Nobody is against downtown Chargers stadium/convention center, except for pretty much everybody

The San Diego Chargers want a combined stadium/convention center downtown. But the mayor doesn’t. And the county doesn’t. And the convention center doesn’t. Which should make for an amusing few months.

Having lost the great race for a deal in Los Angeles, the Chargers have now floated a plan for a combined stadium/convention center in downtown San Diego, just east of the Padres‘ Petco Park. The “convedium” scheme would stack the stadium on top of a 225,000-square-foot convention exhibit hall, with meeting space and ballrooms in a connected building. City officials and local hoteliers have long been pushing for an expansion of the existing convention center, and they’re armed with a study by our friends at Conventions, Sports & Leisure International that says a separate new center won’t boost local convention business the way a contiguous expansion would — a difference of exactly six conventions and trade shows a year.

The earlier expansion plan was blocked by the courts, ruling a scheme that used a fee on local hotels was really a tax, and that required a public vote. Now the Chargers have joined attorney Cory Briggs (who brought the suit that stopped the expansion effort) to back an initiative to change the way the city’s hotel tax is distributed.

It appears the public financing for the stadium/center combine would come from a hotel tax, and that will undoubtedly require a public vote (maybe a two-thirds majority vote) in spending-limit-heaven California. But while Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other local officials (and the hotel folks) will likely oppose it, the combination deal has lots of friends. The Chargers get to argue that a combined stadium and convention facility will bring more conventioneers to sunny San Diego. They’ve got Fred Maas, former downtown honcho and center expansion promoter, on board. John Moores, who did the deal that built Petco Park, will get a boost for his surrounding property. And the hotel types will get something, even if it’s not what they prefer.

Yet one big question mark is Comic-Con, the event that (according to the convention center) drew 130,000 attendees last year, fully 24 percent of total convention attendance. The Comic-Con folks want a contiguous expansion, not the Chargers deal. And Los Angeles and Anaheim have both tried to lure the event, which is facing increasing competition from a host of “Cons” around the country. Will San Diego lose the hordes of costumed superheroes? Will Spiderman spin a big web for a convention center?

Does it all make sense? No, but this is “Field of Schemes” after all.


17 comments on “Nobody is against downtown Chargers stadium/convention center, except for pretty much everybody

  1. I can understand why Comic Con doesn’t like the convedium. Proponents are talking as though the spaces are across the street from each other, but they really look to be about 6-8 blocks away. It just doesn’t make sense for 1 convention to have to split their crowd between the two spaces that are so far away from each other.

  2. It’s interesting to listen to interviews with Fred Maas who claims that the development will create an LA Live like experience for downtown San Diego. He, of course, neglects the fact that LA Live is anchored by Staple Center which — between the Lakers, Clipper, and a steady stream of concerts — is booked 120 to 150 days per year. The 70,000 seat stadium component of the Charger/JMI proposed development would be used… 20 days a year, maybe? (Generously including SDSU football, though if the Chargers move downtown there is rumbling that SDSU may stay in Mission Valley in a reduced size multiuser facility)
    But wait! What about all that other development to draw people to the glitzy LA Live experience? Okay, great, then why not do that WITHOUT a stadium stuck in the air on top (really, the field is 30 feet above street level? How tall will this beast be?) of the convention center? The Chargers and JMI are trying to paint this as a two-for-one to benefit the future needs of the city. If you believe that, the project is much more affordable and doable without cramming a stadium onto a very small parcel of land.

  3. @John

    I agree with your point in general that Staples Center is way more active, but you are forgetting PETCO Park is also adjacent to this site, so you’re looking at 10 NFL games + 81 MLB games rather than 20 events.

    I’m surprised the SD stadium boosters are touting LA Live as a positive example. I’ve never been, but I was under the impression LA Live was kind of a bust. I dunno, maybe I’m mistaken I’ve never been to LA Live. The only thing I can think of that is similar in description is this a building that opened next to the Target Center called Block E that had a hotel, theme restaurants, movie screens, and shopping and that development was a colossal bust.

  4. How can you comment on LA Live’s success or failure? It has spurred $25 Billion of investment into downtown LA’s core since its opening in 1999. It is definitely not a bust, but is does have 3 professional teams constantly filling its seats not to mention other high-profile events, ie Grammys and People’s Choice Awards etc.

  5. @Sasha,

    L.A. Live is FAR from a bust, its actually very successful for what it is, Kinda odd that you comment on it being unsuccessful but claim you’ve never been ? There is a few differences tho with this San Diego plan L.A. Live.

    For Starters. The San Diego plan is merely a expansion of the convention center with a stadium plopped on top. L.A. Live was NOT an expansion. The convention center and Staples center downtown were already there. L.A live was just build across the street with a movie theater, Grammy Musuem, Nokia theater ( Now Microsoft theater) where the Grammys are held, a HUGE club, resteraunts and other things, all alnchored by a 663ft. Tower that is 54 floors tall.

