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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