Thursday, July 13, 2006 | The Chargers have set follow-up meetings with two new acquaintances, Chula Vista and the county of San Diego, and there could be another suitor getting ready on the sidelines – National City.

The action in the football club’s stadium push has been slow moving publicly in the two months since the city of San Diego allowed the team to talk with other parties within San Diego County. But the team has scheduled a tour of potential stadium sites with Chula Vista officials for July 27 and a follow-up meeting with two county supervisors Aug. 1.

And, in an interview, the city manager of National City indicated that officials there are studying the possibility of jumping into the game, too.

“I would suggest that after we do some homework, we will come to our council and community with some thoughts, and we will want to get some policy perspective,” said City Manager Chris Zapata.

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said the team would be pleased to speak with the South Bay city.

“We were interested enough in the National City possibility to accept the National City mayor’s offer to meet in the summer of 2003 (before our exclusive negotiating period with the City of San Diego began in the summer of 2004), and we would be pleased now to work with National City if we are given that opportunity,” Fabiani said in an e-mail.

The emergence of National City as a potential player in the team’s stadium push would add an intriguing option for the Chargers, as the bayside city could potentially offer the team a few key amenities that the Chula Vista site under consideration can’t – access from Interstate 5, a spot near the trolley system and open land on the waterfront.

Chula Vista officials have largely been focused on a vast stretch of open terrain inland, a site that would be fed by State Route 125 and out of reach of the trolley system. That land is owned by a private home developer that has expressed interest in teaming with the Chargers on the kind of mixed-use development the team wants to use to finance the construction of a new stadium.

The land being eyed in National City is a 52-acre parcel that’s administered by the port. A deal on private land would likely be less messy than any land deal involving a public agency.

Zapata, who gained experience dealing with professional sports franchises as a deputy city manager in Glendale, Ariz., said city officials have had no official meetings with the Chargers. He said previous discussions were had in the past with the city’s representative on the Port Commission about building a sports arena to the site.

“It’s a matter of dusting it off and seeing if it fits,” Zapata said.

National City voters in June passed a one-cent sales tax increase in order to close what city officials said was a structural budget deficit. The increase sunsets in 10 years, and Zapata said city officials have an obligation to evaluate all revenue opportunities in order to achieve long-term “fiscal sustainability.” A stadium could be one option to attract restaurants and hotels, he said.

“That is something that people have honed in on that the port might want to hone in on,” Zapata said.

The tour in Chula Vista scheduled for July 27 is expected to focus on a 3,000-acre site owned by HomeFed Corp., a residential homebuilder based in Carlsbad. The company originally talked with the Chargers when they were looking for development partner with whom to team with on a massive $800 million development that included a new stadium and 6,000 condos on the current Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley.

While that proposal fell apart, the team hopes to use the same financing model by using the windfall from residential housing sales to build a new state-of-the-art stadium, expected to cost $450 million. In this type of financing, neither taxpayers nor team owners are asked to fund the construction of a stadium. Instead, the owners and a private developer hope to earn enough off of the sales of new homes or condos to finance the stadium.

However, team and company officials said there have been no meetings between the two parties. Instead, meetings have been taking place between the city and the team.

“The Chargers had a progression with how they wanted to proceed and I wanted to respect that,” said Paul Borden, HomeFed president.

Fabiani said the Chargers are studying sites in Chula Vista in advance of their tour there. He said the team is also studying a site suggested by county Supervisor Ron Roberts that lies at the intersection of Interstate 15 and State Route 52 that is currently part of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

The team began its push for a new stadium in the city of San Diego in 2002. In May, the City Council allowed the team to begin talks with other cities within the county after the team and the city were unable to reach a deal.

The team can begin speaking with parties outside the county on Jan. 1 and can legally relocate come Jan. 1, 2008.

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

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