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Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007 | Toss another player into the Chargers’ push for a new football stadium: Oceanside.
Team, city and union officials met for the first time Tuesday to discuss the Chargers’ interest in a 75-acre golf course owned by the city and leased to a private company, adding a third local city to the team’s interest list. The meeting came on the first business day in which the team could legally talk with suitors from outside the county, though those involved said the timing was purely coincidental.
The get-together was facilitated by Jerry Butkiewicz, the chief executive officer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, after the team had expressed interest in a plot of land that’s known colloquially as Goat Hill because of its topography, but formally as Center City Golf Course.
The site’s attractions: its proximity to Interstate 5, public transit and fans in Orange and Riverside counties.
“If they’re interested, we’d be willing to talk with them,” said Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood.
Team president Dean Spanos, special counsel Mark Fabiani, businessman Dan Shea and Oceanside City Attorney John Mullen joined Wood and Butkiewicz in the meeting. The labor leader described it as a “meet and greet.”
Officials said no details were discussed about any stadium proposal. But the Chargers’ consultant began evaluating the site Tuesday, Fabiani said.
Wood declined to speak about whether he would support providing the team with public funds or land and said his opinions are secondary to those of the Oceanside City Council and, ultimately, the voters. He said a public vote would be needed to build a stadium at the site because it is currently designated as parkland.
“Could we handle it at that location? Yeah. However, we don’t have a lot of open space,” he said. Wood said he would support “an economic-development deal that would assist the citizens of Oceanside.”
The team’s interest was first piqued last year when Jane McVey, the city’s economic redevelopment director, suggested the site during a Fabiani speech in January. The suggestion drew some attention at the time, but the team was unable to negotiate with anyone but the city of San Diego until its lease was amended in May.
The golf course idea bandied about the rumor mill for months as the team has worked with both National City and Chula Vista to evaluate stadium and development sites in the South Bay, but officials say no discussion had taken place between the team and Oceanside until Tuesday.
The Oceanside City Council offered mixed reactions — including laughter — last year when the idea was first presented, and two council members contacted said they didn’t have knowledge of the Tuesday meeting.
Any stadium deal will likely have to include accompanying development either alongside the stadium or at a separate satellite location. The team plans on paying for the stadium through proceeds from residential and other development and a government would likely be asked to provide land, entitlement breaks or both to facilitate the deal.
The team’s final stadium plan in San Diego called for the city to give it 60 acres of the 166-acre Qualcomm site in Mission Valley. The team then planned to build condos and other retail development and pump the proceeds into stadium development. It was supposed to go to a vote in November 2006, but the Chargers scrapped that plan earlier in the year.
In National City, any stadium deal would require the development to be built away from the stadium site, possibly even in other cities. Several sites are in play in Chula Vista, some of which could hold all of the development on one parcel.
It is unknown if the Oceanside site could support stadium and development.
According to the team’s contract with the city of San Diego, it could begin speaking with cities outside the county on Monday. The team said last month that it would politely decline any overtures from outside suitors for the time being because it was encouraged by its progress in the South Bay.
No outside parties have contacted the team since Monday, Fabiani said. The team can legally relocate at the end of the 2008 season.
One of the worries surrounding a stadium deal in the South Bay has been its distance from wealthier enclaves of North County and Orange County, something that would be soothed by an Oceanside stadium.
The team contacted Chula Vista and National City on Tuesday to inform them of the meeting, Fabiani said.
Butkiewicz said Wood expressed concern about being used as leverage against Chula Vista and National City. Spanos assured him that wouldn’t happen, Butkiewicz said.
The labor leader said he was optimistic something could be worked out in the South Bay or Oceanside.
“It’s a huge sports town,” he said of Oceanside’s youth programs. “So maybe there’s something good that works.”
(Correction: The original version of this story erroneously reported that the team could relocate as soon as Jan. 1, 2008. The team can relocate at the conclusion of the 2008 football season. We regret the error.)