For those local Chargers fans upset with the clubs retention of head coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith, look at it this way: At least you wont have to dislike them from a distance, but can loathe them face-to-face for at least another year. The football team seeking a new stadium is staying put in 2012.
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The Chargers Qualcomm Stadium lease with the City expires in 2020, but each year, from Feb. 1 through April 30, the franchise can trigger an out clause and negotiate with other cities or move as it sees fit. This morning, in conjunction with Mayor Jerry Sanders office, the Chargers will formally announce they have no intention to exercise that option and will play its 2012 games in Qualcomm.
"We will continue to work closely with the mayor on developing the East Village bus maintenance site in downtown San Diego," said Mark Fabiani, the Chargers general counsel and point man on new stadium development.
Of course at the moment, there really is nowhere for them to go. Los Angeles rumors persist, but the announcement by the Philip Anschutz group (AEG) that it would break ground on a new stadium in 2012, as we thought, was nothing more than pie in the sky. In fact, when Fabiani said there was no chance of AEG getting anything done by spring or early summer, it didnt sit well with the L.A. group.
And this past week, during a radio interview, Spanos said: "We have no interest in that downtown L.A. site or any sites up there (the other being Ed Roskis stadium proposal in the City of Industry)."
"Its nothing new," Fabiani said. "We made it clear to AEG long ago that were not interested in their site. Weve had a contentious relationship with them since we said we didnt believe they could get it done, and it certainly appears theres no chance they can get any construction started in 2012."
There was a report out of L.A. last week that Spanos and Anschutz have been talking.
"That very well could be true, but not involving stadium issues, because were not interested," Fabiani said. "Dean talks with Anschutz. We have a business relationship with AEG. We hired them to help sell our product (stadium club seats, suites, sponsorships, advertisements) in Los Angeles and Orange County. Thirty percent of our products are sold in Los Angeles and Orange County. And right now, our deal with them is on hiatus."
The leader in the clubhouse to move to L.A. could be the St. Louis Rams. Owner Stan Kroenke, who also owns the NBAs Denver Nuggets and NHLs Colorado Avalanche, is close with Anschutz through their Denver ties, and the Rams are on the list of franchises that could be moving.
Remember, NFL owners arent going to allow a move to L.A. willy-nilly. Those who foolishly believe Spanos rehired Turner and Smith to further tick off Chargers fans so he can move the team arent rational thinkers. First of all, the Chargers, good or bad, can move whenever they please, and, second, Turner and Smith arent exactly the matinee idols who would fit well in Hollywood.
Anyway, what Fabiani and the Spanoses are seeking is a new stadium/sports and entertainment site in the East Village as an adjunct to the Convention Center. But Sanders wants the proposed Convention Center addition to go through as planned with the stadium site, which hes behind, a separate entity.
But with Californias redevelopment funds dried up courtesy of Gov. Jerry Brown, the fate of the Convention Center project is in limbo at best and possibly doomed. There is dissension from the hotel owners, who do not want an increase in room tax, organized labor is against it and the Coastal Commission could balk at another huge, boxlike structure on the waterfront when it can have a facility such as the roofed stadium project away from the bay.
Me, Ive always thought the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal to be the best site for a football stadium. That would take a lot of doing, but it would be magnificent.
"The unions love our idea," Fabiani says, "and theyre against a vote (by the hotel owners). We can build a place that can bring in Super Bowls and Final Fours and other events that can do more than an expanded (convention) facility."
The Chargers anticipated redevelopment funds going away. The key to the whole thing is how to finance it without everyone taking a bath. Lazard, the multifaceted investment banking firm, has been hired by the city and soon will give its report on how to finance a new stadium.
The hope is to get the proposal on the November ballot, which will require thousands of petition signatures, as it did with Petco Park.
"If not," Fabiani said, "there could be a special election next spring, which would be expensive, but we would finance that."
Financing a new stadium. How to do it? Fred Maas, the former chief of San Diegos Centre City Development Corp., now serves as adviser to Sanders on the new stadium issue. Maas, who is way beyond bright, is a relentless voice of reason not to be messed with. And he realizes this must not be a city-only affair, that the county has to be involved.
What could happen here, ideally, are the city, county, Chargers and SANDAG and the 17 other cities in the county (plus naming rights) chipping in, with the city paying everything off in 30-year bonds. The city could handle $19-million-per year bond payments over 30 years, Maas believes.
"Think about it in bite-able chunks, and its not so hard to get done," Maas says. "Think outside the box and capture revenue that wont be a burden on this mayor and subsequent mayors. There is a solution here, but its going to take everyone to come to the poker table and get their chips. The solution isnt complicated, but the implementation is brutal."
The team cant play in neglected Qualcomm forever. The Seahawks came to town during the preseason and found the visiting Qualcomm locker room disgusting, full of mold, and the problem required expense additional to the $15 million the city loses on the stadium every year.
"It was embarrassing," Maas said. "No other way to describe it."
So look for at least one more year of embarrassment. It wont go on much longer, and it shouldnt.
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