The Chargers and the city of San Diego have yet to begin serious negotiations on financing a potential $800 million downtown football stadium, city and downtown redevelopment officials said, despite the clearing of a key financial hurdle almost three months ago and near constant chatter about the team’s future in San Diego and the prospect of new stadiums in Los Angeles.

“We’ve not had a serious discussion, serious negotiations, serious things with the Chargers that would warrant hurrying things up because I don’t think anyone can define the environment today,” said Fred Maas, outgoing head of the city’s downtown redevelopment agency, the Centre City Development Corp.

The environment is filled with significant uncertainties for both the city and team, though the city’s side of the bargain was supposed to be clearer by now.

City and redevelopment officials now say the Chargers stadium is part of the larger debate about the future of downtown redevelopment. That debate was thought to have been resolved by last-minute state legislation passed in October that extended CCDC’s lifespan by 20 years to 2043, a move that allows the city to collect and spend significantly more tax dollars downtown.

Simply put, they said, there still might not be enough money to pay for a new stadium and other demands on the downtown redevelopment kitty.

“There is only a set amount of redevelopment dollars available,” said Darren Pudgil, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders.

The Chargers face even more vagaries about their potential financial commitments. A labor dispute between the National Football League and its players could lead to a lockout after the current contract expires in March, throwing next season into doubt. Further, the league’s stadium financing program is tapped, leaving the team without at least one major planned revenue source.

Negotiations between the Chargers and the city over a 10-acre site near Petco Park in downtown’s East Village neighborhood began in fall 2009. Unlike other potential stadium options sought around San Diego County over the past eight years, the downtown location doesn’t rely on the Chargers finding a private development partner to help finance the facility. The site can’t fit more than a stadium.

Instead, the primary funding sources were expected to come from the team, the NFL and the city. The Chargers put the stadium’s price tag at $800 million, not counting the costs for relocating a bus terminal that’s now on the site.

Who would pay that $800 million has never been addressed except in generalities. The team’s stadium point man, Mark Fabiani, has said the team and NFL could put up $300 million, leading to the conclusion the city would be on the hook for $500 million.

That amount, Maas said, is a “misnomer.” Neither side has made any specific proposal for a public subsidy, he added.

“Everyone acknowledges there has to be some sort of a subsidy to make that work as an academic matter, but between there and how we get there is an entirely different subject,” Maas said.

Determining how much the city could pay was supposed to be much easier once state legislation passed in October that eliminated a limit on the tax money CCDC could collect. The legislation allows access to a big share of an estimated $6 billion in future downtown property taxes, some of which could go toward a new stadium.

Fabiani, who declined to comment for this story, has made the elimination of CCDC’s revenue limit central to the downtown site’s viability for a stadium.

But once the legislation passed, City Council members and others have eyed downtown’s newfound money for a number of projects.

They have proposed that redevelopment dollars cover the city’s outstanding debt at the Convention Center and Petco Park and increase affordable housing payments.

Currently, the city’s day-to-day budget pays $9.2 million annually for Convention Center bonds and is scheduled to pick up the $11.3 million annual payment for Petco bonds from the downtown redevelopment agency in 2014.

A consultant’s study that is supposed to examine the city’s financing options remains on indefinite hold, Pudgil said, until city leaders decide how to divvy up the downtown redevelopment pot. Sanders opposes having CCDC payoff the Convention Center bonds.

“There’s no sense in having [a consultant] put something together with these issues still outstanding,” Pudgil said.

The stadium study originally was expected last spring and then postponed until the city resolved how much downtown redevelopment money it could collect.

CCDC’s revenues depend on development. The more development there is, the more property tax revenue the agency can collect.

The most recent projections show that there will be $386 million available for downtown redevelopment projects over the next 14 years.

Just paying for Convention Center and Petco bonds alone could cost CCDC $244 million over that time, Maas estimated.

Still, the $386 million figure is no more than an estimate of the agency’s share of downtown tax revenues. CCDC could have more money if developers decide to build more quickly now that the state legislation effectively extended CCDC’s lifespan, giving it more opportunity to entice construction. Presumably city leaders also will argue that building a stadium downtown will stimulate growth and lead to greater returns as well.

On the other hand, CCDC could have less money if the economy continues to stall and fewer people build.

Even though financing specifics aren’t being discussed, the city and the Chargers are still talking, Pudgil and Maas said. Maas, who is leaving the city at the end of the year, said he remains in infrequent but regular contact with Fabiani. Pudgil said that the team has told the city it wants to remain in San Diego. The Chargers have said they have a good relationship with the city.

Maas added that stadium watchers shouldn’t discount recent news that the Chargers aren’t opting out of their lease with the city in 2011. A Los Angeles downtown developer announced it expects a stadium deal done by March, meaning the Chargers wouldn’t fit that timeframe, Maas said.

“I thought that was a significant juxtaposition of those two things,” Maas said.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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