More information is trickling out about the proposed $1.7 billion San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders stadium in Carson, and it adds up to — well, let’s just run it down first, then see what it adds up to:
- The promised press conference in Carson happened on Friday, and tons of local officials showed up, but no representatives of either team took the stage. (Chargers stadium chief Mark Fabiani was in the audience, but didn’t speak.) No details of how the plan would work were revealed, with one elected official (SFGate didn’t say who) saying, “The financing will work with the revenue generated by the stadium itself. I don’t have all the details. This is about convincing a community that this is a good project.”
- Fabiani was busy talking up the press elsewhere, telling ESPN’s Aaron Markazi that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s announced Inglewood stadium was what prompted the Chargers to immediately jump in on a stadium elsewhere in the L.A. area: “We deliberately changed our strategy in the wake of what Kroenke did. When this opportunity to create an alternative came along we decided to seize it.” Fabiani also told Markazi that the Raiders just officially came on board last week.
- Fabiani told Markazi that the model for the stadium is the San Francisco 49ers‘ $1.3 billion stadium in Santa Clara: “We took the template of the Santa Clara funding mechanisms … so we basically took that and adjusted it for different costs here.” (A Goldman Sachs rep who’s been working on the plan echoed this at the press conference.) He also insisted that the Chargers are prepared to fund the stadium alone if necessary.
- Regarding the use of NFL G-4 funds for a Carson stadium, NFL VP Eric Grubman told the OC Register, “A stadium project can be eligible for league financing provided the project and its sponsors meet certain criteria. A Carson project would be eligible and could apply if it met those criteria.” Of course, one of the criteria of the G-4 fund is that “the project must not involve any relocation of or change in an affected club’s ‘home territory,'” so either Grubman is saying that the league has changed the criteria, or coyly saying that Carson wouldn’t be eligible, or just ducking the question because he doesn’t want to mess with the teams’ leverage.
- U-T San Diego reports that San Diego residents hope the team doesn’t move, and more surprisingly, that the newspaper’s headline writers think they’re called “San Diegians.”
So what do we have? Clearly the message the teams are trying to send (or at least Fabiani is trying to send — the Raiders seem to be merely along for the ride) is “the 49ers did this in Santa Clara, so we can do it too.” There are some significant differences, though: First off, the Carson stadium is projected to cost an extra $400 million, something that additional G-4 funding won’t come close to making up, assuming the NFL changes its rules and approves it. Second, L.A. is not Silicon Valley, and the Chargers and Raiders aren’t the 49ers, meaning selling $500 million worth of personal seat licenses to fans, as the 49ers did, is less of a sure thing. And third, the NFL hasn’t committed to waiving relocation fees for teams moving to L.A., which could blow as much as another $500 million hole in the budget.
Probably the best way of looking at the Carson stadium plan is the way this commenter suggested: It’s part negotiating ploy, part fallback plan, and both Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis are hoping that it will shake loose stadium money in San Diego and Oakland and they’ll never have to decide whether to shoot the dog. (Fabiani also spent a fair bit of media time over the weekend shaming San Diego officials about not being as friendly-like as Carson ones.) Grubman’s statement seems calculated to support this tactic: He’s not going to commit to G-4 funding, but he’s not going to rule it out, either.
The big question, then, is: If one or both teams can’t use the Carson threat to get stadium money out of their current home cities, will they really pull the trigger and move? That, we simply don’t know, and won’t until there’s more details revealed about how the Carson stadium money would work, beyond “We’ll have what Santa Clara is having.”
Come to think of it, though, there’s one equally big question: If the Santa Clara stadium’s private financing can be picked up and relocated to Carson, how come it can’t be done in San Diego or Oakland? Yes, L.A. is a bigger market, but market size doesn’t matter that much in the NFL. And as noted above, it comes with a bigger price tag, in both construction cost and relocation fees, than a stadium in the teams’ current homes would.
Good questions for officials, and journalists, in San Diego and Oakland to be asking, anyway. It’s possible to take threats seriously without taking them at face value, and that’s what everybody should be focusing on now. If only to take their minds off of the horror that is this photo: