Chargers: Combining stadium plan with Convention Center expansion would save money

Estimated cost of standalone stadium is about $1B

SAN DIEGO - A new stadium for the Chargers would cost about $1 billion if built as a stand-alone facility, but the city could save money by combining the project with the San Diego Convention Center expansion, a team official said.

Previous cost estimates for a stadium, which would be built near Petco Park, were around $800 million.

"Well, time passes and the economy recovers and prices go up for things," Mark Fabiani, the Chargers point man on stadium issues, said in an interview Monday on the KPBS radio "Midday" program. "When it was $800 million, the economy was in the doldrums and thank goodness that's changing but that also means things get more expensive."

Southern California's lone NFL team has been searching for a new stadium site for about a decade, and last week filed with the California Coastal Commission a proposal for a joint-use facility with an expanded convention center.

Fabiani said in the radio interview that if the stadium and convention center expansion are constructed separately, the price tag would be around $1.6 billion. The figure would lower by $1.2 billion under the Chargers proposal to build them together, he said.

The team's proposal to the Coastal Commission would scale back the convention center expansion, but provide additional meeting space at a new stadium, which would include a retractable roof.

The plan to expand the convention center has been several years in the making, and it is scheduled to go before the Coastal Commission -- its final regulatory hurdle -- on Oct. 9.

Supporters of the current $520 million convention center expansion plan say the major selling point for the current $520 million expansion plan is it would give the center more floor space under one roof than any other such facility on the West Coast -- which would attract the largest trade shows to San Diego.

San Diego's interim mayor, Todd Gloria, also appeared on the program. He said by comparison, the Chargers proposed stadium is several blocks away from the convention center.

Gloria also questioned how attractive a new Chargers stadium would be for major events, because bookings at Petco Park outside of baseball season are slim. He did promise to turn his attention to the Chargers' stadium issue once work begins on the convention center.

The financing method for construction of a bigger convention center, which is being challenged by lawsuits, would use a surcharge placed on room rates at local hotels. Gloria said that money could not be shifted to the construction of a stadium.

Fabiani, however, said resources for the projects, while substantial, were also finite.

"We have a lot of money from the Chargers and the NFL, we have a development partner, and if we could get access to the hotel tax money and put it all in one big pot, we could build both facilities together," Fabiani said.

"But if you take all the hotel tax money and put it in a convention center expansion -- which by the way won't get started for years to come because the legal wrangling will go on and on and on -- but if you take that money and put it aside there's just not enough left to build a second facility, it's just not there," he said.

Gloria said he's confident in the city's legal position on financing convention center construction, and that it has already won initial court victories.

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