San Diego Business Journal

Chargers Mull Convention Space Component for Stadium

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The San Diego Chargers are examining the inclusion of convention center space as a design option for a potential new stadium in downtown San Diego, although city officials are standing by plans for an expansion of the existing convention center.

Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said by phone that the team has asked its architects to come up with a design featuring convention space elements, as one potential way to build and fund a downtown stadium whose cost has previously been estimated at $800 million.

“We’re looking at several options right now, and this is one of them,” Fabiani said, noting that convention center elements were also part of pro football stadium projects completed in Atlanta, Indianapolis and St. Louis, among other cities.

Notably, convention center space is also in a stadium proposal by AEG, which is making political headway in Los Angeles and could bring in at least one National Football League team to play at what has already been named Farmers Field.

Fabiani said the Chargers will continue to hold discussions with San Diego officials, including a mayoral advisory panel led by Fred Maas, who formerly headed the Centre City Development Corp. He said there would also be public meetings.

Prior planning has called for a public vote on a stadium financing plan, to be put before voters around fall 2012. If a ballot measure is to be prepared, Fabiani said signatures likely would have to be gathered sometime between October and January.

In an emailed statement, Mayor Jerry Sanders said the local region “has the ability to proceed with the current plans to expand the convention center and build a new multi-use stadium” as a separate project.

“Both will generate thousands of jobs and enhance our economy,” Sanders said. “I’m working with regional leaders to develop these two projects in a way that makes sense for taxpayers.”

Steve Cushman, a mayoral adviser involved in planning for the San Diego Convention Center expansion, said City Council will be considering a proposed financing plan for the $550 million project next week. The plan, including a provision for local hotels to fund a portion of the expansion costs through an assessment district, will first be reviewed this week by City Council’s budget committee.

“We’re looking at a groundbreaking for this expansion late next year, so we’re already pretty far along with this,” Cushman said by phone.

Cushman said past studies have found the proposed stadium site and others downtown to be unfeasible for convention center facilities, and meeting planners have told convention officials in surveys that they prefer to have gatherings in one location rather than multiple venues.

— Lou Hirsh