Throw one more idea into the seven-year cavalcade of Chargers stadium visions.

A developer with plans to construct a 950,000-square-foot shopping center in Oceanside has reached out to the Chargers with hopes of adding a new football stadium to the development.

Atlanta-based Thomas Enterprises Inc. sought the team out six weeks ago to begin development discussions, according to team and company officials. They’ve since met twice, though both parties are quick to label any talks “preliminary.”

The company owns 90 acres off of State Route 76 at the Foussat Road exit, the site of a former drive-in theater, where it has already gained City Council approval for a high-end mixed-use development.

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Mel Kuhnel, Thomas’ vice president of West Coast development, said current economic conditions “have obviously made us be more creative and aggressive in what will create a market that works.”

Adding a stadium would allow Thomas to build an even larger version of the development, which is already slated to be the size of The Forum in Carlsbad and the Encinitas Town Center combined, he said.

“It would create a catalyst for a larger venue,” Kuhnel said.

Stadium talks between the Chargers and Chula Vista have stalled and few outside options have emerged as the team enters the seventh year of its new stadium search. After the team cut off talks with the cash-strapped city of San Diego three years ago, it briefly flirted with a stadium plan at the municipal golf course in Oceanside but it quickly dissipated because of lot’s size and topography.

Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel, said the team always liked Oceanside as a market because it is close to the core fan base in San Diego but also offers access to untapped markets in Orange County and Los Angeles.

Now, the team is intrigued because of the developer involved. “We like the fact that a big-time developer is in it,” Fabiani said. “The developer has already shown his ability to get public approval for a major project.”

The team has long sought a development partner to share the development risks. The type of high-end stadiums that owners desire typically cannot be financed on their own because they don’t bring in enough revenue to cover financing costs. As such, football teams also typically look to taxpayers to contribute money, land or something else of value.

In addition to difficulties shoring up political support for a project, the Chargers as of yet have also been unable to find a development group willing to serve as a partner.

It’s unclear what the public contribution would be to this nascent development idea. Fabiani said he was under the impression there was government-controlled land close to the site that could be used to expand the development.

City Councilman Jack Feller said he isn’t opposed to the team being involved in talks, but said he doesn’t care what’s going on until he sees a proposal from the developers.

“I know right now they don’t have any tenants because of the economic crunch. They’re probably looking for anything to talk about to add some value to their project,” he said. “When they said, ‘Would you be opposed?’ I said absolutely not.”


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