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Report: Downtown or Bust for the Chargers

According to a report, the Chargers will not consider pivoting back to Mission Valley if their plans for downtown don't come through.

Water is still wet, and the sun still rises in the east.

We have a new report from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk regarding the Chargers and their quest to get a new stadium in San Diego. The report states unambiguously that the Chargers will not be - as many have hoped - pivoting back to Mission Valley in the event their plans for a downtown stadium in San Diego don't come through.

The Chargers are full steam ahead on downtown, and according to this report on KUSI, intend to submit over 100,000 signatures qualifying their citizen's initiative for the November ballot next Friday.

According to Florio's PFT report, we've got a couple of things at play in this situation, so we'll take a moment to break them both down:

Who Thinks the Chargers Will Be Forced Back To Mission Valley?

The article states the following:

By way of background, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that some of those opposing the team have been pushing the idea that the Chargers would be forced to accept a stadium in Mission Valley and that if the Chargers leave San Diego, could get another NFL team to play in Mission Valley. But the Chargers have made their choice, and they won't be going back.

I can guess who might have provided this information, and my guess rhymes with Pot Herman.

We know Sherman's office recently published a report which was (justifiably, in my opinion) skeptical about the concept of the joint-use facility, based on information obtained about the non-football uses of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. We also know Sherman pitched his own, high-density stadium and development plan for Mission Valley last year. We know Sherman represents District 7, which includes Mission Valley. Lastly, we know Sherman's willing to try and lure a new team to San Diego (such as the Jacksonville Jaguars) if the Chargers leave San Diego.

I'd like to add that Sherman (or anyone else affiliated with San Diego's political establishment) is seriously deluded if he thinks the NFL or any NFL team will be forced to accept a deal they don't like in a location they don't want.

Spanos Sent a Letter to Donna Frye?

Here's the other piece of intrigue in this article. According to PFT, Spanos sent a letter to former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, in which he stated explicitly that it was downtown or nothing in San Diego:

"We want to be as clear as we can possibly be about this issue," Spanos writes. "We did not choose downtown over Mission Valley casually. Downtown is a plan that can work for the community and our fans. We have tried to make it clear that Mission Valley will not work for the NFL or for the community. The Mayor asked us to make a choice. We made the rational business choice, and the rational choice for the community-at-large. That choice is downtown. Mission Valley is not an option for us, now or in the future."

Just as I did above, I can guess how PFT received this letter, and my guess rhymes with Dark Crabiani (possibly by way of an intermediary).

What's interesting here is that the letter is sent to Donna Frye, who is a staunch advocate of the Citizen's Plan - the alternate citizen's initiative pushed by Cory Briggs. Frye expressed reservations in the past about the Chargers' stadium plan, specifically because the Chargers Stadium Initiative is limited only to the construction and operation of the joint-use facility downtown, and does not address any of the other issues which are addressed via the Citizen's Plan.

As we've discussed multiple times on this blog, the Citizen's Plan does create a path for a downtown stadium, but expressly does not provide any public money towards the stadium parts of such a project.

Here's my speculation regarding the Chargers sending this letter (and leaking it to a national football website) to a proponent of a competing plan:

  1. It's a back-channel attempt to manufacture leverage with the San Diego establishment. In essence, if Mission Valley is even a reasonable possibility for the Chargers, it jeopardizes not only the Chargers' efforts downtown, but the Citizen's Plan as well.
  2. The Chargers, by courting Frye, are keeping their downtown options open. If their initiative doesn't pass, but the Citizen's Initiative does, there would still be an opportunity for a stadium downtown. It would surely involve another public vote (such as a Special Election in 2017) to cover the remaining funding gap.

In Closing

This is really the first time in months we've seen the Chargers' stadium efforts start playing out in national media outlets. This is a classic Mark Fabiani PR strategy - although it appears to have been precipitated by someone within San Diego's political establishment discussing the possibility of forcing the Chargers back to Mission Valley.

What's more clear than ever (and something I warned about back in January) is that San Diego's political establishment still seems to think they can bully the Chargers (or the NFL via another franchise) back to Mission Valley, on the terms offered by the Mayor last year - despite the problems with the City's stadium plan.

It also indicates to me that the City's political establishment is seriously concerned that - despite all the negative populist blather against them - either the Chargers' Initiative or the Citizen's Initiative will pass a public vote in November.