Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks to press from location overlooking Qualcomm Stadium. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks to press from location overlooking Qualcomm Stadium. Photo by Chris Jennewein

As San Diego’s negotiators met with National Football League owners in Chicago on Monday, city and county officials said everything is now in place to build a new stadium — if the Chargers return to the table.

Mayor Kevin Falconer and other city and county officials announced that a 6,000-page draft environmental impact report was ready, along with a conceptual design from a top architectural firm and a detailed public-private financing plan.

Aerial view of proposed San Diego football stadium. Courtesy Populous

“If the NFL wants a franchise in the nation’s 8th largest city, we have demonstrated we can move quickly,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. “But, at this point, the ball is in the NFL’s court.”

Faulconer, Goldsmith, Supervisor Ron Roberts and other city and county officials spoke with the press from a vantage point overlooking Qualcomm Stadium to outline the latest developments in efforts to keep the Chargers in town.

They said cited three key developments that put stadium plans on track for a public vote late this year:

  • A 6,000-age draft environmental impact report.
  • A conceptual plan for a new 68,000-seat stadium by the global architectural firm Populous, which has worked with NFL team owners on other stadiums.
  • A financing plan that calls for $350 million in public funds, but no new taxes.

“The financing concept is comprised of four main elements — no new taxes on San Diegans, two dollars of private money for every dollar in public funds, and it will require voter approval,” Faulconer said.

The financing proposal calls for the Chargers to contribute $362.5 million and the NFL $200 million, and for $187.5 million in personal seat licenses to be sold. Some $350 million in public money would be needed, with the county contributing its share in cash and the city issuing bonds.

The Chargers have been wanting a new stadium for nearly 15 years and have acquired land in Carson, near Los Angeles, where the team could build its own facility, possibly in concert with the Oakland Raiders.

The city and county plan calls for a $1.1 billion facility that would be constructed next to existing Qualcomm Stadium. The new structure would host games for the Chargers, San Diego State Aztecs, the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls, high school championships and special events.

While negotiators and government officials have met with NFL executives, Monday was the first time that plans are pitched directly to a group of owners on a relocation committee, who are holding meetings in Chicago.

The league has made a priority of returning to the lucrative Los Angeles market, which hasn’t hosted a team since the 1994 season.

The environmental study was conducted in an expedited fashion in hopes of getting it to the City Council for approval in October. That would clear the way for a possible public vote in January — which is not required, but is something both the team and elected officials would like to see.

The Chargers broke off talks with the city and county two months ago after objecting to the quick timeline. Mark Fabiani, the team’s spokesman on stadium issues, has been critical of almost every step the city has taken to keep the Chargers, and reiterated Monday that he doesn’t believe the environmental report will be legally defensible.

“Never before in California history has a controversial, billion-dollar project relied on environmental review documents hastily prepared in three weeks,” Fabiani said. “The Chargers have been clear from the start that the franchise will not be the city’s guinea pig for this inevitably ill-fated legal experiment.”

According to Goldsmith, the report will stand up to scrutiny because the project only envisions replacing a stadium with a slightly smaller version. The impacts of the project are mostly known already, he said.

The meeting, and release of the draft environmental report, come three days after the city’s top financial official sent a memo to City Council members that estimated the cost of operating Qualcomm Stadium over the next 20 years will range between $259 million and $282 million, depending on the factors included in the calculation.

The projection from Chief Financial Officer Mary Lewis is far above the amount the city is expected to contribute over a 30 years to the cost of a new stadium. City officials have said a new facility for SDSU and the bowl games will still be necessary if the Chargers leave town.

City News Service contributed to this article.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.