The San Diego Tourism Authority’s board chairman has issued a statement opposing the San Diego Chargers’ proposal for a combined downtown stadium and convention facility, citing clients’ preferences for space contiguous to the existing convention center.
“Convention clients have decidedly told our community that they prefer a contiguous expansion,” said Ted Molter, who chairs the executive board of the region’s primary tourism promotion agency. San Diego Tourism Authority also currently handles long-term booking of events at San Diego Convention Center.
“A separate building, any number of blocks away, does not provide the preferred meeting model that will serve our existing and future clients,” Molter said. “We remain committed to an on-site contiguous expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.”
The statement, issued April 5, reflects a stance nearly identical to the one taken March 30 by Laurie Coskey, who chairs the convention center’s board of directors. Coskey cited a 2015 study by consulting firm Conventions, Sports and Leisure International (CSL), commissioned by the convention center, in which a contiguous center was deemed “superior” among options for expanding convention amenities.
The CSL study examined potential impacts of a contiguous expansion and two non-contiguous “campus” options, with results including feedback from focus groups, phone polls, and email surveys of current, past and potential convention center customers. CSL obtained feedback from event planners along with key stakeholders from the hospitality industry, the Unified Port of San Diego and other local elected officials.
The study did not review options involving a downtown sports stadium. Announcing study results in August 2015, CSL’s John Kaatz said that from an “impact return perspective,” the city should pursue the contiguous option, as opposed to investing significantly is a publicly-owned convention center several blocks from the current facility.
The study found, however, that the city would also benefit from additional meeting and exhibit space from a non-contiguous expansion.
The San Diego Chargers have proposed a $1.8 billion downtown football stadium-convention center hybrid in East Village, targeting a site east of Petco Park. The team is seeking to place before voters in November a plan that would raise the city’s total current hotel taxes from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent.
Like an earlier plan put forward by a citizens’ coalition, the Chargers’ proposal would eliminate a 2 percent tax that supports the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, which currently supplies the bulk of the annual budget for the tourism authority.
A court in 2014 struck down a hotelier-approved financing mechanism that would have supported the bulk of a proposed $520 million expansion of the existing convention center, by imposing a new tax on room bills.