Up until today, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer hit all the right notes.
He didn't brag about the Chargers failure to win the Carson Stadium project on Tuesday. He didn't open with a bunch of tough talk about how the Chargers need to accept the Mission Valley proposal. He didn't take downtown off the table.
However, what one says isn't always as important as what they don't say. And what the Mayor hasn't said is this:
"We're willing to consider all options, including the JMI Joint Use Facility (i.e. Convadium) proposal."
And that may well be what pushes Dean Spanos to accept Stan Kroenke's proposal to become a partner or tenant in Inglewood, without ever giving San Diego a chance at the ballot box.
What Didn't The Mayor Say?
In an interview with Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith on Mighty 1090, Faulconer was asked the following question by Kaplan, point blank:
Kaplan: What if the Chargers said to you "We're completely married to the JMI plan of a convention center/stadium." Would you entertain that conversation?
Faulconer: Well, you know, like I've said, we can talk about hypotheticals in different locations, but I would entertain the conversation for us to get together in earnest, to be talking in sincerity about what are the real options on how we need to do something, what's the plan that legally is going to work, what gives us our best opportunity for success, and one that I think San Diegans are going to support financially.
Sorry Mr. Mayor, but you evaded the question with the same grace that I exhibit on a dance floor with less than half a dozen shots of hard liquor.
I do understand why Faulconer is apprehensive about the idea. It's the same issue that popped up almost exactly 1 year ago. The Mayor wants to pursue a stadium and convention center as separate projects, while the Chargers (among others) believe the Convadium is the best way to proceed.
Why We Should Consider the Convadium
First of all we can start with the cost to taxpayers.
Information for the Mission Valley plan is here, and for the Downtown sites here. The cost of $549 million for the contiguous Convention Center expansion is taken from this article from the San Diego UnionTribune.
For the sake of argument we'll make the following assumptions:
- The Chargers will contribute precisely the same amount of money to any plan that the City asked for their Mission Valley plan from last year.
- The costs of acquiring land downtown and moving the bus yard will be included with both downtown stadium plans. I will stay with the CSAG estimate of $250 million, although an editorial Q&A in San Diego Union Tribune indicated a lower estimate of $230 million.
|Mission Valley||Downtown||Convadium||Convadium (Briggs)|
|Expected Public Cost||899||1,206||920||500|
So, as you can see with this comparison, with the assumptions above, the Convadium plan based on the Briggs Initiative saves taxpayers $399 million over any other stadium / convention center combination. Further, the year-round potential for use of the Convadium ensures that's there's a higher taxpayer return on investment.
Now, I know I'm about to get an argument from people about why we need a contiguous Convention Center expansion. For those people, I say this: In a perfect world, I agree. But this is not a perfect world. So, if you want to convince me that the contiguous expansion is the only way to go, just answer these five questions in non-perfect world manner:
- How are you going to pay for the $549 million contiguous expansion without a 2/3rds public vote?
- Can the City of San Diego beat Cory Briggs in court?
- How long will it take/much will it cost to re-acquire the land near the waterfront needed for the expansion?
- Can you convince JMI to build their hotel on the Lexus Parking Lot without the Convadium?
- Have you explored other contiguous options, such as tunneling the Convention Center Driveway and Harbor Drive and expanding away from the waterfront?
Until someone can answer these questions without running off to fantasy land, I'd argue that a combination of the Briggs Initiative, and a Convadium Initiative asking for $500 million in public money is the best way to go. For sake of comparison, taxpayers paid $303 million in 1998 for Petco Park. Adjusting for inflation since 1998, that $303 million equates to $441 million in 2015 dollars.
Further, I'd suggest the Convadium is a time-buying option for the Convention Center boosters. Build this first, then pursue some other non-waterfront contiguous expansion down the road.
I get that the Mayor wants to protect his option for a contiguous expansion. It's what matters to the people who funded his campaign, and the people who are used to getting their way in San Diego for decades.
In this case however, and unless something changes, a contiguous expansion of the Convention Center is not possible. Continuing to fight for something impossible is the best way to guarantee nothing gets done.
Unless the plan is to chase the Raiders, who may be willing to accept a less expensive proposal, that nothing includes keeping the Chargers in San Diego.