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Resetting the Stadium Question in San Diego

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Now that San Diego got a reprieve, we can start talking about what we all thought was supposed to happen last year, as opposed to being the Chargers’ talking point for getting the Carson project approved.

The proposed Misison Valley Stadium
The proposed Misison Valley Stadium

San Diego got to see every ugly aspect of how a stadium sausage gets made in 2015. People, even supporters of the San Diego Chargers, were (justifiably) disgusted and appalled at the process. Many are out completely after the experience, and I don't blame them at all.

For the rest of us, it's time to get over those feelings. As I said a few weeks ago, following the NFL Owners meetings, there's a lot to do and not a lot of time to get it done.

With the help of a couple recent articles, such as Scott Reid's piece in the Orange County Register, and Derek Togerson's piece for NBC San Diego, we can start laying out a timeline for how things will play out in San Diego for 2016.

Key Dates to Remember

  • March 24th. This is when a Citizens' Initiative needs to be drafted and ready for filing. The team, as well as public officials, support this process because it entitles any site without requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
  • March 25th. A Notice of Intention needs to be made available for public review. This Notice must include the full proposal and an explanation.
  • April 4th. The Chargers will file affidavits and statements with the San Diego City Clerk.
  • April 15th. Petitions can be circulated for public signature. It is expected the Chargers will pay for this signature drive. The team's target is for 90,000-100,000 signatures, of which nearly 67,000 must be valid signatures of registered voters (equaling 10% - thereby guaranteeing the measure will either be approved outright by the San Diego City Council, or sent to voters for approval).
  • July 1. Signatures must be submitted to the City Clerk for verification. The Clerk's office has 30 days to certify the signatures.
  • August 2. This is the last regular City Council meeting available, where the City Council can either vote to approve, or send the Initiative to voters as part of the November 8th General Election. The last scheduled County Board Meeting is August 12th.
  • November 8. Election Day. At this point, the Chargers will not have played more than 9 games. I'd really like to suggest the team gets out to a 6-3 (or better) start to the season.

Essentially, everything needs to be determined by March 24th. The one catch with a Citizens' Initiative is that the language of the Initiative cannot be changed once it is submitted. That means, essentially, we'll all know what the final deal will look like by March 24th.

That leaves (counting today) 52 days to determine the following:

Location of the stadium

Both Dean Spanos and elected officials have at least paid lip service to the idea of not getting their preferred site, and Spanos even suggested the possibility of an alternate site. Taking everyone at their word, this means Mission Valley, Downtown, and maybe some other unknown location are in play at the moment. And while most everyone has dismissed the idea, there are some who believe Qualcomm Stadium could be rehabilitated.

Financing

As we've discussed before, the City and County's Mission Valley proposal from last summer provided $350 million in public money. $200 million in the form of Lease-Revenue Bonds from the City, and $150 million in cash from the County. Interestingly enough, in an interview yesterday on the Dan Sileo show, County Supervisor Ron Roberts suggested a county-wide vote would not be necessary to get County funds (i.e. this can be approved directly by the Board of Supervisors). Also, as I wrote last week, the team is reportedly going to be asking for $500 million in public money. This suggests a $150 million gap between what Spanos is going to ask for and what the public has offered. How will that difference be made up?

Design Elements

After the Chargers broke off negotiations last summer, the City proceeded on its own with a Mission Valley stadium plan that the Chargers had no-to-limited input on. It stands to reason the Chargers will have substantial input in any project moving forward. In my opinion, a 67,500 seat stadium might actually be too big for San Diego. A smaller fixed capacity, with additional space for seating/standing areas for Super Bowls (and other major events) would be ideal. Further, this is where the public MUST be involved - since they are being asked to foot a significant portion of the bill, there should be input on what the public would like to see added to the project.

Other Stakeholders

Depending on the site, there will be other stakeholders to consider beside the Chargers and the public. A Mission Valley plan is likely to involve a development partner at some point down the road. A Downtown plan is likely to involve JMI Realty and the Hoteliers. San Diego State University, as well as San Diego Bowl Games, have interests regardless of where the stadium is located. These groups (depending on the location) need to be involved to some extent in the design and financing elements. Their involvement and support might be the difference in an election which expected to have a slim margin of success.

Future Considerations

While the team has expressed a desire for a roofless venue (based on the design of Carson project), there are advantages to having a facility with a roof - or at least the ability to install a temporary roof. First, it increases the number and type of events which can be hosted - for instance, a venue with a temporary roof option could be used to draw a Final Four to San Diego, or host a major political convention, while a facility without them probably wouldn't. Flexible seating plus temporary roofing sections could allow an NBA or NHL team to come to San Diego and play in the new facility while a replacement for the Sports Arena is built (like the Alamodome in San Antonio). Lastly, the new stadium should be built with the hope of drawing an MLS team to San Diego, as well as possible soccer tournament games.

In Closing

Whatever else you may think of the tactics used by the Chargers in 2015 to try and get the Carson project approved, it didn't work.

Dean Spanos did not get Carson. He got blindsided in Houston a few weeks ago and many people enjoyed a generous helping of schadenfreude, myself among them. However, what's done is done and it's time to move forward.

He got an option to move to Los Angeles and eventually play in the Rams new stadium in Inglewood. He could've exercised that option for 2016. He chose not to.

Whether it's out of love for San Diego, or hatred of Kroenke, or a tactic to try and keep the Raiders at bay for as long as possible, no one really knows. Time and actions will tell us all very quickly.