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Thursday, June 1, 2006 | The Chargers plan to begin evaluating sites for a possible new stadium in Chula Vista with the help of city officials and potential developers after emerging from their first meeting with the city Wednesday.

Officials from both parties remained mum on specifics, billing the meeting as more of a meet-and-greet than a negotiation and saying any financial specifics would have to be addressed in future meetings. But both city and team officials described the meeting in positive terms, and the team said it will likely follow up on cursory discussions with a Carlsbad-based homebuilder that owns 3,000 undeveloped acres in Chula Vista.

Both sides said they needed to gauge the interest level of the other party before moving forward. The team’s special counsel, Mark Fabiani, said the team will now be counting on Chula Vista officials to provide direction in relations with developers.

“The Chargers are going to continue to work hard to keep the team in the San Diego region, and the mayor and deputy mayor of Chula Vista have ideas about how we might work together to accomplish that goal,” he said.

Fabiani was joined by team President Dean Spanos, Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla and Councilman John McCann. The councilman said he was encouraged by the meeting.

“We really basically wanted to do the first step of allowing the Chargers to do their due diligence on Chula Vista and see what we have to offer,” McCann said. “This was a first good step, and I think the next step is to basically show them how our city would perform and what potential we would have with him.”

The meeting was the team’s second since the San Diego City Council, unable to strike a deal with the team after four years of negotiations, voted last month to allow the team to negotiate with other parties within San Diego County. On Jan. 1, the team can begin speaking with parties anywhere in its quest for a new football stadium.

Last week, team officials met with two county supervisors, as well. All talks appear to be broad and light on specifics right now, as team officials had been focused on the existing stadium site in Mission Valley in stadium proposals dating back to 2003. Sites on the bayfront and inland Chula Vista have been kicked around, as well as other sites in the city of San Diego, including the existing Qualcomm Stadium site.

The appetite for public subsidizes in the form of cash appears to have dwindled in San Diego today. But a participating public agency could conceivably be asked to pitch in on a number of other fronts, such as land, zoning or tax entitlements or infrastructure improvements.

Officials from the county have said any contribution would have to make good business sense, and Chula Vista officials appear willing to at least open up with zoning and tax entitlements.

The team’s final proposal with the city of San Diego called for the city to give up 60 acres of land to the team. The team would then have built 6,000 condos and used the proceeds to finance a $450 million stadium. Team officials also said they would cover about $175 million in infrastructure improvements and pick up the tab on more than $50 million in outstanding bond debt on the current stadium.

In total, the Chargers and a major homebuilder would have shared the risk and fruits of the $800 million project. It died in January.

The team still hopes to stick to the same basic financing model on any other deal in the county, Fabiani said.

“We continue to believe that the concept introduced by us at Qualcomm – and now being copied by sports teams around the country – is still the concept that is likely to be successful in San Diego County: Take an underutilized piece of land, put the burden on the private sector to take the land and turn a profit, and use the profit to finance a stadium,” he said.

The team said the proposal died because of uncertainty surrounding the city of San Diego’s financial and political future, but also admitted some developers were concerned about the prospect of adding 6,000 condos to Mission Valley at a time of uncertainty in the local housing market.

As part of that search for a development partner, the team will likely follow-up on preliminary discussions with Carlsbad-based developer HomeFed Corp. The homebuilder, which owns 3,000 undeveloped acres in the Otay Ranch area of Chula Vista, has said it is interested in looking at a stadium development as a business deal.

Please contact Andrew Donohue directly with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips. Or send a letter to the editor.

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