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Bolts open to new digs at Qualcomm site

4/8/2014

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to San Diego Chargers president Dean Spanos, and the point person for the team’s effort to secure a new stadium, provided an update on the team’s stadium effort in an interview with Dan Sileo of The Mighty 1090 AM radio station on Tuesday.

You can listen to the conversation here.

Fabiani confirmed an earlier report by U-T San Diego that representatives from the Chargers will hold their first face-to-face meeting with staff members from San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer's office on Wednesday.

Fabiani described the upcoming meeting as more of an information-gathering session, and emphasized that the sides have been having regular conversations since Faulconer took office on March 3.

“It’s nothing monumental,” Fabiani said. “It’s the process that will continue as we discuss alternatives. What we really hope -- and I think it’s what all of us hope for the city -- is that this mayor stays around for a while. We’ve had seven mayors here in the last 10 years, and we’ve never been able to gather any momentum.”

The Chargers propose to build a football-only facility downtown, to the east of Petco Park (home of the San Diego Padres), that could seat as many as 70,000 for Super Bowls. The cost is projected to be from $800 million to $900 million.

Funding for the stadium would include contributions from the Spanos family and the NFL, along with selling and developing 166 acres of city-owned property that Qualcomm Stadium sits on, and another 100 acres of city-owned property that houses the San Diego Sports Arena, for the city's contribution.

Selling off the parcels of land could generate the city's financial contribution to the project without raising taxes, while creating new tax revenue from the development of the land.

Although a downtown location is preferred, Fabiani said the team is open to considering other locations for the project, including the Qualcomm Stadium site.

“We’ve gone into these discussions with the new mayor with a completely open mind,” Fabiani said. “In other words, if there’s a solution we haven’t thought of in the last 12 years, we are very willing to consider it. We don’t have any preconceptions. Obviously, having worked on it for 12 years, we feel like we know a lot about the options.

“But if we could find something that worked downtown, there would be a lot going for that. If we could find something that worked at the Qualcomm site, I think we would be happy with that, too. Our view is we’re open-minded, and we’re willing to consider all ideas.”

That said, Fabiani detailed the attraction of being located downtown next to Petco Park.

“One of the real attractions to downtown is the ability to create a sports and entertainment district that would really be unrivaled in this country,” Fabiani said. “I mean, you look at Staples Center in Los Angeles and L.A. Live, and what they’ve been able to do just with one arena there, creating a real vibrant part of downtown. Imagine if you had the convention center, the football stadium and the baseball park all within one another. ... It would be one of the great locations in the country to come have fun and see an entertainment event. It would be fantastic.”

The Chargers could seek a citywide special election as early as June 2015 for approval of a replacement for Qualcomm, which was built in 1967. However, Fabiani acknowledged a more realistic time frame for voters to weigh in on the project could be February 2016 in a less costly presidential primary.

“We’ve always said that whatever happens has to be voted on by the people,” Fabiani said. “That this should not be something that gets negotiated somewhere else and gets forced on the people. The people should have a right to vote for it. Now when that vote happens, that’s an open question.

“I know that next year, 2015, has been talked about. We’ve talked about it. The problem is that would be a special election, and that means it would be a low-turnout election. You wouldn’t get the same high number of voters that you would in a governors’ race or presidential race. And that’s really not good for a program like we’re proposing, an ambitious construction project like this.”

Fabiani said the team would like to structure the ballot measure so voters throughout San Diego County can weigh in on the project.

Fabiani also confirmed that the main goal for the Spanos family remains keeping the Chargers in San Diego.

“Just look at what they’ve done in the last 12 years -- the amount of money they’ve spent and the amount of aggravation they’ve gone through and the frustration we’ve all experienced,” Fabiani said. “But they’ve stuck with it.

“Again, ultimately this is a business. This is a team that people expect to succeed. They expect us to put the best players on the field. They expect us to spend up to the salary cap every year. And ultimately you have to protect the economics of your business. But Dean [Spanos] and his family have shown tremendous commitment to San Diego, and tremendous commitment to get this done.”