Mayor’s office confirms talks continuing with Chargers on stadium plans

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

The city of San Diego and the San Diego Chargers are continuing to work together on a new downtown stadium, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said Wednesday.

The statement came on a day in which articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times speculating that the Chargers is the team most likely to move to a proposed new stadium in Los Angeles.

“We continue to work with the Chargers on a funding plan for a stadium,’' Laing said. “Our discussions have been complicated by the elimination of redevelopment funds, but the mayor is committed to trying to reach a stadium deal that works for the community and will have the public’s support.’'

Because of recently enacted changes to redevelopment in California, the kind of money needed to finance a stadium is not expected to be available through that process for years, if ever again.

San Diego officials have been looking at coupling the building of a stadium with the proposed expansion of the Convention Center, which the Chargers believe could open up new funding sources.

While hurt by the loss of redevelopment funding, the search for a new facility in San Diego could be helped by the National Football League’s new collective bargaining agreement with players, which might result in the re-establishment of a fund to assist construction of new stadiums.

The Spanos family, which owns the franchise, has been pushing for a decade for a new home to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium. “The Q’’ has also become a drain on civic finances, giving city officials reason to cooperate with the owners’ effort beyond just wanting to keep an NFL team in town.

They have repeatedly said they prefer to stay in San Diego, but team officials describe the downtown site — in the East Village near Petco Park — as the last chance for a local site.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the framework of a stadium deal with AEG, the first time the panel has endorsed a potential NFL stadium other than the Coliseum.

The move sparked Times columnist Sam Farmer to write that the Chargers franchise was the frontrunner to become the future facility’s primary tenant, but he conceded that a couple of issues were problematic:

• it could be difficult for AEG owner Philip Anschutz to reach a deal with the Spanoses to buy into the ownership of the Chargers;

• the L.A. stadium plan is hurt by the loss of redevelopment dollars as much as San Diego’s;

• approving the framework of the deal is far from final approval of construction; and

• AEG wants a team to relocate early next year and play in the Coliseum until the new stadium is completed in 2016, and it is uncertain whether the Chargers would leave so soon.

That said, columnist T.J. Simers, infamous for occasionally poking San Diego sports fans, wrote an accompanying piece about how nice it would be to have Chargers star quarterback Philip Rivers playing in Los Angeles.

Mark Fabiani, the Chargers’ point man on stadium issues, said, “We’ve seen many L.A. stadium rumors and ideas come and go over the years, and this particular project still has a long way to go before it is finally approved and financed, and before it survives the gauntlet of environmental lawsuits and possible citizen ballot challenges that it could face.’'

The same “chatter’’ existed in 2002, when AEG came up with and then abandoned a stadium plan for downtown Los Angeles, he said.