The long-term location for the San Diego Chargers is still in doubt after the franchise was considered alongside the Los Angeles Rams and the Oakland Raiders as a candidate to move to Los Angeles this offseason.
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Chargers Announce New Special Advisor
Monday, Feb. 8
The Chargers appointed Fred Maas as the special advisor to team chairman Dean Spanos on Monday and released a statement on their official website. The statement laid out some of Maas’ responsibilities:
Mr. Maas, the former Chairman of San Diego’s Centre City Development Corporation, will advise Spanos and the Chargers on the Citizen’s Initiative process, including the exploration of possible stadium financing plans that would be publicly acceptable, the drafting of the initiative document, and the creation of the campaign infrastructure necessary to give the Citizens’ Initiative the best possible chance of success.
Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com provided an explanation of what the citizens’ initiative is in San Diego: "Led by local environmental attorney Cory Briggs, a group of San Diego-area residents crafted a citizens’ initiative, establishing a way to raise money for the building a joint-use NFL stadium and convention center expansion that would keep the San Diego Chargers in town."
The Chargers' statement also provided a biography for Maas. Among the highlights was the fact he “served as a principal in the real estate and land development business” and helped develop the PGA Tour’s Tournament Player Club communities as a partner at Potomac Sports Properties.
Dan McSwain of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a lengthy piece published Sunday that detailed the various options facing the Chargers. McSwain noted Mayor Kevin Faulconer “suggested taxpayers contribute $350 million toward a $1.1 billion stadium in Mission Valley, leaving the Chargers, NFL and fans on the hook for the remaining $750 million.”
The league did say it would give a $200 million loan and an additional $100 million if the Chargers manage to reach a stadium deal in San Diego. However, McSwain said NFL executives told Faulconer the $1.1 billion cost estimate was on the low side and provided more context:
It seems the easy route. The city owns the land. Qualcomm Stadium is there already.
There’s just one problem: The Chargers — and, more importantly, the NFL — have rejected the plan. They’ve mentioned legal risk from the city’s quickie environment process. But the real problem is money.
To the NFL, any worthy stadium deal in a smaller market like San Diego must include at least 50 percent public financing. The league doesn’t want to stray from the precedent of Minnesota’s 50-50 deal with the Vikings.
McSwain also mentioned a potential downtown project that would feature JMI Realty as a development partner. JMI reportedly has “detailed cost estimates,” and McSwain added more details:
One financing plan would involve less from local taxpayers, with an emphasis on “local.” Instead, taxes on hotel stays would fund $600 million for building the convention center portion. The Chargers and public would conceivably split $800 million in stadium costs.
Note that this figure, $800 million downtown, is less than $1.1 billion in Mission Valley. And the $600 million for the convention center intentionally approximates the once-proposed cost of the mayor’s bayside expansion, which has been blocked in court.
The addition of Maas at least gives the Chargers an additional resource with someone who is experienced with real-estate development and sports.
San Diego sports reporter Annie Heilbrunn reacted to Monday’s news:
Signs seem to point downtown for Spanos & #Chargers. Still befuddles me a bit. Seems most complicated way to get it done. I could be wrong.— Annie Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) February 8, 2016
All of this is also occurring with Los Angeles looming as the other long-term possibility for the Chargers. Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today reported Jan. 29 that the Chargers “decided to stay in San Diego for at least one more season but also has agreed on a deal to share a new stadium in Los Angeles with the Los Angeles Rams. … Plan A right now is San Diego. Plan B is Los Angeles.”
Schrotenboer included a statement from Spanos that said the Chargers have the option to join the Rams in Inglewood, California, but the “focus is on San Diego.”
Schrotenboer added additional context:
The Chargers have until Jan. 15, 2017 to make a decision about joining the Rams in L.A. — an option that extends to Jan. 15, 2018 if a referendum to approve funding for a new stadium in San Diego is approved prior to this Nov. 15.
In effect, the deal with the Rams gives the Chargers a safety net in case they fail to lock down a new stadium plan in San Diego, the team’s home since 1961.
Schrotenboer also outlined the risks the Chargers must weigh when considering Inglewood as a potential long-term home while also looking at options in San Diego.
The Rams played in Los Angeles for almost 50 years before they relocated to St. Louis, and they will also have a jump-start on developing a new fanbase in 2016 as the one team in Inglewood. Los Angeles is a large market, but the Chargers run the legitimate risk of playing second fiddle to the Rams among football fans in the area if there is already an established relationship with the other team.
Still, Los Angeles is solid leverage for the Chargers organization in any stadium battles in San Diego and at least provides a backup option in case negotiations or potential public financing break down.