Vot­ers over­whelm­ingly re­ject Charg­ers’ plan for new sta­dium

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bernie Wil­son

SAN DIEGO » Vot­ers have called the San Diego Charg­ers’ bluff, leav­ing the NFL team to de­cide whether to try one more time to get a new sta­dium built here or pack the mov­ing vans for the trip up In­ter­state 5 to Los Angeles.

Mea­sure C, which would have raised $1.15 bil­lion from increased ho­tel oc­cu­pancy taxes to help pay for a $1.8 bil­lion sta­dium and con­ven­tion cen­ter an­nex down­town, was de­feated 57 per­cent to 43 per­cent. It needed 66.7 per­cent yes to pass.

The 110-page plan was writ­ten by the Charg­ers with­out in­put from City Hall, the pow­er­ful tourism in­dus­try, their wouldbe neigh­bors the Padres or other stake­hold­ers.

Team chair­man Dean Spanos, who an­gered fans last year with a failed at­tempt to join with the ri­val Oak­land Raiders to build a sta­dium in the Los Angeles sub­urb of Car­son, con­ceded de­feat early Wed­nes­day morn­ing with half of the votes still to be counted. He re­leased a state­ment Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon say­ing he wanted “to give the sta­dium de­bate a rest and en­joy some Charg­ers football.

“So I’m go­ing to put aside any dis­cus­sion of our pos­si­ble next steps un­til af­ter the sea­son, to al­low ev­ery­one to fo­cus on football and to give my family and me time to think care­fully about what is best for the fu­ture of our fran­chise,” Spanos said. “Over the com­ing weeks you may hear news about steps that we must take to pre­serve all of our op­tions. But please know that I don’t in­tend to make any de­ci­sions un­til af­ter the reg­u­lar sea­son ends.”

That means fans could be put in the same po­si­tion as they were last year, when they thought that the last game of the sea­son might be the Charg­ers’ fi­nal game in San Diego. The Charg­ers (4-5) have four home games left, in­clud­ing the fi­nale on Jan. 1 against Kansas City.

Spanos has un­til mid Jan­uary to ex­er­cise his op­tion to move to L.A. and join the Rams in a sta­dium in In­gle­wood set to open in 2019. If the Charg­ers moved, they’d have to find a tem­po­rary home.

Or Spanos could ne­go­ti­ate with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other stake­hold­ers on a new plan in San Diego. The Charg­ers have been try­ing since 2000 to re­place ag­ing Qual­comm Sta­dium in Mis­sion Val­ley.

While Spanos has said he’d like to make it work in San Diego, his sur­ro­gates have re­peat­edly re­minded peo­ple that the team could move to L.A.

Faulconer said that while the vote showed there wasn’t sup­port for this par­tic­u­lar plan, that a coali­tion was built dur­ing the cam­paign.

“San Die­gans love the Bolts. They want them to stay,” Faulconer said. “There’s a foun­da­tion that I’m con­fi­dent can be built up.”

Faulconer, who en­dorsed the project only a month ago, said he planned to speak by phone with Spanos later Wed­nes­day or on Thurs­day.

The mayor de­clined to say whether he prefers a new sta­dium at the Qual­comm site, which he pushed last year, or down­town.

Fig­ur­ing out how to pay for a new sta­dium “will be one of the sig­nif­i­cant top­ics of collaboration,” he said. “You saw that achiev­ing two-thirds is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.”

City Coun­cil­man Chris Cate, who was called out by the Charg­ers be­cause he op­posed the mea­sure, said he hopes Spanos comes to the ta­ble sooner rather than later.

“I un­der­stand the value of the Charg­ers. I was born and raised here,” Cate said. “I don’t want them to leave. But it can’t be a one sided af­fair. Peo­ple have to be at the ta­ble to ham­mer out a deal that works.”

County Com­mis­sioner Ron Roberts agreed, say­ing there needs to be “a lot of soul-search­ing” in com­ing up with a sta­dium so­lu­tion that ben­e­fits ev­ery­one, not just the team.

“I think this was doomed to fail­ure from Day One and it’s un­for­tu­nate be­cause if we had been de­vel­op­ing a so­lu­tion ev­ery­one agreed on in Mis­sion Val­ley, we’d likely be un­der con­struc­tion by now.”

Af­ter re­buff­ing Spanos’ Car­son project, his fel­low own­ers of­fered him an ex­tra $100 mil­lion to be cou­pled with a $200 mil­lion NFL loan to try to get some­thing done in San Diego.

There’s been spec­u­la­tion that Spanos, who long has said he needs a ma­jor pub­lic sub­sidy for a new sta­dium in San Diego, could ask the NFL for more money, or that he could try to ne­go­ti­ate down the L.A. re­lo­ca­tion fee.

An NFL spokesman said the league had no com­ment.

Quar­ter­back Philip Rivers said he’s try­ing to stay op­ti­mistic.

“I can’t see us not here,” Rivers said af­ter prac­tice Wed­nes­day.

“Maybe I’m naive, I don’t know that the ac­tual vote is a di­rect re­flec­tion of what the city thinks of the Charg­ers,” Rivers said. “I think it’s more about all the ins and outs and ex­actly what the mea­sure ex­actly meant and how peo­ple felt like it af­fected them. I didn’t see it as, ‘Hey, here’s a vote; would you like the Charg­ers in San Diego or not?’ I didn’t see it as that sim­ple. I would like to think if that’s the case, we could have got­ten twothirds or more.”


The San Diego Charg­ers play against the Oak­land Raiders at Qual­comm Sta­dium in San Diego in 2014. Vot­ers in San Diego have over­whelm­ingly re­jected a mea­sure that would have raised $1.15 bil­lion from increased ho­tel oc­cu­pancy taxes to help pay for a new sta­dium for the Charg­ers.

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