Complex Parlays in Motion Behind Stadium Maneuvers

NBC 7's Gene Cubbison offers this analysis on the latest developments in the search for a new Chargers stadium.

The future of big-time football and conventions in San Diego is now becoming a high-stakes numbers game.

Whose math is the most reliable — and pencils out for the highest return on investments?

The standoff over the Mission Valley site recommended by Mayor Faulconer’s stadium advisers comprises a complex set of parlays.

One key player — former Padres owner John Moores’ JMI Realty firm — is eying the Qualcomm property for purposes that align with the Chargers' downtown plans — which in turn don't mesh with the hotel industry's.

Is there a referee in the house?

"If everyone unites, there is no reason for the Chargers to leave,” declared Adam Day, the stadium advisory group’s chairman, during a Thursday news conference at Qualcomm Stadium. “And there will be much for us all to celebrate.”

But the Chargers aren’t quite ready to give up the ghost of a hybrid stadium-convention facility in downtown’s East Village, where JMI Realty got Petco Park built and is the area’ leading landlord.

Not only is JMI welcoming the prospect of the Chargers' project as an addition to the fast-gentrifying neighborhood — the firm fancies the Qualcomm site for a medium-sized stadium that would serve the Aztecs football team, and include space for an off-campus expansion of SDSU facilities and a Scripps Oceanography lab along the San Diego River.

Such a development also could dissuade the Chargers from following through on overtures in the NFL’s Los Angeles-A market, where JMI thinks the team has a good case with the league to block a potential Rams franchise move there from St. Louis.

Downtown hoteliers, meantime, are concerned that room tax money they need to expand the convention center will be siphoned off by an East Village stadium, and their business on NFL season game days undercut.

The numbers behind the dollar signs for all this run into several columns — and appraisals of how far they'll really go at the two sites seem to be all over the map, with the Chargers insisting that the East Village undertaking’s bottom line is a superior choice.

However, as Day argued following the anointment of the Qualcomm site: "Our research suggests the exact opposite. Downtown is more expensive, it will take more time, and it's far more complicated."

In a recording session for Sunday's edition of "Politically Speaking" NBC 7 learned that JMI consultants believe the city's expansion costs have been lowballed.

"Unfortunately their independent work demonstrated that the cost of the coastal (bay front) expansion is $680 million, not $520 million,” said former state lawmaker and finance chief Steve Peace, now JMI’s senior adviser. “By comparison, the stand-alone convention center expansion on what is known as Tailgate (Park) -- which is where we always expected the expansion to be years ago — is $475 million."

Peace also predicted that issues of cost-containment, liability for construction budget overruns and development potential will be paramount in endgame negotiations between the team and city.

Is the Chargers’ Goldman Sachs-backed joint venture with the Oakland Raiders in the city of Carson a bluff?

"Well, I don't think it's a bluff, but I think it's a distant second choice,” Peace said. “I think the Chargers clearly would prefer to stay in town; the NFL would clearly prefer the Chargers to stay in San Diego. But it's going to come down to, in Mission Valley — as (Chargers special counsel) Mark Fabiani was saying on the radio … the question is really can you close the gap on financing? Because it's a much bigger gap on the public-sector side than downtown was in a joint facility."

But if the Chargers' "distant second choice" in Carson becomes more of an option, how would a move to a former dumpsite play out among NFL owners, with the Rams concurrently scheming in Inglewood?

"They're positioning themselves to make an aggressive argument that that is encroaching on their territory,” Peace explained. “And they're in the best position of any team to make that claim because nobody else is marketing in that market right now."

In any case, there seems to be no shortage of urgency to “do something” before outside developments overtake San Diego’s timeline — and whatever common ground can be assembled among the competing interests — to keep the Chargers in town.

"Politically Speaking" is scheduled to air at 5 p.m. Sunday on NBC 7.

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