Chargers Stadium Surprise: No Public Vote for New Taxes Needed

Proposed stadium plans reportedly require minimal public money

This was already going to be a big week in the evolution of the San Diego Chargers football stadium saga. Wednesday was the scheduled date for the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group to reveal its stadium and financing plan.

Well, the CSAG got its work done early, and it’s not waiting to show off the goods.

A 1 p.m. media conference has been scheduled for Monday at the County Operations Center in Kearny Mesa where plans for the new stadium, including the general architectural look and the financing plan to get it built at the current Mission Valley site will be revealed.

Here’s the part that will knock your socks off: sources close to the process say the group has found a way to build the $1.2 billion facility without asking citizens of San Diego County for a tax raise.

That’s right. The CSAG claims it can get a new, $1.2 billion NFL stadium for the Chargers built in Mission Valley without the taxpayers in general chipping in, which opens a multitude of questions. Namely, how is that possible in a market like San Diego?

All the details are not yet known but sources say the Chargers will be asked to kick in more than the proposed $200 million they have offered, possibly up to $300 million. That amount is separate from the $200 million the NFL has offered to add to a stadium build.

One way the Bolts can start working in that direction is a slight increase in ticket prices. This is why we can’t say there will be “no public funds” involved in the new stadium. San Diegans are going to have to, in some capacity, chip in. The difference is it will not be all residents who have to do it, only those who choose to pay to see the games.

The Chargers already have the sixth-cheapest tickets in the NFL. An increase of $10 per seat would still give them the seventh-least expensive seat in any NFL house. A parking surcharge is also a possibility.

As with most other new stadiums built in the last decade, the Chargers will have to start a PSL (Personal Seat License) sale. Fans will have to purchase the right to purchase tickets in specific seats. It’s been an ongoing debate as to how much revenue can be expected from that practice in San Diego but nobody expects to reach the reported $300 million the 49ers generated for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, which sits right in the heart of the most lucrative technology hub in the nation.

The Vikings and Falcons have set goals of around $100 million for their PSL sales. The Chargers will likely shoot for close to that number.

Another possibility is a “bridge” loan from the county to the city. San Diego County has a reported $700 million surplus in its general fund and could offer some of that to the city to back the construction, even though some local politicians oppose the idea.

Then you have the proposal of development generating money for the stadium. The concept there is areas surrounding the stadium will be filled with condominiums, apartments, restaurants and retail stores. Those private businesses will be taxed and that money will go towards the cost of the new facility.

The problem with this idea is it takes a long time for the money to come in and the NFL has explicitly said they do not want new stadiums being financed this way. However, if it is only a small percentage of the total cost the league could look at it.

If there is no request for public tax dollars, no public vote would be necessary and the local government could conceivably vote on whether or not to go ahead with it in the next few months. However, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has promised a public vote on a new stadium and San Diego residents will likely still have input on the matter through a vote in some capacity.

Of course, all this is all based on the Chargers ownership group accepting the proposal. The team will likely take its time in going over the plan and make counter-proposals before a final decision is reached.

Other issues such as how long the build would take and how to build a stadium on a site that already has a stadium and still have room to park are as of yet unknown.

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