Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007 | Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is the self-proclaimed “happiest mayor in the world.” But he had to be at least a little disappointed Friday when the Chargers say they told him they weren’t — for the time being — going to entertain his interest in bringing the team to Sin City.
Goodman, a Chargers season ticket holder, phoned the team Tuesday to express his interest in making them the first major professional sports team in Las Vegas. Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said he informed the mayor Friday of the team’s intentions to stick to its pledge and “politely decline” any overtures made by parties outside of San Diego County for now.
“We spoke at length,” Goodman said in a prepared statement. “I’m doing my due diligence. Bringing a professional sports team to Las Vegas is just another part of my goal to make this the world class city. We have the very best entertainment, the greatest hotels and the finest restaurants. We need a professional team here to complete a sense of community for my constituents.”
Goodman first contacted the team last April, but was turned back by an exclusivity agreement between the team and the city of San Diego that prohibited the Chargers from negotiating with outside parties. That clause expired Monday.
In December, the team announced that it would “politely decline” any offers from outside San Diego County in the New Year as it worked on stadium discussions with Chula Vista and National City. Oceanside also became a player this week when team officials met with Mayor Jim Wood and Chargers consultants inspected a 75-acre plot of city-owned land currently in use as a golf course.
Fabiani said he reiterated that pledge to Goodman, thanked him for his “continued interest and support,” and detailed the ongoing activity in San Diego County. Goodman “said he would continue to follow what we were doing here and he wished the team luck,” Fabiani said.
No financial details were discussed and the mayor didn’t talk about what Las Vegas could offer the Chargers, such as money or land, Fabiani said.
“At this point, it’s not relevant to us because our focus remains solely in the county of San Diego,” he said. “It didn’t come up and I didn’t ask.”
The Chargers’ resolute stance comes as the franchise experiences unprecedented success on the football field but continues to search for a way to finance the new stadium it has sought since 2002.
Goodman has been an avid advocate of bringing professional sports to Las Vegas.
Moving any major professional sports team to Sin City would be historic. Despite being one of the fastest growing big cities in the United States, Las Vegas’ appeal as a hub of professional sports has so far been tamped down by the city’s position as the hub of another popular American pastime — gambling.
Some worry that the proximity between pro-sports and pro-gambling would lead to point-shaving scandals. But others say an eventual move to Las Vegas for some form of professional sports is inevitable.
In 2005, Goodman pursued Major League Baseball’s Florida Marlins. He also reportedly offered to build a National Football League stadium simply to host all of the league’s Monday night games, a prospect the NFL declined.
The National Basketball Association has taken the furthest steps of anyone, choosing to hold this year’s All-Star Game in Sin City — the first time the showcase event has been held in a city without an NBA team.
Goodman joked that he would have one condition for any team moving to Las Vegas: they would have to change their name.
“I don’t care what they are called, but when a team moves here they will have to become the Las Vegas Oscar’s,” he said in the statement.
Las Vegas had long been considered one of the handful of cities that would come calling when the Chargers could legally talk, alongside Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Antonio.
But with the emergence of stadium ideas in the South Bay and Oceanside, the team has been willing to refrain from engaging outside suitors as those proposals are worked through. Officials expect to know within six months if the local proposals have merit.
The team hopes to finance the construction of a stadium — an endeavor that could cost between $600 million and $1 billion — with the proceeds from accompanying mixed-use development. For that, it will need a development company, likely a large builder capable of taking on the project’s risk.
The municipality involved in the deal will likely be asked to contribute land holdings, entitlement breaks or a combination of the two in order to make the deal work.
Fabiani was in New York this week briefing NFL officials on the team’s progress. While he has been optimistic with the efforts of officials from the three local cities involved right now, he said it will be tough to put together a privately financed package that works.
“It’s not like in the end we’re going to have a lot of choices here,” Fabiani said. “We’ll be lucky if we have one.”