Sanders Pitches Regional Stadium Concept

If it takes a village to raise a child, will it take a region to build a stadium?

If it takes a village to raise a child, will it take a region to build a stadium?

That premise may wind up on a countywide ballot in November of next year.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders sees the project as too costly for his city to bankroll alone.

Noting that only one out of four Chargers season ticketholders lives in San Diego, he's looking for leverage from throughout the region.

But the region is just as financially strapped as San Diego.

While there's nothing like teamwork to overcome challenges, getting a new stadium built in East Village, near Petco Park, is shaping up as a monumental challenge.

It's one thing for dreamers to offer grand designs.

It's another to find the dollars to pay for them, without breaking the bank.

"There is not a way to go to the taxpayers right now and say, 'Are you willing to fund this stadium?'" Sanders said at a Wednesday luncheon forum of regional mayors, hosted by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. 

"Because we know people are still unemployed or underemployed," he said. " We know that's something that's just not going to happen."

Sanders touted a 'joint powers' approach to stadium-building, along the lines of the effort that got voter approval for what's become Qualcomm Stadium in the mid-Sixties.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt embraced the concept.

"Obviously, it's an economic engine," he said.  "Sam Abed in Escondido is trying to bring a baseball team to North County, the Triple-A team. I think those have a place."

Then, turning toward Sanders, Matt added: "I'm just excited that you're doing this, and I will help you any way I can, Jerry."

But San Diego's sister bayfront cities in the Port District that helped build the Convention Center, now targeted for expansion, didn't reap what they expected from it.

As for a new stadium?

"I think this is going to be a regional economic driver, but it's got to be played out between the leaders," cautioned National City Mayor Ron Morrison.

"The region as a whole can help, but I think we need to learn the lessons from the original convention center also."

Public financing for the project is a $400 million question.

The Chargers want a stadium that can double as a multi-purpose venue.

Sanders says that would undercut an expanded Convention Center.

"You can't lure conventions to San Diego if you have another facility that's six blocks away, and half the year you can't plan on when it's available because you have football," he said.  "And football and conventions really don't mix."

Sanders figures if he can enlist county supervisors and fellow mayors in problem-solving, the process of 'heavy lifting' may be a lighter load.

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