Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007 | For more than two years, those of us who have been following the story about the San Diego Chargers’ push for a new stadium have been patiently waiting for one thing and one thing only.
We’ve been waiting to see an actual proposal. Not an idea. Not a suggestion. Not one of the many pie-in-the-sky imaginings that the city’s boosters roll out without even bothering with logic. (Remember Herb Klein’s suggestion that we “just put it in Barrio Logan”?)
No, what we’re dreaming of is a real, concrete proposal that the football team makes for how they could build a new stadium, where they want to put it and, most importantly of course, how they propose to pay for it.
But no. For two years I’ve been waiting to get a new proposal in my hands and chew on it. There’s nothing like the taste of consultant reports and economic impact forecasts.
A real proposal — an application for the community’s consideration — is what we’ve been waiting for.
Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait a lot longer than we may have imagined. Because if Chargers people put forward what looks to be the closest thing to a proposal they have now, they might ruin a small city’s big dream about its waterfront.
Let me explain. The Union-Tribune reported recently that Chargers representatives and officials from the city of Chula Vista were “huddling” to see if they could agree on a site for a new stadium “by the end of the month.”
There are currently two sites supposedly under consideration for a new stadium in the South County city. The first is along the bay front where that beautiful power plant sits now, punctuating the view of the ocean and bay with its glorious pillars and pretty plumes of steam emissions.
The second site is much farther to the east. It’s far enough to the east where you start to forget how close we are to the ocean and start to remember how close we are to the desert.
No matter how they may artfully phrase it, city and team officials have strangled the idea of putting a stadium at this eastern site.
All eyes are looking at the bay front.
“From my personal perspective, the bay front site seems to be the leader,” said Chula Vista City Councilman John McCann, who has tried to be his city’s leader on the issue.
But it is comments like his that have started to get some people nervous. There’s another suitor trying to dance with Chula Vista on its bay front. Gaylord Entertainment hopes to build a billion-dollar, 1,500-hotel-room resort and convention center. For more than two years, Gaylord and its own San Diego boosters have been waiting patiently for planners to finish an environmental impact report of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan.
The report was supposed to be done by now. Port of San Diego officials, who are working on the crucial document, say now that it will be about three months.
But if the Chargers and Chula Vista were to decide they wanted to go ahead and out their preferences for a bay-front stadium plan, they would have to, of course, go to the port because the port controls the bay front.
And if the port heard a proposal for a new Chargers stadium and let it go forward, there would be a big problem. Port officials would have to redo their environmental impact report for the bay front and Gaylord, which is supposedly on the brink of a new announcement about its plans for the South Bay, would be hobbled again.
Chula Vista and port officials believe that they wouldn’t be in danger of that unless and until the port commissioners voted on considering a stadium for the coast.
Until then, they’re trying to pretend like they’ve never heard of the Chargers.
Stadium? Huh? Where? Here? Nah, really?
“As far as we’re concerned, we don’t have a project there at all,” said Irene McCormack, the port’s spokeswoman. “The board would have to decide whether or not they would want the Chargers stadium on that particular site. Then, at that time, it would become a project and we’d have to figure out how that would work into the EIR.”
That’s Chula Vista’s impression as well. As long as a stadium on the Chula Vista bay front is merely an idea, like a floating airport or a high-speed train to Las Vegas, then the environmental review for the area can continue.
Some say that’s not the case. Environmental attorney Cory Briggs said that an environmental review would have to be restarted if it could be determined that the city of Chula Vista was actually working toward a proposal for a stadium on the bay front.
One thing seems clear: If I got the proposal I’ve been hoping to chew on for the last two years — if Charger fans for once knew what they were supposed to blindly support — they’d kill the Gaylord project. And the Chargers don’t want to step on those Tennessee toes.
“If at any point our efforts were going to interfere with the Gaylord project we would back off,” said Mark Fabiani, the Chargers’ special counsel.
So, the moral is, until the Gaylord/Bayfront Master Plan environmental report is finished, no proposal to build a new stadium on the bay front will emerge. And the bay front is all that’s left, so no proposal for a new Chargers stadium is going to come up any time soon.
This is news to some who may have believed the U-T that a site might be chosen soon. Others who may have thought that the region or city of Chula Vista would see a vote on the issue in 2008 are also going to have to recalculate.
Chula Vista may be flirting with the Chargers, but it has a chance to make out with Gaylord and it doesn’t appear willing to do anything to miss out on that.