I took the opportunity the other day to ask Chula Vista City Manager David Garcia about Gaylord Entertainment’s proposed convention center and resort on the city’s bay front. After all, with Garcia making no bones about its financial troubles these days, did he think of Gaylord much the same way that Mayor Cheryl Cox does, as a sort of long-term balance for a fundamentally unbalanced city budget?

It’s a potentially problematic perspective. If Gaylord is the solution for the troubled municipal budget, it’s going to take a while to do much solving. Many of the taxes and fees generated when (and if) Gaylord opens, will immediately be funneled to pay off the debt incurred to construct the facility and its infrastructure.

They’ll be hoping the new visitors to South County will buy an extra Chula Vista T-shirt or two before leaving.

I know I’m a big fan of the Chula T.

Garcia said he sees a more long-term benefit to Chula Vista from Gaylord.

“The real impact of Gaylord is that it’s going to bring the hospitality industry to Chula Vista, which we’ve never had before,” he said.

That is, if it’s built. There’s still a big ugly power plant squatting in the way.

Bennett Westbrook: Show me a sexy power plant and I’ll show you a convention center.

I made it to National City this week to catch a public appearance from Bennett Westbrook, Gaylord’s senior vice president for development. I and several other reporters and South Bay luminaries were promised an update on what was going on.

I had a few questions I was anxious to pose to Westbrook.

Like how about that power plant?

In a letter a couple of months ago to the state’s electricity gods, Mayor Cox said this, according to the Union-Tribune:

“Gaylord has written that they will not conclude their agreement and move forward if the existing power plant remains on the Bayfront,” Cox wrote.

So, in discussion with Westbrook, I asked him about the South Bay Power Plant.

Does it have to go?

“We’re hopeful that the power plant will be relocated or replaced with a more aesthetically pleasing power plant,” Westbrook said.

What if it’s not? another reporter asked.

“We’ll have to explore that with the city and port at a later date,” Westbrook said.

So you’re not willing to say you’d be here regardless of the power plant situation?

“I’m not going to say one way or the other on that,” he said.

Why?

“I’m just not,” he said.

OK. But after a digression, I asked him again — this time focusing on Cox’s letter. Her letter came in response to the release of the environmental report about the Sunrise Powerlink. The federal government, doing the report, decided that a viable alternative to the controversial power line that would bisect the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a new power plant on the bay front.

If they made that “aesthetically pleasing” like Westbrook said, maybe it would be OK? right?

Oh yeah, but Cox, in her letter, says that Westbrook and friends won’t have anything to do with the bay front if it has a power plant at all.

So, again, I wanted Westbrook to clear it up. Cox’s letter said Gaylord won’t come unless the power plant is gone.

“It contemplates that,” Westbrook said.

You don’t want to contemplate that any further? I asked.

“No.”

SCOTT LEWIS

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