Chargers Stadium Plan: Pitfalls and Possibilities

Team leaning towards staying in San Diego for 2017 season regardless of this year's vote

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson offers a look at the likely issues that the Chargers will face in their new Downtown Stadium/Convention Center proposal in this commentary

The Chargers plans for the so-called “Convadium,” a convention center paired with a new football stadium, is undoubtedly a grand idea. It’s nice to see San Diego thinking big again and trying to represent itself as what it is, one of the largest cities in the Union.

NBC 7’s partners the Voice of San Diego reported Wednesday that a new proposal raising hotel room taxes from 10.5 percent to 16.5 percent to help foot the bill for the stadium will be announced in the next few weeks. The team and NFL would add an estimated $650 million to the project. And the plan would set aside money for a tourism marketing fund which hoteliers may find appealing given the uncertainty of a pending law suit against their current mechanism for marketing.

However, the way the Bolts are going about it is ripe with potential pitfalls. Before we all get too excited about the possibility of finally getting a new facility that would keep the NFL in San Diego for at least another 30 years it will be wise to ask a few questions that will (hopefully) be answered in the next few days.


The Chargers had hoped to have a new initiative ready to present to the public by Thursday, March 24. It’s looking like they fell behind that timeline and are feverishly trying to play catch-up. Part of the reason for the delay is the Bolts have hired a new architect to come up with a brand new design for the “Convadium.” It is unknown at this time if the new one will still feature the idea of one stacked on top of the other or a side-by-side layout. Chargers spokespeople tell NBC 7 they are still consulting with, "parties and interested groups, and at the moment we still have work to do." The team does not, at the moment, have a firm estimate on when the proposal will be finished.

Missing their self-imposed deadline by a few days is not fatal (keep in mind, once they file the initiative, they have to wait three weeks to start gathering the 67,000-plus signatures from verified voters) but it could put getting the initiative on the ballot in November 2016 in jeopardy.

The good news is the team is willing to go beyond that election. Sources close to the organization’s thinking say if the initiative fails to get on the November ballot or is shot down by the voters the Bolts would try to get a special election done in June. That means they’re planning on exercising the option the NFL gave them to take an extra year to work on a stadium plan and playing the 2017 season in San Diego at the Q. If things still can’t get done here they would not move to Los Angeles to join the Rams until 2018 at the earliest.


Local attorney Cory Briggs really got this whole Downtown ball rolling when he authored a citizen’s initiative late in 2015. The point of that plan was to block the hoteliers from trying to get a contiguous convention center expansion built. He was not terribly concerned with a new stadium but his plan is working. Behind the scenes the lawsuits he has aimed at the hoteliers have basically gotten them to back off. They call "Uncle" and, according to sources, will not put up any more road blocks against the non-contiguous convention center.

So his plan is basically free and clear to get to the ballot, provided he gets enough signatures, which Briggs is close to acquiring. The Chargers are writing a plan that doubles up and makes his unnecessary. After putting all that effort in to the process and beating the powerful hotel lobby will Briggs really walk away and just give the Chargers his position? That seems to be exactly what the team plans on doing. Keep in mind the signatures he’s gathered do not transfer to the new initiative so they will be starting from square one. The team would likely have to dangle one Hell of a carrot to get him to agree to it.


San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has said from the beginning he will not support a tax increase for a new NFL stadium. The Chargers are proposing a 6 percent tax increase. Sure, it’s on tourists, but a tax increase is a tax increase and San Diegans are as tax-averse a group as you’ll find anywhere in the U.S.A. Faulconer says he will not make an official statement until the official plan is officially unveiled.

The Chargers are really going to need the assistance of City Hall for one very important reason, which leads us to …


The Chargers are basically about to embark on a political campaign. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but the current ownership group has not exactly been good at understanding or relating with its fan base, especially in the last couple of years.

In a nutshell, the team is doing what it’s done so often the last few years, both on and off the field: Playing from behind. What they need is the help of someone who knows how to win an election in San Diego. Mayor Faulconer obviously has that part figured out. Having him in their corner to help win a vote gives them a substantially better shot at winning. But Faulconer has his own concerns, not the least of which is …


The plan says the Bolts and the out-of-towners will build and maintain the facility … but the City of San Diego (and therefore the taxpayers) will own the facility. That’s fine for a Convention Center but not terribly ideal for a stadium (see Exhibit A: Qualcomm Stadium). There are plenty of reasons owners of professional sports franchises want the public to pay for and own stadiums and right near the top of the list is the fact the lease eventually has to come due and at the end holding a massive piece of property that may or may not continue to house an NFL franchise is a dicey proposition, at best.


Expect a big fight about this. The Chargers proposal does not, and due to a citizen’s initiative’s rule of being “single-purpose” really cannot, have any impact on what would happen to the existing Qualcomm Stadium site. Developers would love to get their hands on it. Some local politicians would love to make the Riverfront Park that’s been kicked around so often. San Diego State and UC San Diego would love to expand campuses there. John Moores would love to have a new 35,000-seat MLS stadium there, likely to be shared by the Aztecs football team. The Mayor will have several options and lots of people asking for favors there.

Other than all those things the plan looks great. At least, we think it does.

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