City Hires Chargers Stadium Consultant

Mayor says convention center expansion, stadium projects could coexist

San Diego has a new, high-profile financial adviser for its downtown stadium plans.

The Chargers are offering advice of their own. In essence, they want the city to buy into their latest concept -- a stadium combined with convention space.

George Bilicic, an investment advisory banker with New York-based Lazard, Ltd., has been hired by Mayor Jerry Sanders to formulate an alternate stadium financing plan and offer it to the Chargers.

Sanders is talking about borrowing around $400 million in the bond market to cover about half of the stadium's projected cost.

Which means the public would pony up $38 million a year over 30 years in principal and interest.

The Bolts have been looking toward greener pastures for almost a decade. They've targeted a 15-acre site in East Village, near Petco Park, as pay dirt.

The deal is about dollars, but there are devils in the details.

The team's thinking has gone far beyond an early, open-air stadium concept to one that would have a retractable cover and encompass space for major conventions, Final Fours and trade shows.

Meantime, plans for a $550 million expansion of the Convention Center, six blocks away, are also in the works.

The mayor says both projects could be financed, and co-exist.

"We believe that's the best use of a sports facility," Sanders said of the Chargers' multi-use stadium approach during a Thursday news conference. "And that could be used for a lot of other things. But we just see those as two separate facilities."

However, the Chargers don't quite see it that way.

"I think that when people start to churn through these numbers," said Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani, "they're going to find that building two separate facilities so close to one another is not going to be economically feasible.

"It's either going to be one or the other. Or it's going to be a combined facility."

Yet with an economy that's prompted urban "Occupy" campouts from Wall Street to San Diego's Civic Center Plaza, there are mixed feelings about a stadium project in a city whose infrastructure is sagging.

"I think it would be a good downtown stimulus, and a boon to the whole area," says Rancho Bernardo resident Mike Scoggin.

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