The San Diego Chargers are getting pushback from officials on a proposal to combine the city’s plans for a new $550 million convention center with plans for a $800 million football stadium.
Mark Fabiani, the team’s counsel on the stadium, unveiled the Chargers’ proposal to combine the projects during an editorial board meeting with the San Diego Union Tribune on Monday.
But Fabiani said in an interview Tuesday that the team has been discussing the idea of combining the convention center and stadium with city officials for several months.
While the mayor’s office understands why the Chargers want to explore all possible stadium options in San Diego, Darren Pudgill, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders said officials believe the city has the wherewithal to build a new convention center and a separate stadium. The convention center currently generates $30 million a year for city coffers, he said.
The city has been working on plans for a redevelopment area that would include the conference center, new shops and restaurants, and a stadium in downtown San Diego, all of which are expected to generate additional revenue for the city, Pudgill said.
City officials see several problems with combining the stadium and convention center. First, it would create scheduling problems, because conventions are planned several years in advance while football teams don’t know which games will be played at home until the season starts, according to Pudgill.
Convention planners also want contiguous space so that convention attendees don’t have to walk several blocks from hotels to the convention site, he said.
The city’s proposed convention center expansion — separate from the Charger’s proposal — would cost $550 million. It would be funded by an assessment of 1% to 3% levied on hotel bills. Other potential sources, including revenue from downtown food and beverage sales and a citywide surcharge on taxi fares, would generate up to $40 million for bond payments.
The financing structure for the city’s proposed redevelopment project hasn’t been worked out, however, according to officials. They hope to vote within the next few months on a measure that would put a proposition on the ballot in November 2012, Pudgill said.
But the Chargers hope to take a page out of developer AEG’s playbook in Los Angeles.
AEG, developer of the multibillion dollar LA Live Project adjacent to a proposed stadium, has worked out an agreement with Los Angeles city officials for a combined convention center stadium project. As part of AEG’s agreement, the city is issuing $250 million of bonds to help fund plans to renovate its convention center and build the stadium.
The Chargers estimated their stadium’s cost at $750 million to $800 million with half the funding coming from local taxpayers, Fabiani said. Redevelopment officials have budgeted $150 million for site cleanup and relocation of a bus yard but not any funds to underwrite actual construction. The Chargers proposed the combined convention center-stadium because team officials think it would result in a financial structure more likely to work, Fabiani said.
The Charger’s combined design, which is being created by Populous, a Kansas City-based architectural firm, would include several hundred thousand square feet of convention space.
The new design would make the entertainment center flexible enough to host major sports events so the venue could be used more frequently than the 10 to 12 games most single-use National Football League stadiums see, Fabiani said.
Unlike their peers in other cities, San Diego officials support using taxpayer money to build a stadium, because they want to keep the Chargers in San Diego, Pudgill said. The team has been on a short list of pro football teams that AEG has been trying to convince to move into its proposed Los Angeles facility.