As the Chargers and local government negotiators prepare to sit down at the bargaining table Tuesday, court documents say the team allegedly began talking about a stadium with Carson city officials in mid-2013 – farther back than anyone suspected.
In an amended complaint filed against the city of Carson, Richard Rand, a real estate developer, says he started trying to find Carson an NFL team in 2008. In 2012, his company Rand Resources signed an exclusive agreement to be the city’s agent for an NFL deal.
But the lawsuit alleges another company, U.S. Capital, began working with the city on a similar mission in at least the summer of 2013, meeting with NFL team representatives “including the San Diego Chargers, about relocating to Carson,” the document says. Rand Resources wants $56 million in damages.
That timeline, if true, would mean the Chargers set the ball rolling on a Carson stadium deal about a year earlier than previously believed.
The team has maintained that a Carson stadium would be their “Plan B” and their first choice would be staying put in San Diego. Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos will be discussing that “Plan A” Tuesday with Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
“The timing is right,” said Tony Manolatos, the spokesman for Faulconer’s Citizens Stadium Advisory Group (CSAG). “The city and county are on good financial footing, so that's encouraging."
But sources told NBC 7 the back-and-forth between city and county officials and the team has turned “toxic” -- a word that does not raise expectations already on the low side.
Is Team Spanos inclined, at this early stage, to engage on the overall framework of the Mission Valley redevelopment plan that CSAG rolled out?
"If they're confident saying that, I think we're headed toward a major campaign toward a new stadium in Mission Valley,” said the Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis, who has extensively covered the Chargers’ stadium dilemma. “If they're not willing to say that, then we may have an indication that the Chargers told them this whole framework is not something they're interested in."
There's reason not to rush things too much. In this high stakes poker game, early bet-hiking and bluff-calling could result in needless "lose-lose" outcomes.
But the Bolts don't want to lose a race to the L.A. market with Stan Kroenke, the multibillionaire owner of the St. Louis Rams who has bought up land in Inglewood for a stadium of his own.
"He has more money than God, and his wife has more money than him,” said Manolatos. “He wants to build a stadium in Inglewood; he was blowing things up this weekend to prepare that stadium. So he's driving a lot of this. And Stan has the money, he has the land. So everybody is sort of trying to play catch-up with Stan."
Conventional wisdom says the Chargers are reacting to Mission Valley site and financing plan put forth by CSAG and Faulconer with "the sound of one hand clapping” at best.
They've gotten so far along with their "Plan B" in Carson that the San Diego city and county negotiating team will need fallback proposals from their financial consultants and breathing room from the NFL to pull out a Hail Mary that the Bolts will embrace.
"There are too many people in San Diego, and they have such a strong presence here in San Diego to just jump ship and go to another city. They'd be risking a lot,” said Little Italy resident Deanna Degidio.
Even among longtime Charger fans, there's a sense that maybe the team has overstayed its welcome.
"You know, we want a winner -- and at any cost,” said El Cajon resident Dennis Cooley. “So I think it's time for a new team. Hiring good people. Gotta get a new ownership in here at get a winner on the field."
During Tuesday’s time at the negotiating table, Faulconer and Spanos are expected to come up with a game place for the proposed 65,000-seat stadium in Mission Valley.
The CSAG financing plan includes a $1.1 billion price tag and has the Chargers paying for $300 million of it. The proposal also banks on the city selling 75 acres of public land for $225 million.