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Thursday, May 17, 2007 | That didn’t take long. The Union-Tribune broke the story this weekend that National City was no longer able or willing to pursue its bid to build a new football stadium for the Chargers.

Then, suddenly, another story comes out: National City officials are exploring the idea of building an NBA basketball arena on the city’s bay-front land.

Last week, voiceofsandiego.org reported that San Ysidro School District officials were contemplating an idea to allow two of their schools to be razed in favor of a new professional soccer stadium.

And Chula Vista leaders are eager for consultants to get back to them on the prospects of building a new Chargers stadium in that city. The Chargers are paying $220,000 for the consultants.

South Bay appears to have an itch it can’t quite scratch. It needs some sports teams and it needs them now.

Jock itch.

There are few things more interesting to watch now than the ascendance in prominence and activity of San Diego’s southern suburbs. Chula Vista’s politics have gotten positively brutal. That city is trying to get rid of an ugly power plant on its bay front at the same time National City is trying to lure one.

Amidst all of this, Chula Vista is trying to work with the port to give a massive taxpayer subsidy to Gaylord Entertainment to build a convention center that Gaylord now envisions being larger than the one downtown.

All these efforts along with the continuous flow of controversies, if not outright scandals, out of the area have helped focus attention on the region.

Meanwhile, the city of San Diego has faltered and pulled back from the sports stage. The last idea a city of San Diego official put out about a sports team was that the city should pay the Chargers to leave.

The Sports Arena in Midway is better known for its swap meet than for its sports. The company that last had its name on that strange facility went belly up. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, not too long ago, suggested that Mission Valley should be the site of a sports fan’s utopia — a place not only for football at a new Chargers stadium, but a basketball arena and other amenities. Her idea has been roundly ignored, which she doesn’t appreciate.

The city of San Diego has taken itself out of the professional sports game. In fact, it’s not only OK now for city officials to shrug their shoulders about the Chargers, it will soon be politically viable for the mayor to actually advocate for the Chargers to leave San Diego city limits. The football team’s lease at Qualcomm is now structured in a way that the city would be better off the sooner it can get the team to stop playing games there.

You watch: We’ve enjoyed having the Chargers, the mayor will say. We’d like to help them find a new home hopefully nearby, he’ll add. But look at all this money we’ll save if they leave, he’ll conclude.

The South Bay cities and their leaders look with big eyes at the possibility of being saviors of professional football in the San Diego region.

This is not going to be simple for them. If the Chargers are sincerely looking to sell the possibility of a new stadium in San Diego somewhere, they have no reason to exaggerate its potential construction costs. In fact, logic would dictate that they would try to minimize them.

Yet there was Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani talking about stadium construction cost as high now as $1 billion. That’s two-and-a-half times what the team estimated it would cost only a couple of years ago.

That’s a lot of coin for a place like National City. Officials there literally had to beg residents, twice, to increase the sales tax recently.

And Chula Vista? If it’s going to join the port in giving a $300 million subsidy for this new convention center, it will be interesting to see what the city has left over to dangle in front of the team to make a $1 billion stadium possible.

How much, after all, are they willing to pay to satisfy that itch?

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

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