Chargers choose downtown San Diego as location for new stadium

SAN DIEGO -- After a month of meetings with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other key local officials, the San Diego Chargers announced on Tuesday that they have arrived at a decision on where to locate a new NFL stadium: downtown San Diego.

The team chose to pursue a multi-use facility and convention center expansion in downtown San Diego through the citizens’ initiative process, rather than build a new stadium in Mission Valley, the current site of Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers have maintained for some time that building a stadium downtown has been the franchise’s preference, while Faulconer’s group pitched to the NFL a $1.1 billion proposal to build a new stadium in Mission Valley.

“The multi-use facility, when combined with Petco Park, the existing Convention Center, the Gaslamp Quarter, and a revitalized East Village, would create an unparalleled entertainment and sports district that will host Super Bowls and will ideally be a permanent home for Comic-Con and a Comic-Con museum,” the team said in a prepared statement.

“All of our research demonstrates that voters are more likely to approve a multi-use facility that would generate economic activity on hundreds of days per year, including by attracting major sporting and convention events that San Diego cannot now host. The downtown multi-use facility would also free up the existing Mission Valley site for potential use by educational institutions such as San Diego State and UCSD, as well as for a large riverfront park.”

The Chargers said they will partner with JMI Realty, developers of the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park, on the development of a multi-use facility and convention center expansion.

JMI proposed building a $1.4 billion multi-use facility with a retractable roof that would house a stadium for the Chargers along with the planned expansion of the convention center.

The center would include an exhibition hall below the football field and a meeting room and ballroom space in an attached building that has views of the field and the bay.

JMI says the project would save hundreds of millions of dollars, compared to building stand-alone facilities for both projects. Done separately, the price tag on the two projects could reach $1.8 billion, according to JMI.

The proposal would require the use of hotel tax money that the city earmarked for the convention center expansion. However, the Chargers have not said if they will pursue a two-thirds vote in November in pursuit of public funding for the new project, and still have to work to build consensus on the proposal.

“Most experts we’ve talked to have concluded that building a stadium Downtown -- on land not owned by either the City or the Chargers -- would increase costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and take years longer to complete," Faulconer and San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts said in a joint statement Tuesday. “However, it now appears that the Chargers intend to pursue a stadium in Downtown. It remains unclear how the Chargers intend to finance a Downtown stadium. But it is abundantly clear that a ballot measure that raises taxes for a stadium must be approved by two-thirds of San Diego’s voters. This is an extremely high hurdle to clear. We remain committed to maintaining an open dialogue with the Chargers as we learn more details about their plan."

In the past, the team argued that non-contiguous expansion of the convention center is a more suitable alternative, coupled with a multi-use stadium, because it would allow officials to take down and set up multiple conventions at the same time.

However, hoteliers and other proponents of the initial proposal for expanding the convention center argue that at least 750,000 square feet of contiguous space is needed to attract very large conventions, which generate the most revenue. The current convention center houses 525,000 square feet.

Faulconer, Roberts and San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith met with the Chargers over the past month, but had not commented publicly on the Chargers’ proposal until Tuesday.

Chargers chairman Dean Spanos announced last month that the Chargers will stay in San Diego for the 2016 season.

However, the Chargers have an agreement with the Rams to move to Los Angeles if a long-term stadium solution to remain in San Diego isn’t worked out.

According to the relocation agreement between the teams, the Chargers have a one-year window that ends on Jan. 15, 2017, to move to Los Angeles as the second team at the Inglewood project, which is set to be completed by the 2019 season. The Chargers can extend that option to Jan. 15, 2018, if a referendum for public financing in San Diego is not approved before Nov. 15 of this year.