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Fail on Purpose: San Diego's Path to a New NFL Stadium

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There is a way for the San Diego Chargers to get support for their downtown stadium plan from local politicians, Comic-Con, and even the local hoteliers. However, they need another plan to fail first.

I like understanding the topic that I am writing about or talking about. I mean, deeply understand it. Nobody has spent more time researching unimportant minutia than myself, and it's done because I feel most comfortable when I am most prepared.

I think BFTB was born out of this. I was digging up stats and breaking down film very early on, mostly for the purpose of knowing what the hell I was talking about. That led to people that were into stats and film study and more than just opinions based on "how I see it" coming to this website, and sometimes writing for this website.

With all of that being said, I still feel out of my element when it comes to politics. I've always had an interest level with politics that could be described as "toe-dipping". I vote for the President and I'm interested in our national policies, but I've never really taken an interest in local politics. In the last year, local politics has been all I've thought about and most of what I've talked about.

Over the last week, I've heard two different stories or opinions or however you want to frame them (they're below, in context) that seem to point to the same thing. Politicians are attempting to fail on purpose, and that might be the best way to get the San Diego Chargers the downtown stadium that they actually want.

Let me try to explain:

Comic-Con vs. the Hotels

First, let's state the importance of Comic-Con because that can't be ignored. The amount of people and money and notoriety that Comic-Con brings to the City of San Diego is similar to if the NFL were to hold the Super Bowl in San Diego every single year. Comic-Con's opinion holds a lot of weight, as it should, as a result.

At this point, Comic-Con prefers contiguous Convention Center expansion. What does that mean? Well, it means that the Convention Center would just grow, outward and upward, from where it sits right now.

Here's what the Convention Center looks like today:

Here's what it would look like with a contiguous expansion:

Take your time to compare those pictures. You'll slowly start to notice that the footprint of the convention center does grow, even if it doesn't appear to at first.

Anyway, this is what Comic-Con wants. It's also what the Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, agreed to pursue in his State of the City address.

However, it would require a vote to raise taxes to pay for the expansion, which means they would need at least 66.6% of the votes to be in favor of the project for it to pass. The Mayor is expected to put this bill in front of the voting public in June for a vote.

The Mayor knows a 2/3rds majority vote is nearly impossible to get passed. He has said so every single time anyone mentions the possibility of the Chargers building downtown as a part of the 'Convadium' idea (more on that in a minute). He knows that the contiguous Convention Center expansion will not pass, barring some sort of miracle.

So, why is he supporting it?

Two reasons.

For one, it's what Comic-Con wants. And, if you're the Mayor of San Diego, you do what Comic-Con wants. The city needs Comic-Con and they're holding onto it by a thread.

Second, it's what the hotels want. Kind of.

During this week's episode of the Squadcast, Ben Higgins told a story that he had heard from a source. The story was that the owners of San Diego's downtown hotels don't actually want a Convention Center expansion, contiguous or otherwise. They would prefer that Comic-Con and other big conferences continue to be forced to rent the hotel ballrooms out when they come to town.

As such, it makes sense for these hotels to support a vote that they don't believe will pass.

The hoteliers (hotel owners) were responsible for a lot of the funding of Mayor Faulconer's successful campaign, and so, he is indebted to them. Lucky for him, they're on the same side as Comic-Con on this one....even if the two parties are actually hoping for different outcomes from the vote.

Best Case Scenario: Failure

If we're being optimistic, here's the most likely outcome to June's vote:

The contiguous Convention Center expansion bill does not pass. The Chargers' plan for a noncontiguous expansion of the Convention Center, drawn up as part of the Citizen's Initiative put together by JMI Realty and Cory Briggs, becomes the only path towards any Convention Center expansion.

As you can (mostly) see in the picture, the building in the foreground becomes an unattached extension of the Convention Center. I also believe there was some talk about building even more space underneath both it and the stadium.

The blu-ish thing in the background is your new NFL stadium, and I believe the Chargers have already revealed that their plan (which will come out with many more details in the next 3-4 weeks) will include a retractable roof of some sort so that it could be used as a large arena as well.

The Mayor hopes that, since he tried it their way first, Comic-Con will not leave town and will instead support the Chargers' plan for noncontiguous Convention Center expansion. He also hopes that the hoteliers don't attempt stand in the way of a raised tourism tax, which would be used to add money towards a general fund (which is why it's a 50% vote and not 66.6%) that could be used to pay for the stadium and/or hotel upgrades in the downtown area, although there isn't much they'd be able to do except delay things in court. I think.

Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts brought this up on this week's Voice of San Diego podcast, and theorized that this could be the Mayor's actual plan. I am inclined to agree with them.

On June 8th, everyone can switch sides. The Mayor, the County Supervisor, Comic-Con and even the hoteliers can come out in support of the plan that promises a noncontiguous Convention Center expansion to go along with a brand new NFL stadium. Five full months (starting right around the start of Training Camp) of everyone rowing in the same direction should be more than enough to win a 50% +1 vote.

Now, all we have to do is sit around and wait for someone to change the game all over again.