TV reporter gets jump on April Fools, says losing Chargers will turn San Diego into Baltimore

In need of a laugh this morning, and not in the mood for tiresome selfie-related hoaxes? Allow NBC San Diego’s Derek Togerson to come to your rescue with his essay on how if San Diego loses the Chargers, it’ll end up just like Baltimore:

[Baltimore Stadium Authority Chairman John] Moag is a friend of former Padres owner John Moores and was loosely involved in the construction of Petco Park, so he has seen how things work in both places.

“Baltimore is a big small town, not unlike San Diego in that respect,” he said when asked to compare the situations. Then he offered another sobering observation.

“It was an enormous, enormous blow to our culture.”

If you want to hear a lot more from Moag, the guy who as much as anyone was behind Maryland spending $300 million in taxpayer money on new stadiums for the Orioles and Ravens — he says bringing in the Ravens has created $600 million a year in economic impact, and nobody (in this article, anyway) is going to tell him otherwise! — by all means, click through. If the mere notion of San Diego being one NFL team away from being Baltimore (they both have large Navy presences!) is enough to tickle your funny bone, time to go play some Google Pac-Man.

Pro-Chargers stadium newspaper lashes out at Chargers for not being pro-stadium enough

Well, this is interesting. U-T San Diego, the newspaper run by a crazed millionaire who thinks journalists should be “cheerleaders” for stadiums, published an editorial yesterday afternoon that tears into the Chargers ownership for its position on a stadium. It tears into them for not being eager enough to commit to one in San Diego, mind you, but still, that’s definitely breaking with the program:

Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel for stadium issues … has continued to undermine the task force effort by pushing for a downtown stadium that would be more costly, would require two-thirds voter approval of a tax increase, would take much longer to develop and which includes a bus company yard that would definitely require significant environmental cleanup. And meanwhile, of course, the team has continued to push forward with a fly-by-night joint proposal with the Oakland Raiders to win approval for a new stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson.

Clearly, something has shifted here, whether it’s Fabiani pissing off the U-T editorial board somehow, or the board being tighter with San Diego city officials than with Chargers execs, or just annoyance that they’ve carried water for a San Diego stadium for this long and now Chargers owner Dean Spanos seems more interested in playing footsie with Carson. But this stuff matters, and it’s certainly significant that for whatever reason, the Chargers ownership seems to have alienated one of its most powerful friends. It’s a reminder that in playing cities off against each other, sports team owners risk burning bridges — though I guarantee that if the Chargers do choose to remain in San Diego, all will be forgiven, and the U-T editorial page will be full of talk about how Spanos needs to be rewarded for his loyalty.

NFL finally officially admits that, yes, some teams are threatening to move to L.A.

Don’t look now, but NFL VP for Stadium Extortion Eric Grubman has actually said the R-word with regard to the St. Louis Rams:

A National Football League executive briefed team owners Monday, for the first time as a group, on competing stadium proposals that could send the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, including key steps “between now and any eventual relocation.”…

“This is the first time with membership that we’ve been able to be relatively open and transparent as to what was going on,” Grubman said after he presented at the NFL’s annual owners meeting at the historic Arizona Biltmore resort in Phoenix.

Outstanding! So now for NFL owners who are unable to read the papers, Grubman has spelled out that it’s Rams owner Stan Kroenke who’s threatening to go to Inglewood, and San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos and Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis who are threatening to go to Carson.

What the rest of us would no doubt hope the NFL would be more “open and transparent” about is whether these planned L.A.-area stadiums are serious or just bluffs, or serious bluffs intended to shake loose stadium deals from their hometowns but which they’re willing to go through with, maybe, if left with no better alternatives. And Grubman at least hinted at number three, sorta kinda maybe in part:

Grubman emphasized that home markets would have a chance to pitch their own proposals before a decision is made to move any team to Los Angeles.

“The last thing I’d want is for a relocation proposal to come forward, and a home market to say, ‘Wait. You told us we had another few months,’” Grubman said. “I don’t want to do that.”

For all of these owners, there are two major hurdles to clear if they really want to move: finding the money to build new stadiums in L.A. without losing their shirts, and getting approval from the NFL’s other owners to do so. Both are going to be difficult, in different ways: Even in a big market like L.A., coming up with enough revenue to pay off close to $2 billion in stadium debt is a tough nut, and getting 24 of 32 NFL owners to agree on anything, especially when you know that the teams you’d be shutting out of moving to L.A. in your stead will vote no, takes a lot of tricky campaigning. With the next window for relocations coming up next winter, expect most of this year to be taken up with behind-the-scenes work lobbying for support among NFL owners, while waiting to see what San Diego, Oakland, and St. Louis propose as alternatives. There is much, much haggling yet to be done, in other words, so it’s pointless even to read tea leaves now.

Chargers, Raiders, Rams still working on stadiums everywhere, still anybody’s guess who ends up where

What’s going on the past few days in the NFL-to-Los-Angeles competition, you ask? (Strange thing to ask first thing on a Monday morning, but hey, who am I to judge?) Man, what isn’t going on?

