Citing a lack of a development partner and a lack of cooperation at City Hall, the San Diego Chargers have abandoned putting their new stadium project on the November ballot.
While the football club said Jan. 9 that it remains committed to finding a way to build a new stadium and keeping the team in San Diego, it also acknowledged it has the legal right to begin entertaining offers from other cities by Jan. 1.
Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said if there is no agreement reached by then, the team would likely look at alternative sites within San Diego County first.
“As soon as the team is legally allowed to do so, we will explore all viable solutions within San Diego County,” Fabiani said.
Under a renegotiated lease contract with the city last year, the Chargers are under contract to play in San Diego through the end of the 2008 season, but if no agreement is reached on a stadium, they can negotiate with other cities beginning in 2007. The new contract eliminated a ticket guarantee and a trigger clause the team claimed allowed it to renegotiate terms.
The Chargers have proposed building a new stadium along with a residential/commercial project that includes 6,000 housing units, a hotel, offices and retail space at the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site. In addition to paying for all of the development, the Chargers would assume the cost of an estimated $175 million in infrastructure improvements and pay off the remainder of about $60 million in bonds issued to expand and upgrade the stadium.
In return, the Chargers were asking the city to turn over about 60 acres of the city-owned land for the project.
The team had planned to use the initiative process to obtain approval for the project, but as a Feb. 8 deadline looms, the Chargers said they have been unable to find a development partner willing to share an estimated $800 million initial investment, given the political turmoil still surrounding City Hall.
In addition to uncertainty surrounding the city’s financial health, Fabiani said the continuous opposition by City Attorney Mike Aguirre has caused some potential partners to back away.
“In fact, it is now clear that Aguirre will do or say whatever it takes to stand in the way of a redevelopment plan. And if the Chargers are eventually forced to leave San Diego, there can now be no doubt that Mike Aguirre will be to blame,” Fabiani said.
Aguirre said if the Chargers can’t find a development partner, it’s not his fault.
“His (Fabiani’s) problem is he couldn’t sell what he wanted to do because there is no beef,” he said.
Fabiani said part of the reason for announcing the team won’t be pursuing voter approval this year is to obtain suggestions and ideas from the public.
“We will continue to do what we have been doing for the last three years , meeting with anyone and everyone who has an interest in working together , and we will explore every idea with the goal of finding a publicly acceptable solution,” he said.
, Mike Allen