The Chargers' push for a downtown stadium now has backing from some real political muscle.
San Diego's influential Regional Chamber of Commerce jumped on the Bolts' bandwagon Thursday, pointing toward a site near Petco Park in East Village.
The Chamber of Commerce boasts a membership of more than 4,000 businesses, large and small.
Among them are a number of bayfront and downtown hotels that oppose the stadium project -- along with a convention annex that would be part of it.
Chamber CEO Jerry Sanders announced the group’s endorsement during a late-morning news conference at Chargers Park in Murphy Canyon.
"A few of the key advantages of a downtown stadium include hosting future Super Bowls, continued revitalization of East Village, and adding capacity for convention business," Sanders told a gathering of journalists and stadium backers in the franchise’s auditorium.
Chargers chairman and co-owner Dean Spanos said: “I cannot tell you what this means to me personally, but I can tell you we would not have a chance of success without the support of the chamber.”
Early public opinion polls suggest the nearly $1.8 billion project would have trouble winning a simple majority in the November election, much less the two-thirds that state law requires for a tax raising measure.
It would add four percent to the city’s hotel tax bills, topping out at 16.5 percent.
The Chargers and NFL would bankroll about a third of the costs.
The team already has spent $5 million getting an initiative on the November ballot, and expects to spend much more on its campaign.
But critics say the higher room tax would put a damper on tourism and convention bookings and that trade groups prefer to have the Convention Center enlarged on-site -- not a few blocks away, next to a stadium.
"They're going to get this big tax increase that is not really going to go to pulling more tourists into San Diego,” says April Boling, an activist with an opposition group called “No Downtown Stadium – Jobs and Streets First”.
“In fact,” Boling added in an interview Thursday, “it's going to have the opposite impact when you start building this stadium and a non-contiguous convention center expansion."
Matt Awbrey a spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer, told NBC that "key financial issues" are still being examined by city officials and outside consultants.
“We are looking forward to additional analysis and information that is coming that will give great clarity on the project’s finances,” Awbrey said in a statement, “and ultimately whether this is a fair deal for taxpayers.”
If the Chargers’ initiative fails, there's another citizens’ ballot measure that could still pave the way for a stadium project.
However, that assumes its approval threshold is ruled – in an expected legal showdown – to be a simple majority, and it wins enough votes.