Chargers Won't Bolt San Diego

Signs suggest they’ll stay a longer term

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    They didn't make this year's NFL playoffs.

    But the Chargers announced Monday they'll stay in San Diego to try again, in the 2012 season.

    Chargers Won't Bolt San Diego

    [DGO] Chargers Won't Bolt San Diego
    The Chargers announced Monday they'll stay in San Diego to try again, in the 2012 season. NFL.com Chargers.com. (Published Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012)

    Until their lease at Qualcomm Stadium runs out in 2020, the team has an annual window to 'bolt' town.

    By waiving that escape clause again, three weeks before this year's window was due to open, they gave a hint and greater hope that they'll have more longevity here.

    The key to a longer-term commitment: a new stadium to replace the Qualcomm facility that opened in 1967 and was expanded in 1997.

    "Both the mayor's office and Chargers look forward to continuing their joint efforts to build a multi-use stadium that will benefit the entire region," Mayor Jerry Sanders and Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a statement released by the city.

    Whatever their performance on home turf, the Chargers haven't been happy with their surroundings for many seasons.

    They want to put Qualcomm Stadium in their rear-view mirror.

    But while plans for Farmers Field in Los Angeles are in play throughout the league, they're taking a long time to pan out -- much like the team's own dream field in downtown San Diego.

    Indications are that whatever sense of urgency that's routinely generated by purported stadium developments in Los Angeles, longtime observers of the local situation believe it makes no sense to act in blind haste.

    "There's nowhere to go," said San Diego newspaper sports columnist Nick Canepa.  "Where are they going to play? The Coliseum, until something gets done?"

    In an interview Monday, Canepa outlined what he called a "chicken-and-egg" dilemma whereby no NFL team will move without a stadium in place, and no stadium would be built without a tenant lined up to occupy it.

    For the Chargers, he said, "the last thing in the world they want to be is a lame duck. Because then, nobody'll go to the games."

    The Bolts want to turn a 10-acre stretch of East Village into a multi-purpose, retractable-roof stadium that would encompass convention facilities -- under a financing approach they say eliminates the need for redevelopment subsidies, which the state Supreme Court ruled out December in landmark decisions Dec. 29th.

    The site is not far from the bayfront San Diego Convention Center, which Sanders and major hotel owners want to expand regardless of the Chargers' proposal.

    "It may move forward, it may not," said Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani.   "There are a lot of hurdles in its way, and we'll have to see if it gets over those hurdles.  If it doesn't we hope people will come back and give our idea a good look.  Because we think it deserves that."

    As much as non-union construction contractors hate the prospect, San Diego's organized labor community figures to be a big player in all this -- as it was when Petco Park was built under a 'project labor agreement' with the unions.

    "I think with either project, we're looking for a 'community benefits agreement' that includes a written commitment to local hire," said Lorena Gonzalez, who heads up the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate that comprises 133 labor groups. 

    "We think if taxpayer money or public land is used," Gonzalez, explained Monday, "that San Diegans who are out of work -- construction workers -- should be the first ones to work on that project."

    On the premise that if it 'takes a village to raise a child', the Chargers and Mayor Sanders have concluded it will take the entire region to build the stadium.

    They're looking for some 'skin in the game' for whatever's publicly subsidized from the county and other cities, where a big chunk of Chargers fans live.

    At this point, Fabiani said, that could amount to about half of the site acquisition, preparation and construction costs.

    Sanders has been looking at deadlines for a financing plan that could be finalized in a proposition that goes to voters in the November general election.

    But Fabiani said the Chargers would underwrite the costs of an off-year special election in 2013, if necessary, along with the team's campaign expenses.

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