Convention center talks move forward despite new Chargers idea

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

If the Chargers want to include convention space in their proposed downtown stadium, they’re welcome to it, but plans to expand the San Diego Convention Center will continue, tourism and city officials said Wednesday.

“We need a larger facility, not two facilities,’' said Convention Center board member Steve Cushman at a meeting of the City Council’s Budget Committee.

On Monday, the Chargers point man on stadium issues, Mark Fabiani, told The San Diego Union-Tribune’s editorial board that architects were asked to incorporate convention space into their design for a new $800 million home for the team, planned for the East Village near Petco Park. The newspaper reported that could make a Convention Center expansion unnecessary.

Cushman, however, said people who book major conventions tell him they want new meeting space in San Diego to be in the Convention Center, not somewhere else.

In the case of the Chargers plan, attendees would have to walk six blocks between facilities, he said.

It’s very difficult -- that’s not what our customers want,’' Cushman said.

As an example, he said the marketplace views the new part of the convention center in San Francisco, the Moscone Center West, as a completely separate facility — and that’s just across the street from the original building — much closer than what the Chargers plan envisions.

Darren Pudgil, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, said there is enough regional funding’’ for both a Chargers stadium and expansion of the Convention Center, and they will continue in the development process as separate projects.

Cushman said he welcomed the Chargers concept if it were to give the city more meeting space in addition to the Convention Center expansion.

Mary Lewis, the city’s chief financial officer, said a plan to fund the Convention Center project would be brought to the City Council next spring. It will rely on surcharges to hotel room bills of 3 percent downtown, 2 percent in Mission Valley and 1 percent in outlying areas.

Budget Committee members gave unanimous tentative approval to the financing plan.

Also, the mayor’s office shot down a proposal by a group of architects who suggested that Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers current home, could be refurbished for much less money than a new stadium would cost.

We’ve crossed that idea off the list,’' Pudgil said.