The San Diego City Council gave unanimous backing Monday to developer Ronald E. Hahn's plans to seek a site for a downtown sports arena, which he hopes will attract a professional hockey or basketball franchise by 1995.
In an agreement approved 9 to 0, Hahn has until June 30, 1993, to pinpoint a downtown site. Failing that, he can look for sites outside downtown but within the city limits.
The exclusive agreement granted Hahn and chief partner C. Samuel Marasco will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 1995, unless they and the city agree to terminate the pact.
The council also approved the transfer of the lease on the existing 13,000-seat San Diego Sports Arena in the Midway district from businessman Harry Cooper to Hahn, Marasco and other partners assisting in their venture.
Hahn said he wishes to operate the existing arena in case a franchise in either the National Basketball Assn. or National Hockey League is able to move to San Diego before a new one is built. Hahn said negotiations are under way to try to woo both franchises.
"We're a major city. Now we need a major new arena," said Councilman George Stevens, echoing the comments of other council members who enthusiastically supported Hahn's involvement.
Councilman and mayoral candidate Ron Roberts, the lone council member to vote in favor of the downtown-arena concept when it last came to a vote in 1990, said the existing Sports Arena, built in 1966, has simply outlived its usefulness.
Roberts said the existing arena is not well served by public transportation or the road system and hardly is worthy of the sixth-largest city in the country and the No. 22 media market in North America.
Hahn said Monday's action sends the strongest possible signal to both the NBA and NHL.
"Unanimous vote of the council," he said. "A pledge by the mayor to do whatever to help with the franchises--I don't think you can get a stronger mandate from the city, and if the leagues don't pay attention to that, then I don't think they were ever destined to come here."
Hahn said his search for a site will begin "simultaneously with the city's desires to (redevelop) Centre City East," which has been mentioned as one of several prospective locations.
Although estimates are preliminary, it is believed that a new arena would cost about $95 million to build, not counting the acquisition of land and, at a minimum, 17 acres of parking area, which downtown workers could use during the daytime.
Hahn said he wants to have a new arena open for the 1994-95 season, but that such a facility--with 18,000 to 20,000 seats--probably cannot be built and opened before the 1995-96 season, or just before Hahn's agreement with the city expires.