Mission Valley Not Top Choice For Bolts' Stadium Game Plan

NBC 7's Political Reporter Gene Cubbison offers this analysis of the latest developments involving a new stadium for the Chargers.

Behind all the public statements and civic posturing in San Diego’s scramble for a new stadium is a high-stakes drama rife with political intrigue.

It may not be a stretch to see parallels to plots drawn from "House of Cards" or "Game of Thrones."

Politics and football have become a real collision sport here, and between the lines of what was said Thursday at Qualcomm Stadium is confirmation of wealthy forces operating at cross purposes.

"If you listen to those who sow seeds of division and dissent, we are doomed,” the mayor’s stadium advisory group chairman Adam Day told a news media scrum gathered in front of the late, great Jack Murphy’s statue. “However, our committee is focused on success."

Those seed-sowers weren’t identified publicly, but would seem to fit the description of a National Football League franchise that’s long been looking for a new tenancy, and a business partner whose principal once owned a Major League Baseball franchise.

"There's going to be some sort of deal on the table from the city,” said Liam Dillon, who’s extensively covered stadium issues for The Voice of San Diego and pointed out that the Mission Valley option will be short on tailgating space.

“We'll see how strong the mayor is in promoting that or not,” Dillon continued in an interview Thursday. “He could say, ‘This is mine, take it or leave it,' or he could say, 'Well, I don't know, let's let the voters decide and I'll be hands-off.’ So it takes two sides to figure something out. And wherever the more money is for the Chargers, that's what they're going to do."

And at every turn since the remodeling and re-branding of the stadium for "Qualcomm" in 1997, the Chargers have outplayed the city of San Diego -- financially speaking.

The place is a money pit and costing more every year -- at a time when the hospitality industry is desperate for funding to expand the bayfront Convention Center.

The Chargers are still touting a hybrid stadium and convention facility in downtown’s East Village, a proposal they say pencils out much better than separate projects in Mission Valley and on the bay.

"Building them separately is about $1.8 billion,” saud Steve Peace, senior adviser to former Padres owner John Moores – whose JMI Realty firm is collaborating with the Chargers on their East Village game plan.

“Building it as a joint use facility is $1.4 billion,” Peace told NBC 7, “so if you assume as a community we're going build both, you save about $400 million in construction costs by building them together."

The Chargers also dispute claims that removing the MTS bus yard from the East Village project footprint would take several years and $150 million.

So whose numbers are the city’s chief executive -- and voters -- to believe?

In an interview Thursday, Mayor Kevin Faulconer offered this guarded perspective: "The good news is that as the plan comes together, as numbers are attached to it, it becomes not just real -- really, people see the 'art of the possible'. That's what's been missing in this dialogue."

Faulconer had just spoken by phone with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“There's a lot happening, obviously, in Los Angeles,” said the mayor. “And I said ‘What we can control in San Diego, that's what I'm focused on.’ If we get together a plan that makes sense, that taxpayers will support, we'll keep the Chargers right here for decades to come."

Now, from the Chargers' side of the equation came this emailed statement -- and only this -- from the team’s special counsel Mark Fabiani: "We've really tried to make our point of view clear on this issue repeatedly over the last couple of years, and there isn't anything new to add today."

Smart money says the Chargers will have to see superior cost savings and earnings potential to buy into the Mission Valley stadium paradigm.

Peace said JMI is doing its own research on that option.

But what would figure to matter most to the bottom line for taxpayers and voters is the city's ability to reach a shrewd deal with the Bolts.

Odds of that?

Here's some history, courtesy of Dillon: "They made a bad deal in 1997 with the ticket guarantee. They made a bad deal in 2004 which allowed the Chargers to get out of their contract every single year -- just for paying off money that wouldn't even pay for the renovations that happened in 1997. The city makes bad deals, period."

Meantime Thursday in Carson, signature-gatherers began circulating petitions for a joint-use stadium initiative.

If the 30-day statutory effort falls short of the required number of valid signatures from registered voters, the city council there could put it on the ballot – theoretically creating more urgency for the stadium timeline in San Diego.

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