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I did a double take on something Union-Tribune sports columnist Nick Canepa wrote the other day. Canepa was keeping alive discussion about the concept of a new stadium that would satisfy a number of dreams, not just football — a domed stadium downtown that would serve as the hub of an “entertainment complex.”
This isn’t a new concept; we’ve been hearing talk for a year about some kind of solution that would replace both the Sports Arena and Qualcomm Stadium. But off and on we’ve been hearing a rationalization for it that includes the Convention Center. Perhaps it could replace not only the aging arena and stadium, but the need for a new Convention Center?
Convention Center officials and boosters, the hoteliers and others brush this off.
But then Canepa came with this (emphasis mine):
I understand Sanders and Maas last week went on a fact-finding mission to the L.A. Live, AEG’s downtown entertainment campus. They would like to do something similar in downtown San Diego, only it would include a stadium with a retractable soft-top that could house many big indoor and outdoor events and add an enormous amount of space to our Convention Center.
“And I like to get some folks to go to Indianapolis, where they have probably the best template for use of a convention center, football stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Pacers play,” Maas says. “The stadium (Lucas Oil) has 183,000 square feet of convention space — and that doesn’t include the field.”
There it is again, but this time, the mayor “would like” to do this?
This is odd because the mayor just released a new financing plan for a $500 million Convention Center expansion. If he wants a new stadium to add an enormous amount of space to the Convention Center, do we need the $500 million expansion to the main building, too? Is he backing away from his plan just a few weeks into it?
Darren Pudgil, the mayor’s spokesman, told me no.
We are not looking at the stadium as a Convention Center expansion. They are two separate things — though a stadium could be used for other uses. We certainly looking at it as a multi-use complex that could benefit the Convention Center but not replace an expansion.
As Liam Dillon reminded me, the head of the hoteliers lobby laid out a similar position. They maintain that a new domed stadium could help visiting groups but, darn it, we still have to build a new Convention Center.
So let it be clarified that the benefits to conventions from a new stadium wouldn’t actually save us from investment in conventions. Don’t go off getting excited that a new stadium will save money on this aspect of boosters’ dreams. To them, it’d just be icing on a bigger convention center cake.