Will the Chargers Stay in San Diego? SMPS Spring Event

By Nanette Newbry, Principal, Creative Director, Studio 2055

Under a tent on a sunny day at the DoubleTree Mission Valley, this month’s SMPS event gave attendees an insider’s view of the ongoing debate regarding the football stadium for the San Diego Chargers.

First, we wish to thank our sponsor for the event, McCullough Landscape Architecture, and yearly sponsors The Daily Transcript, Scantech Inc., and Mike Torrey Photography. As usual, Mike well documented our event. View the photo album on our Facebook page.

Presenter Douglas E. Barnhart, Chairman of Barnhart-Reese, Inc., is a member of the Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group, an executive task force invited by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The following are excerpts from Mr. Barnhart’s presentation:

“I’ve been around San Diego a long time and involved in a lot of high-profile projects, and I guess Kevin believed I could add my experience to the mix. Our group began meeting in mid-January 2015. Final decisions will be announced in June, with a solid recommendation to move ahead.

“Two main directives were assigned to the task force: Determine the site selection (downtown or the current location at Qualcomm stadium) and how to pay for it.

“I was always for the downtown location with all the amenities it has to offer. Now I have changed my mind and it’s going to be at Qualcomm. The number-one reason is about the land. The question that was raised was who owns the land and can we build there? The water department owns the land at Qualcomm stadium, and it would not be too difficult for us to acquire the acreage.

“Other issues that we discussed were:

  • JMI had a proposal to combine the convention center and the new stadium. Convention centers are long-span structures with 80,000 square feet. Stadiums are different animals. The field is only used 25 times a year, but the convention center attracts 200 events a year, so that is not a viable solution.
  • Tailgating would be very limited at the downtown site.
  • There are issues with land at the convention center with regard to the politicians in Sacramento.

“Ultimately, the task force decided to go for the Qualcomm site. Yet Qualcomm has its challenges. For instance, how do we get traffic in and out? The current stadium has 8,000 parking spaces and they will need parking for 18,000 cars, and parking structures would definitely need to be included in the project. The cost is anticipated at $850+ million.

“Following the decision, there was a lot of press about the project’s direction. We had a Citizen’s Advisory Group that began discussions in January 2015. 3,000 people attended the public forum and a majority of fans support the Qualcomm location. On March 12, the final location was announced to the public.”

The Build-out

“We’ve talked to the folks who built AT&T Stadium; we’ve met with architects, Turner Construction (that built Levi Stadium), and other investors. One of the visitors to the committee is with AIA and proposed a rehabilitation of the existing stadium. It would be a financial disaster to invest in the rehab of the existing stadium. We’d have to tear down three-quarters of the stadium, escalating costs. Later, the ULI and AIA put together a group to do a sample master plan—3,500 residential units, 800,000 square feet of office space, and 300,000 in retail, plus a hotel and parking, along with the stadium. We met with the San Diego River Park Foundation and other stakeholders and they are happy with the current plan.

“Funding for the project would come from three sources: public money, team league funds and private financing. The land is valued at $200 million and a deal would be made with the city to obtain the property either through purchase or lease.

“What I see is a huge opportunity to market to 10 million people in San Diego, Orange, and Riverside counties. Currently, the Chargers have the most reasonable lease in the league. If we build it, fans will come.

“Just a few days ago, three members of the task force met face-to-face with representative of the Chargers, and from that meeting we believe the Chargers are staying here.

Final Questions

“What is the biggest challenge? ‘Of course, it’s getting the funding.’”

“What about public transportation? ‘CalTrans would kick-in some infrastructure which will help with getting cars in and out.’”

Doug concluded by saying his loyalty lies with the citizens of San Diego. In closing, he added, “I’ve built many things here and I think we deserve a NFL team.”

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