D-Day for Prop C and a New Charger Stadium
Election Day is November 8 and there is one big sports issue on a local ballot. The Charger Stadium issue is finally before the voters.
For the estimated 8,800 North County Charger season ticket holders, and thousands of local fans, there is nothing to do except wait, watch and hope. The fate of the stadium is in the hands of voters who live inside the city limits of San Diego.
Measure C, referred to as The Citizens’ Initiative, if approved by the voters, would allow the creation of a joint use stadium-convention center facility in downtown San Diego.Voters face this choice: Do they increase the hotel room tax to 16.5%, up from its current effective rate of 12.5%? The proceeds would help fund a proposed $1.8 billion downtown stadium-convention facility, with $650 million provided by the Chargers and NFL. The sole funding sources for Measure C are the increase in the hotel room tax, the Chargers and NFL contribution.
The current speculation is that Measure C is a long shot, especially since it requires a 2/3 vote. The initiative is facing opposition from hoteliers and from most taxpayer groups in San Diego. The Chargers hope to convince voters that unless they stay at a San Diego hotel, the stadium will be paid for by visitors.
In my opinion, most non-sports fan voters will see only a vote to approve a tax. And that would mean a No vote, even though the citizens of San Diego will not feel any tax increase.
A second initiative, Measure D, known as the Briggs Initiative, is also on the ballot. Measure D, authored by attorney Cory Briggs, is not backed by the Chargers. Measure D also raises hotel room taxes, but bans the use of public funds for the stadium. Measure D says it “would not prevent” the city from developing a stadium in Mission Valley or downtown, as long as it isn’t on the waterfront.
If Measure C fails, the Chargers have no apparent Plan B in San Diego, except to play indefinitely at Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967 and is considered one of the worst stadiums in the NFL along with Oakland’s Coliseum which opened in 1966.
The Chargers have an option to join the Rams at a new stadium the Rams are building in Inglewood. The Chargers have until January 15, 2017 to exercise their option to move to Inglewood and share the facility with the Rams. If the Chargers do not exercise their option, then the Raiders would have an opportunity to join the Rams.
The Raiders seem to be making great progress in Las Vegas and I suspect their first choice is to play in a new stadium in a city by themselves. The NFL will likely do all it can to keep the Raiders from returning to Los Angeles.
The process gives me flashbacks to the early 1990’s, when I represented the Oakland Coliseum. I spent approximately 5 ½ years on the project bringing the Raiders back to Oakland from Los Angeles.
A big difference in Oakland was that all parties worked together to bring the Raiders back. The City, County, Coliseum and Raiders, despite very bad history (the Raiders left Oakland for Los Angeles in 1982) and competing objectives, worked toward the same final goal. The only party not excited about the relocation was the Oakland A’s, which was understandable coming off three consecutive World Series appearances from 1988-1990. The A’s reward for excellence was a football co-tenant in the only shared baseball/football stadium in the country.
The Chargers have been hoping for a new stadium for 15 years. In my opinion, they have spent as much time trying to protect Los Angeles as an option, and that didn’t work as planned. The Chargers have been unable to get the City and the business community to support their efforts and still can’t get the business community onboard.
The Chargers claim that a new stadium will host Super Bowls and other major events (probably true), yet the hoteliers oppose the plan. Mayor Kevin Faulconer finally supported Measure C after receiving a letter with concessions from the Chargers that is likely nonbinding. Fun stuff huh?
My ideal outcome. Measure C fails, but receives close to 50% of the vote. The Raiders agree to move to Las Vegas. The Chargers, who have to prefer staying in San Diego over being a tenant in Inglewood, get serious and work with the City and local businesses to achieve a deal in San Diego that truly benefits all sides.
If the Chargers want a solution like Petco Park, pick an exact stadium location, get the City and business leaders to the table with the Chargers and identify and overcome the hurdles to make a new state of the art facility a reality.
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