As any resident knows, San Diego is home to two major sports teams, the Padres (baseball) and the Chargers (football.) Any resident will also know that the existing stadium, Qualcomm, is nearing retirement age.
I have only been to Qualcomm once, and it struck me as dirty and crowded. The Chargers and the Padres used to share Qualcomm, until the Padres asked for and received a new downtown ballpark, Petco. I have been there several times, and it is a pleasant facility, striking me as spacious and well designed.
Ever since Petco was built, the Chargers have been making noises about moving to another city unless they can have a new stadium as well. The problem is that even though the Chargers leaving would cause a loss of revenue and publicity for the city, the city hasn’t been able to afford a new stadium. But something must have changed recently, for the city is now planning a new library, and has been discussing a new city hall as well as plans to expand the convention center. And the city is now considering whether to build a new football stadium just east of Petco.
While I am not much a football fan at all, none of us in San Diego want to see our team move to another city (and especially not to Los Angeles.) But many of us are concerned that our city will spend tax money on a project that will ultimately enrich only a few commercial interests.
There was a rumor of an alternate proposal involving the Del Mar Fairgrounds —just outside San Diego. The state of California, as you may know, is having budget difficulties of its own, and at one time was considering selling off some of its state-held land. Some of this land is the mostly vacant area around the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The proposal was for a commercial entity to purchase the land from the state and finance the construction of a new football stadium with revenue from the fair and horse races.
Whether there was any fact to this rumor, or whether it was just a flight of fancy, I don’t know. However, it wouldn’t have cost the residents of the city much, if anything, and would have actually helped the taxpayers of California. (A drop in the bucket, really, but it’s something.)
And although the Downtown site already has the infrastructure in place— mass transit, parking, sewage, etc.— the proposed location contains a historic building (which will have to be built around) and a bus yard (which will have to be relocated and then cleaned up.) It is also near what is considered to be one of the city’s worst neighborhoods.
The Del Mar site also already has the infrastructure to support large crowds. It’s the site of the Del Mar Fair and horse races, after all, and the Coaster train line stops nearby.
However, the decision is inevitably going to come down to which option is cheapest to the Chargers, and that will undoubtedly be the City-financed stadium downtown.