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San Diego gives new life to Chargers, but at expense of Comic-Con?

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San Diego mayor promises 'fresh look' to save Comic-Com and Chargers from leaving town

A decision Tuesday by the San Diego City Council appears to have given renewed life to a proposal by the Chargers football team for a new stadium near downtown.

But if the decision enhances the city’s chances of keeping the Chargers from moving to another city, it could do the reverse for the popular Comic-Con convention: increase the risk the annual pop-culture fest will leave San Diego.

After a closed-door session, the council voted 7-0 not to appeal a court ruling that had struck down the financing plan to expand the waterfront convention center.

The expansion plan was supported by Comic-Con officials who say they have outgrown the center and may need to leave San Diego in search of more convention space for vendors, zombies, comic-book fans and others drawn to the colorful convention.

The cities of Anaheim and Los Angeles have been mentioned as possible relocation sites.

The expansion plan had been opposed by the Chargers, who have an alternative plan that would include a stadium and an annex to the convention center. The project would be close but not contiguous to the current center.

After Tuesday’s vote, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he wants to take a “fresh look” at ways to expand the convention center and also to build a stadium to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

For a decade, Charger ownership has urged the city to consider a new stadium to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

Mark Fabiani, the Chargers' point man on stadium issues, said Wednesday that he and Chargers President Dean Spanos met recently with Faulconer to discuss “possible next steps.” The meeting, he said, “was productive.”

While the mayor is willing to look at the Chargers' proposal, it still faces major issues, among them, potential opposition from the politically powerful hotel industry, which preferred the plan that the City Council has now scuttled.

Also, getting a proposal past San Diego voters is also problematic.  “The public is the most important stakeholder,” Faulconer said.

The financing plan that was blocked by the 4th District Court of Appeal  was based on a novel way to bypass voters by instead asking hoteliers to increase the amount that patrons are charged. The court said the plan was a tax that should have been put before voters.

Faulconer said he has already begun meeting with the Chargers, hotel and convention officials, and representatives of a real estate firm.

On Sunday, during the Chargers game with the San Francisco 49ers, Fox Sports announcers praised the 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara while bemoaning the fact that San Diego has not built something similar for the Chargers.

It would be a “shame” if the team was forced to leave San Diego, the announcers agreed.

If the Chargers are willing to continue discussions, so too is Comic-Con.

Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer on Wednesday said that although the convention has "outgrown the current facility, the mayor, city officials, hoteliers and convention center staff have worked hard to mitigate our space concerns. We trust those entities will continue to work for a solution that can keep Comic-Con in San Diego for years to come."

For San Diego news follow @LATSanDiego.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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