of the team going up.
- Pay $550m to move, and add in about half of the construction costs for the stadium in Inglewood. Now we're well over $1b, and the Chargers still have to share a stadium and market with a team that has unlimited resources.
Neither of those options sound very good, do they? That's why Dean Spanos looked like he was going to burst into flames after the announcement came down yesterday.
What Dean Spanos wanted, what he thought he was going to get, was a decision that catapulted the Spanos family from the level of "very rich" to "mega rich" and altered their future forever. Neither of these options does that.
San Diego should be thankful of the (possible) time NFL bought them, but they should be even more thankful of the corner that they've painted Spanos in. San Diego now has the ability to actually offer something that Dean Spanos wants more than Los Angeles: Money and power.
The (Real) Citizens' Initiative
#Chargers began preparing months ago for contingency they'd have to give SD another try. If that happens, plan to do own citizens initiative— UTKevinAcee (@UTKevinAcee) January 12, 2016
It's important to note this tweet, and specifically the fact that the Chargers plan to do their own citizens' initiative (like they did in Carson) rather than tack their name onto the existing one. This means that they're going to want something that's probably not in Cory Briggs' initiative.
Think back to that 2005 near-miss for a new Chargers stadium in Mission Valley. The Chargers wanted the stadium, but the real jewel in the deal was all of the residential and commercial property that they would be allowed to build on land that would be given to them for free. They were going to use the oodles of money they made off of that property to pay off their stadium debts.
I think, when the Chargers come back to the negotiating table, it will be about this citizens' initiative. I think it will allow for them to get a stadium downtown, public money, and a bunch of land thrown in so that the Spanos family can literally own a part of downtown (similar to how John Moores does now).
That is the type of deal that they can't get in Los Angeles anymore. Hell, Stan Kroenke even said yesterday that the Chargers would be welcome to be his partner in the stadium itself, but not in the "entertainment complex" that is being built around the Inglewood stadium.
What can the Mayor do?
The good news, for San Diegans that want the Chargers to stay, is that a team-backed citizens' initiative will easily get the 60,000 or so signatures needed to be votes on by the city council. Especially if they can collect those signatures during games at Qualcomm Stadium this season.
What will happen in the next few days is a conversation about what will happen once the citizens' initiative gets to city council, and you have to remember how distrusting Dean Spanos must be today after getting screwed by the other owners in a blind vote yesterday. He'll want more than just a handshake and a word.
If Mayor Faulconer publicly states that the he will vote yes on any Chargers-backed citizens initiative sometime in the next week, I think you'll see the gears go into motion for the team to remain in San Diego and the optimistic future I painted above becomes a real possibility.
However, it's worth noting that the Chargers are going to make the Mayor pick between defending the hoteliers (who got him elected) and keeping the team. It's the same war the two sides have been fighting all along, and now they're on the battlefield running towards each other.
Which side are you on, Mr. Mayor?