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Thursday, September 13, 2007
Two Chula Vista sites vie for Chargers Stadium

Associated Press

CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- Two pieces of land in this fast-growing suburb south of downtown San Diego are suitable for an NFL stadium, according to a study released Thursday that was funded by the San Diego Chargers.

The findings elevate Chula Vista's prospects of landing Southern California's only NFL team as the Chargers intensify efforts to leave Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

The architectural firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners identified the top-ranked site as a 500-acre parcel about seven miles inland from San Diego Bay. A 139-acre bayfront site that is currently occupied by a power plant ranked second.

The Chargers paid $220,000 for the study, which also considered two other sites in Chula Vista, a city of 230,000 people.

Chula Vista officials are clearly enamored with the bayfront site.

"If we're looking at a power plant site, I think it's a good deal for the people of Chula Vista if we do trade volts for Bolts," Councilman Steve Castaneda said at a news conference, playing off an unofficial nickname that stems from the Chargers' lightning bolt logo.

The Chargers plan community forums in the next month to get public feedback.

The Chargers also are considering Oceanside in north San Diego County. It is financing a study, expected to be released by the end of the month, to help determine ways to pay for a stadium on a public golf course there.

The team's lead negotiator, Mark Fabiani, said Chula Vista's waterfront site poses obstacles, including a possible cleanup of the power plant after it is torn down.

"I think everyone knows at this point that no site is going to be perfect, that every site we're looking at is going to have advantages and disadvantages, and it's really going to be up to us to try to sort that out with the elected officials and with the public," Fabiani said.

"But in the end, it's going to be up to the public to look at this study and look at the one we're doing up in Oceanside, and tell us whether it's something they're interested in."

While burdened with the power plant, the bayfront site is near Interstate 5 and a trolley line. The inland site, while much larger, isn't served by mass transit.

The team says it wants to narrow its search in San Diego County to one site by the end of the year. It says the stadium will be privately financed, but is asking interested cities to donate land.

The Chargers say they need a new stadium to remain financially competitive with other teams.

The team has ruled out a new stadium at the Qualcomm site because of San Diego's financial troubles and friction with City Attorney Mike Aguirre. The team can leave San Diego after the 2008 season if it pays off about $60 million in bonds the city issued in 1997 to expand Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers, who have had a testy relationship with San Diego officials, are often rumored to be interested in moving to Los Angeles but the team insists it is open to staying put.

"I think a lot of people, when we started this back in 2002, wouldn't have dreamed that we would be this patient about this," Fabiani said. "I think we have proved by our actions, we've proved by the amount of money we've spent on this process, the amount of time we've spent, that we're committed to finding a way to keeping the team here.

"We've been patient, and we're going to continue to be patient until we've looked at every single idea that's out there," he said.