In hopes of persuading the Chargers to stay in San Diego, a mayoral committee Monday proposed a financial plan for building an approximately $1.1-billion NFL stadium -- a plan that includes major public contributions but not a tax increase.
The plan would include $300 million from the Chargers, $200 million from the NFL, $173 million in construction bonds, $121 million from the city of San Diego and $121 million from San Diego County.
Also, $225 million would come from the sale to a developer of 75 acres at the Mission Valley site, the current home of Qualcomm Stadium. The committee also estimated that more than $100 million could be raised from fans through personal-seat licenses and ticket and parking surcharges.
Former Mayor Jerry Sanders, now president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, called the plan “a remarkable job” done “under intense pressure and a tight deadline.”
“Now it’s time to support our mayor and the county in their negotiations with the Chargers,” Sanders said at a news conference where the plan was unveiled by the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group appointed in January by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
Faulconer and county Supervisor Ron Roberts met recently with Chargers President Dean Spanos to brief him on the outlines of the financial proposal. Spanos is said to have been cordial but noncommittal.
One sticking point could be that Chargers feel the team is being asked to contribute far more than other NFL teams have been required to pay when their stadiums were built. The proposal includes asking the Chargers to pay $1 million per game in rent.
"We are grateful to the (committee) members who volunteered their time, and we will now ask our stadium development team -- including our financing, legal and land use experts -- to thoroughly review the results," said Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani.
Faulconer, in a statement released as the committee unveiled its proposal, said he hopes for negotiations with the Chargers to begin by June 1. If a deal can be struck, he said, negotiations will deal with when the public vote would be scheduled.
"Today, San Diego has a framework to build a new stadium that's tangible, that's achievable and that won't raise taxes," Faulconer said.
The intense pressure mentioned by Sanders was provoked by two rival stadium proposals, one in Inglewood by the owner of the St. Louis Rams and a plan announced by the Chargers and Oakland Raiders to build a joint-use venue in Carson. In its narrative of the stadium issue, a headline in the committee report reads: “LA Threat Surfaces.”
Officials in Inglewood and Carson, buoyant at the thought of the NFL returning to Los Angeles County after 20 years, have opted not to put the land-use proposals to a vote of the public.
In San Diego, however, Faulconer has promised a public vote even though the funding plan does not require it. A tax-funded proposal would require a two-thirds vote for approval, seen as a political impossibility.
Putting the issue to a public vote might be the undoing of the plan.
NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman, in a visit to San Diego last month, warned that waiting to hold a vote until November 2016, the next general election, might mean that the city would be too late to persuade the team to remain. “To wait until the end of next year to get the vote, it seems to me to be very risky,” Grubman said.
The mayoral committee, made up of nine civic leaders, had earlier recommended that the 166-acre, city-owned site in Mission Valley would provide the quickest and least expensive location to build a stadium.
A suggestion by the Chargers for a stadium in downtown San Diego, near the waterfront convention center, was rejected as too expensive and too fraught with problems with multiple ownership.
The committee's proposed city and county contributions would come not in lump-sum payments but as annual payments. The city, the committee suggested, would be able to redirect money that otherwise would be used for the upkeep of Qualcomm. Once built, the new stadium would be self-supporting, the committee report said.
To catch the public’s imagination, the committee included conceptual drawings of a new stadium as designed by MEIS, a New York-based stadium design firm. The firm’s founder was the lead designer of Staples Center in Los Angeles and NFL stadiums in Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
The design for the 65,000-seat stadium includes not a roof but a canopy that is designed to hold in crowd noise and thus give the Chargers a potent home-field advantage. The committee estimated that construction could begin in 2017 and be finished by the end of 2020.
“Some venues take years to take on the character of the fans that most define it,” said senior project designer Xan Young. “This one will feel like home to San Diego from the day it opens.”
The stadium would be home to the Chargers, the San Diego State Aztecs, the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls and events including bar mitzvahs, weddings, proms, reunions, corporate gatherings, monster truck jams, music festivals and religious ceremonies, the mayoral committee suggested in its 43-page report.
The campaign to build a stadium to keep the Chargers is supported by a group of civic leaders, fan groups and former team stars.
”The Chargers belong in San Diego,” said Rafael Alvarez, head of a fan group called Bolt Pride.