    San Diego will be getting NONE of this. San Diego isn’t getting the tower, the movie theater, the grammy museum, the numerous award shows (grammys being the main one but there are others), its not getting the huge club and its not getting the benefit of being near the staples center that on its own hosts concerts and all of the Laker/clippers and kings games. Easily staples center is used 250 days of the year, and another thing that San Diego isn’t getting is the Global Recognition that L.A.

    Go around the world and people KNOW NYC, LA, SF,Vegas, Miami and DC. Mention any other city and they give you a baffled look. SD is sadly considered a “far reaching suburb” of L.A. So anything SD does, downtown or not, wont equal to anything that happens in L.A. just like our new football stadium costing 2.7 billion. Most expensive in the world ( Not to mention fully financed privately with not a single tax dollar).

  6. @sasha
    LA Live is considered to be one of the very few centers to actually spur development/renovation of an area (wheras we almost never saw the same with other arenas/stadiums). They’ve really been doing a lot the last two decades, and barring LA suddenly taking a massive dive, its not going to stop anytime soon. However, the reason why everyone is willing to develop there is because the giant population/rate of tourists/travelers in LA + the location of the center being downtown (so the money is very much there to be made). If it had been, say, somewhere in Orlando where a Live center happened we never would have never seen anywhere near that rate of development and success that LA has had. Thats why no one should ever say “We can be the next LA Live!”; unless your city suddenly becomes that populated/visited, it wont ever work. NYC and Chicago are the only 2 other cities that could do it, so unless they bring it up it should get squashed, and hopefully with this idiotic idea for SD we will see the same.

  7. In addition to the large number of dates that Staples Center is occupied, LA Live benefits from lack of competition within walking distance. Nightlife in the South Park section of downtown LA was moribund until LA Live opened.

    The same cannot be said for San Diego, with the thriving Gaslamp district close to the site being mentioned.

  8. The way the Chargers have played they need to downgrade to arena football and forget about playing in one of San Diego’s best locations. The Valley View Casino Center Arena is where the Chargers should play. Downtown’s prime location needs to be used for much better things. No handouts! If Spanos doesn’t think the Q is good enough then he can either build what he wants and pick up the tab 100% or leave.

  9. Neil,

    Please delete the following at the end of the day and never bring it up again:

    Staples Center/LA Live definitely were up before downtown LA started booming. On the other hand, two of Neil’s favorite arguments; the substitution effect and the “it would’ve happened anyway” theory, apply strongly. Beverly Hills has been decimated by downtown’s growth, as have some areas of the west side. And LA Live deserves far less credit than the hipster migration to Silver Lake, Echo Park and Los Feliz, which are all very close to downtown.

  10. @Ben Miller

    I’ve got to believe you’re joking when you say “Beverly Hills has been decimated”. Thanks for an early morning chuckle.

    LA Live/Staples only gets partial credit for one neighborhood (the extreme southern section) in downtown LA, which as a whole, still has a long way to go.

  11. LA Live has been one of the better entertainment venues built in the Los Angeles area. I’m not certain how well the concept would work in San Diego. Although I really like the Gaslamp area, and downtown San Diego is a pristine location, its debatable if San Diego has the population to make the area a 24/7 center.

  12. My point remains that the addition of a stadium to that area only marginally increases traffic to the area. Yes, Petco park draws people into the Gaslamp 81 dates a year (plus another 4-6 large events). In analyzing the benefits of a particular development (i.e. a stadium) one must look at how that project incrementally contributes to the success of the area versus cost, without piggybacking that development on top of something else. The presence of Petco Park and the existing convention center provides a baseline. How will the addition of a 20 dates per year in a $1B+ stadium contribute to the success that is already there. The numbers really don’t add up unless that stadium itself (not a convention center component beneath that structure) can lodge significantly more bookings.

  13. Ben Miller

    The cyclical changes in retail on Robertson have no correlation to downtown. If any area is taking away that business, it’s Abbott Kinney.

  14. Just say no to a new football stadium. The convebtion center makes money like clock work and generates a direct cash profit for taxpayer so it is good. The problem is that greedy, worthless, turd stain Dean Spanos wants to raod the convention center money and gkve it to himself. Just say no and flip Spanos the bird.

    Do vote yes to a convention center expansion but make sure it is a contiguous expansion right next to the existing convention center space.

  15. @Ben Miller

    I’m an Angeleno and currently live in West L.A. There is not a single zip code on the west side that has suffered a decline in retail or property value since the establishment of L.A. Live. In fact, the property value of homes on the west side is reaching the absurd prices of Silicon Valley. It’s ridiculous. My nephews only have a small chance of owning a home in the area where they grew up.