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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Chargers Kicking Around Idea to Build Stadium at New Site

The San Diego Chargers are keeping alive hopes for a new stadium in Chula Vista, and would consider a site abandoned by Tennessee-based Gaylord Entertainment.

“It’s an attractive site and if we can be a part of a Plan B, we’d be interested,” said Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel who’s headed its quest for a new home since 2002.

The team has been eyeing two sites in Chula Vista, a 139-acre parcel on the bay occupied by an electric power plant and a 500-acre site near Lower Otay Reservoir. The team focused on Chula Vista after giving up trying to put together a deal at Qualcomm Stadium, National City and Oceanside.

Last month, another option became available when Gaylord said it was no longer pursuing a $1 billion hotel and convention center project on 32 acres near downtown. Gaylord said escalating costs, combined with a plethora of regulatory approvals, were too great.

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Chula Vista officials have taken a wait and see approach regarding the Gaylord site. City official Denny Stone said the city’s conducting an analysis of the project so that it can do a better job of avoiding the challenges that beset Gaylord.

“Our staff has to understand what we need to do differently to make quality redevelopment of the bay front more possible,” Stone said.

Stumbling Block

Fabiani has said one stumbling block at the power plant site was the necessity of dismantling the structure. State regulators said the power plant can’t be closed until its capacity is replaced at another site.

San Diego Gas & Electric is attempting to build a plant close by, as well as a new transmission line to import solar and wind energy from Imperial County. Neither project has been approved.

In the meantime, the Chargers can move to another city starting in February. Should the team leave, it would have to pay off $56 million in bonds used to expand Qualcomm Stadium.

Steve Cushman, vice chairman of the Port Commission, said while a stadium may be an alternative for the site, the port is conducting an analysis for other possible uses.

At this time it wouldn’t be appropriate to say the Chargers stadium should be relocated there, Cushman said.

Impossible Project

Fabiani said a finance study wasn’t favorable for Chula Vista. “The study says that the project would be impossible given the current financial crisis,” Fabiani said.

The Chargers’ plan for Qualcomm featured commercial and residential elements to generate tax revenue to pay for the project , estimated to cost $1 billion , but the Chargers haven’t determined what the proposed Chula Vista stadium would include.

To be sure, chances for the Chargers working out a deal improved with the defeat of City Attorney Michael Aguirre, a longtime opponent of replacing Qualcomm.

“It makes it a lot easier to hold conversations with people at City Hall,” Fabiani said.


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