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Wednesday, January 04, 2006 | If the Chargers cannot secure a development partner in the next two weeks, the team’s designs for a new football stadium and accompanying development in Mission Valley won’t be put before voters this year.
Team officials have long been on the hunt for a major partner to share the costs and risks of a stadium and development package that could cost upwards of $800 million. But, team officials say, potential partners have been put off by the combination of hefty up-front costs and the fiscal and political mayhem that has rapped City Hall.
It had been expected that Chargers officials would place their stadium proposal before voters in November. That assumption could be dashed, as team officials say they need to have a development plan in place by Feb. 8 in order to make qualification deadlines for the November ballot.
Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the team, said it must have a development agreement worked out with a partner by that time in order to begin the signature-gathering process to meet the November ballot.
“We are still working to try to conclude an agreement in time to make the Feb. 8, 2006 deadline,” Fabiani said. “(Chargers officials) will certainly know something one way or the other in the next 10-14 days.”
The team will have to collect 67,220 signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot, said Assistant City Clerk Joyce Lane. The team must first publish a notice of intent declaring its desires to place an initiative on the ballot 21 days before it can begin circulating its petition for signatures.
The deadline for submitting the signatures to the City Clerk’s Office is June 5, Lane said.
Under its most current contract, reworked in 2004, the team can begin negotiating with other cities about relocating Jan. 1, 2007 and can split town the following year. It was widely expected that a new stadium proposal would be put before voters in November of this year when the contract was renegotiated in 2004.
If the proposal were to instead go before voters in the next citywide election, which would likely be the primary elections of 2008. At that point, the team could already be negotiating, or could have finalized, a deal with another city. Such a climate could hand the team a robust bargaining chip if voters judge the team’s exit as tangible. On the other hand, some voters could be turned off by a team negotiating with other cities while attempting to sell a stadium-development package to voters.
As it currently stands, the Chargers plan to ask voters – either this year or next – for 60 acres of public land on the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site. Team officials say they would then finance a new $450 million stadium, a 30-acre public park and about $175 million in infrastructure improvements. The team would also pay off a bond debt of nearly $60 million remaining from the 1997 stadium remodeling.
Using the 60 acres of land, the team would build a dense urban village of condominiums and commercial and retail spaces.
A major development partner, such as a large homebuilder, will be needed to shoulder the costs and risks of such a large development, Fabiani has said. Potential partners, he has said, are worried by the amount of time it could take to recoup investments and by the looming threat of bankruptcy at the city.
Certainly, the stadium push this fall would have been aided by a strong showing this season. The team finished a disappointing 9-7 in the season that ended Sunday, just a year after winning the AFC West division with a 12-4 record last season.
City Attorney Mike Aguirre, a vocal Chargers foe, was unusually restrained when asked to comment on the Chargers’ stadium issues.
“I don’t really have any comment about the Chargers right now,” he said. “We are formulating a strategy right now and I don’t want to engage in any discussions about the Chargers.”
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