If you are at all interested in the issue of whether the Chargers will ever have a new stadium in the San Diego area at all, you should read this story in yesterday’s New York Times.
There are some jaw-dropping numbers in this piece.
The story centers around the ticket prices fans of the Yankees, Jets, Giants and Mets will have to pay to watch their teams in their various new facilities. Try to ingest this paragraph.:
The teams are confident market research supports the increases, but season-ticket holders say the price they are being asked to pay in the new stadiums — the Mets’ $800 million Citi Field, the $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium and the $1.6 billion (and climbing) Jets-Giants stadium — is turning them into something other than fans. Instead, interviews with two dozen fans indicated, they are starting to feel like unwitting bankers.
Whoa. $1.6 billion for a new Jets-Giants stadium? And the price tag is climbing!!??
The latest figures from Dallas claim the new stadium there is going to cost a total of $1.1 billion. It had the advantage of going through earlier than the New York project. The Dallas facility is incredible: Look at this place.
OK, take a second to process this. A San Diego discussion continues among those hoping to build the Chargers a new stadium to compete with these big beasts of the sports world in Texas and on the East Coast. The conversation left off in Chula Vista — a city dealing with brutal internal politics, a major fiscal crisis and a much more pronounced desire to build a convention center on the bay front than a stadium. That city, however big of football fans its residents may be, is kind of shrugging its shoulders at the idea of a stadium.
Also, let’s remember that there’s a huge power plant right where any stadium would go on the Chula Vista bay front.
So if it costs $1.6 billion to build a stadium in New York — and $1.1 billion to build one a few years earlier in Texas, where there’s almost as much land as air — how much can we imagine a Chula Vista bay front stadium costing in a few years? I mean, they can’t even start building until the power plant is gone. And it’s not even being taken down yet.
So here it is: With the dollar collapsing, construction costs and inflation soaring, is there any way in the world that a new stadium on bay-front land could cost anything less than $2 billion?
Wrap your mind around that figure for a second. The Chargers had a proposal to build a new stadium at Qualcomm for maybe $600 million at most. And it wouldn’t pencil out for investors. That much, a measly $600 million, wouldn’t work out for the housing developers who were supposedly going to build it in exchange for the chance to build some condos.
That’s $600 million. Imagine this region trying to finance a $1.5 billion-to-$2 billion dollar construction project.
No way. It ain’t happening.
Look at the Giants-Jets proposal. It’s being done without government funding. Hurray, right? It can be done.
But look at it: These are two teams partnering up to build the thing. Both teams are taking on $650 million in debt each. How are they going to pay the debt off? They’re passing the costs to season-ticket holders who will have to pay $1,000 to $20,000 just to keep their rights to their tickets.
Again, these are two NFL teams that will play twice as many games at their home stadium than the Chargers would. And both teams each have arguably bigger fan bases that the Chargers (no question the Giants have a bigger following. The Jets? It’s probably a close call).
So unless San Diego gets another football team, (the Escondido Wildfires anyone?) it will have to close the funding gap with something else.
What? Taxpayer dollars.
OK, the fact is, whatever public funding the Chargers are able to squeeze out of local government would have to be immense just to make the project possible. I mean, hundreds and hundreds of millions. And yet, unlike Dallas or Denver or Phoenix, it is virtually impossible in San Diego to pass a special tax to finance a new stadium. In those places, you merely ask people to vote and see if you can get a majority. In San Diego, you’d have to get a super majority of two-thirds support.
So the Chargers would have to finance it. Look at this news out of New York, Charger fans, you want a stadium, you’re going to have to pony up: at least double what fans in New York are going to cough up. Are you prepared to pay $2,000 to $40,000 just to maintain your right to purchase Charger season tickets (which themselves would cost double)?
If so, maybe we can work something out.
But the wildly inflating prices of new stadiums in this country, and San Diego’s inability to pass a special tax to subsidize it, make it almost certain that there’s going to be no deal. Heck, even if the local governments, as the result of some kind of unexpected Kumbaya moment and were able to throw in as much as $500 million to the project, the Chargers and their fans would still have to come up with well more than $1 billion.
Both these things happening are equally unlikely. Without a dramatic and unimaginable shift in local fortunes, the Chargers will not be getting a new stadium in the next decade. If this fact means the team will leave, that’s something the fans should get used to.