NBC 7’s Derek Togerson offers a new idea to build a NFL stadium/expanded convention center … and something else in this commentary
The City of San Diego and the San Diego Chargers seem to be in a tug-of-war and neither side is willing to give an inch. While the Bolts try to gain enough signatures to get their citizens’ initiative on the ballot in November (special stadium advisor Fred Maas went on XTRA Sports 1360 on Tuesday and announced they’re doing well) they are getting no help, or even any indication if they’ll ever get an endorsement, from the Mayor’s office.
There are fears that Mayor Kevin Faulconer will throw up a whole bunch of road blocks if things go his way in June’s election, and he certainly has the ability (and thanks to the hoteliers, the motivation) to do just that. So the Chargers need an ace in the hole, some kind of carrot to dangle that would FORCE City Hall to take notice.
So I offer you … The Force.
George Lucas wants to build a museum. To be specific, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Lucas has an extensive collection of art and just a little bit of movie memorabilia. He has plans for a facility that will showcase classic art from his personal archives with pieces from Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, as well as be an ode to film in America, featuring storyboards and tales of how classic movies were made.
Lucas says he’s willing to spend $700 million of his own money for the construction but this is not simply a vanity project. Just his week former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was named to the Lucas Museum board of directors. George is serious about making this thing happen. The problem is he can’t find a place to put it.
Lucas started with a site in San Francisco but it never worked out. He then moved to the Chicago lakefront and has the support of the city council but it’s being held up by litigation and may be dying on the vine. So Lucas is now looking at another spot in the Bay Area but it has not been finalized and has its own potential issues.
Now, here’s the part of this idea that’s so crazy it just might work.
In their citizens’ initiative the Chargers have not specified the full size or scope of their convadium. There are vague numbers about how much convention space will be available but the final design is still open. What if they went to George Lucas and offered him enough space on the convadium land to build his museum?
It still could conceivably not violate the “single-use” provision of a citizens’ initiative (CI) because it could be classified as part of the convention center. How awesome could this be? Let me count the ways:
• Lucas is looking for cheap land and a local government he can work with. By joining with the Chargers plan he would under the umbrella of the CI and not have to worry about any more litigation holding thins up because “land acquisition” is already mentioned in the initiative.
• As for the local government he can work with (something that is usually not found in San Diego when it comes to building anything) Lucas and the Chargers could provide a united front and a partnership between the NFL and a multi-billionaire cultural icon would make a daunting team. The Mayor’s office would have to think long and hard about being responsible for telling Lucas AND the NFL to stay out of town.
• Part of his build would be covered by the increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) so the $700 million from Lucas could go to basically guaranteeing there will never be a shortfall and the City’s General Fund will have no exposure if the revenue from the tax ever falls short of projections.
• Keeping Comic-Con is a good idea for San Diego. The prospect of having George Lucas involved in a convention center expansion is something SDCC would have to take a long look at.
• Having someone like George Lucas on their side would certainly not cost the Chargers any votes on Election Day in November, and it would almost definitely earn them a whole lot more. If the vote for passing the CI is 67 percent, they’ll need all the help they can get.
• The potential game day experience would be off the charts. Let the museum design and the stadium design share some common factors. Give Lucas a few spots inside to have a real Star Wars or Indiana Jones kind of feel to it with display cases holding Luke’s lightsaber and Indy’s hat and bullwhip. Heck, we can even nickname the new stadium The Death Star. Have C3PO and R2D2 show you where your seats are. If the Chargers were going to let Bob Iger have a say in their Carson facility, they could do a lot worse than getting some creative input from George Lucas.
Of course there are pitfalls. This is San Diego so you can expect litigation from someone over something at some point. But if you present an idea that is so grand and such potential, it becomes a lot harder for people to try and stop it from happening.
Now, the biggest question is: Are there enough people with the creativity in this town to pull it off? San Diego politics have been dominated by small-mindedness for years. The Chargers are not exactly known for their outside-the-box experiments, either.
I’m not saying this idea is a slam dunk. It might never work. Lucas may have no desire to be in San Diego. But isn’t it worth a phone call? Isn’t it worth actually exploring? You never know until you try, and sometimes a little effort goes a long way.