San Diego Makes Final Pitch to NFL to Keep Chargers

San Diego city and county officials have made their final pitch to the NFL in what has been a contentious effort to keep the Chargers from moving to the Los Angeles area.

The Mayor’s chief-of-staff said the 41-page letter will help persuade NFL team owners to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

“San Diego is a great NFL city and has been so for more than 50 years,” Matt Awbrey told NBC 7 San Diego. “And what we’ve put together is a fair and viable stadium plan to keep us an NFL city and home to the Chargers for the next 50 years.”

While Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Commissioner Ron Roberts hope the issue of relocation goes into overtime and gets put off a year, Wednesday's letter to the NFL's Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities might be a desperation pass that's going to fall short.

Faulconer and Roberts signed the letter, which reiterates that the public contribution for a $1.1 billion stadium to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium will be $350 million and the Chargers' share would be $353 million. The NFL would be expected to contribute $200 million, with $187 million coming from personal seat licenses.

It also says the Chargers have always known that a public vote was required for the project.

Awbrey said the financial plan is a fair proposal.

“And for every one dollar of public contribution, there’s two dollars from private sources, including the league, personal seat licenses, corporate sponsors, and the Chargers,” Awbrey said.

Click here to view high-resolution images and here to view a video of the city's proposed stadium plan.

Mark Fabiani, attorney for the Chargers, said the Mayor’s letter lacks any new specifics that will satisfy the team’s concerns. The Chargers’ have repeatedly said the Mission Valley plan is fatally flawed, in part because the “fast-track” Environmental Impact Report will not withstand a legal challenge from stadium opponents.

“The proposal does not contain anything new, so the team has nothing new to add to what has already been said about the proposal,” Fabiani told NBC 7 San Diego.

Another opponent of the Mission Valley plan says the Mayor’s letter understates the true costs of that plan.

Dan McClelland says the cost of removing contaminated dirt from the existing parking lot will by itself add tens of millions of dollars to the cost in Mission Valley.

McClelland told NBC 7San Diego that taxpayers, the Chargers and the NFL could save more than $400 million by building a downtown stadium, at an estimated cost of $680 million.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this month that the league wants certainty in proposals from San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis, which means no time for letting cities have voters decide the fate of stadium projects.

The NFL confirmed Wednesday that it had received submissions from all three cities.

"We appreciate the leadership that public officials have demonstrated on behalf of the three cities. There is a great deal of information for the three teams and all of NFL ownership to review and consider," the league said in a statement. "At this point, no applications for relocation of a franchise have been filed."

Faulconer has insisted that the stadium issue go to a vote. Wednesday's letter said the Chargers have always known it would be subject to a vote, and that it could go on the June ballot -- when Faulconer will be seeking re-election.

The Chargers walked away from negotiations in mid-June and have focused their efforts on building a stadium with their AFC West rivals, the Oakland Raiders, in Carson, California.

NFL owners are scheduled to meet in mid-January to address relocation. They could decide whether the Chargers, Raiders or St. Louis Rams, or a combination, is allowed to move to Los Angeles. The nation's second-largest market hasn't had an NFL team since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season.

"San Diego has been a great NFL city for more than 50 years and we have put together a fair and viable stadium proposal to keep the Chargers here for years to come," Faulconer said in a statement. "This report captures the passion San Diego fans have for their home team and everything we've done to show that San Diego is the only true home of the Chargers. San Diego has an excellent stadium proposal and is a fantastic market that nobody should want to leave."

The report calls San Diego "a growing NFL market distinct from Los Angeles" and cites "loyal fans and broad coalition of support."

The Chargers have played in San Diego for 55 seasons. What could have been their final game in San Diego was an emotional affair on Dec. 20. Quarterback Philip Rivers was on the verge of tears afterward as he talked about the fan support, and he, safety Eric Weddle, tight end Antonio Gates, wide receiver Malcom Floyd and coach Mike McCoy signed autographs for fans afterward.

The Chargers and city have been at odds since 2000, when Chargers owner Alex Spanos said the team needed a new stadium. That was just three years after the stadium was expanded to accommodate the Chargers and Super Bowls.

The stadium saga turned nasty this year as Mark Fabiani, an attorney for team Chairman Dean Spanos, attacked Faulconer and his proposals.

Spanos has had the right to leave San Diego since 2008, but the team's efforts became more aggressive after Rams owner Stan Kroenke announced plans to build a stadium in Inglewood, also in the LA area.

The Chargers claim 25 percent of their fan base comes from north of San Diego County, although they've declined to offer proof.

In the three brief negotiating sessions between the Chargers and city and county officials, the team mostly focused on what it called a flawed environmental impact report for a new stadium. The team did not negotiate finances, but it has said in the past that it expects a public contribution of at least 60 percent.

Under the city-county plan, the public contribution would be capped at 32 percent and the Chargers would be responsible for cost overruns.

St. Louis proposed an open-air, $1.1 billion stadium along the Mississippi north of the iconic Gateway Arch. The plan calls for $150 million from the city, $250 million from the team owner, at least $200 million from the league, and $160 million in fan seat licenses. The rest of the money comes from the state, either through tax credits or bonds.

Oakland officials said they were sending a letter to league officials updating them on Oakland's efforts to persuade the Raiders to stay put.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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