  • The proposed Carson stadium for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders has gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot, which means it’s also gathered enough signatures for the Carson city council to just pass it without it ever getting to the ballot. No word yet from the council on what its plans are.
  • St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is set to bring “schematic plans for the world’s most interactive and integrated football stadium” in Inglewood to the NFL owners meetings this week, which include a clear plastic roof that covers not just the stadium but a performance space and plaza next door. (I can’t figure out how to link directly to the L.A. Times’ slideshow, but click through here and scroll down for your vaportecture fix.)
  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, standing in the back and waving his arms wildly for attention, says he still wants to build a stadium next to the L.A. Convention Center, even if nobody else does: “We have a good stadium deal downtown if anybody wants to take us up on it.”
  • The chair of the advisory group tasked with figuring out how to build a new Chargers stadium in San Diego says it will cost between $700 million and $1.5 billion and “rely on a mix of revenue streams,” as reported by San Diego TV station XETV. That sure narrows it down.
  • The Oakland city council voted to add Alameda County to its negotiations over the going-nowhere-fast Coliseum City project, then the council president promptly put it in terms of the creepiest metaphor ever: “Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney said the agreement with [Coliseum City’s Floyd] Kephart was in its early stages — like a new relationship. At this point there hasn’t even been a first kiss, McElhaney said. The city and county coming together is a crucial step, she said, like two parents supporting a child. ‘We’ve been separated for awhile, but we agree the baby is valuable,’ she said.” Cue the obvious sound clip.

In other words, still nobody knows nothing, but everyone is working really hard at everything that doesn’t involve actual money being raised or approvals being gotten. Tune in next week for more non-news!

San Diego’s disk buffer is absolutely huge

I know that U-T San Diego sports columnist Nick Canepa is the world’s biggest cheerleader for a new Chargers stadium, at a paper whose stated mission is to be a cheerleader for a new Chargers stadium, so I’m not going to make a big deal about yesterday’s column that consists entirely of interviewing a former Chargers exec about how a new Chargers stadium is totally doable. But I can’t let this pass without comment:

Pete Rozelle-trained, Steeg says things such as: “Saying you’re an NFL town has a lot of cache to it.”

Presumably Pete Rozelle never taught Steeg the difference between cache and cachet. Or, more likely, the U-T doesn’t allow any copy editors who know the difference to get in the way of its cheerleading.

San Diego has lots of terrible ideas for how to fund a Chargers stadium

U-T San Diego, self-proclaimed (well, publisher-proclaimed) Chargers stadium “cheerleader,” ran down the list of ideas for funding an NFL stadium on Saturday. Are they any more specific than the last set of ideas, you ask? Enh:

  • Create an “infrastructure district” to kick back the increase in property taxes from a redeveloped area to help pay off construction costs. Yes, this is a TIF. No, it’s not really any different from the “redevelopment districts” that California abolished a few years back. No, infrastructure districts are not supposed to be used to build stadiums. This would require a 55% public vote, and could generate enough to pay off maybe $150 million in costs.
  • Borrow against new stadium revenues from seat licenses, naming rights, and such, which the Chargers wouldn’t like because that money is the whole reason they want a new stadium.
  • Find a developer willing to build a stadium without public money, as is being attempted in Carson and Inglewood. Nobody’s offered to do this in San Diego, but hey, can’t hurt to ask, right?
  • Get around the two-thirds requirement for a stadium tax increase by holding two votes, one to raise taxes (which would require a two-thirds vote) and one to spend the money on a stadium (which would require a simple majority). Chargers stadium chief Mark Fabiani has disparaged this idea, saying (not in so many words) that San Diego voters aren’t complete idiots.
  • Get local hotel owners to agree to raise taxes on themselves without going to voters, which would be illegal.

The problem here — as economist Erik Bruvold, who I gave a bit of short shrift to last week based on his initial public comments, has since tried to make clearer — is that there really isn’t enough money in a new NFL stadium in San Diego to make it worth anyone’s while. (Whether there’s enough money in a new NFL stadium in L.A., given the nearly $2 billion price tag, remains an open question.) U-T San Diego didn’t include “just scrape up whatever money the city can find an offer to hand it to the Chargers to boost their profits instead of going through all this rigamarole about a stadium” in its options list, but maybe that wasn’t considered cheerleadery enough for a major newspaper to consider.

Goldman Sachs has secret plan to control NFL team relocations, or something

Vampire squid sighting! Sharp-eyed readers might already have noticed that when the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders announced their Carson stadium plan, neither team’s execs actually took the stage, but a guy from Goldman Sachs did. Now, the Voice of San Diego theorizes that the firm is even more intimately involved in the plan to move the Chargers north:

SportsBusiness Journal’s Daniel Kaplan, citing unnamed sources, reported Monday that Goldman Sachs will finance the Chargers’ costs of moving to L.A. by covering “any operating losses suffered by the team in the first few years in that city as well as costs for any renovations needed in a temporary venue.” If they relocate, the Chargers are expected to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or the Rose Bowl while a new L.A.-area stadium is under construction…

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs managing director Greg Carey is advising Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s task force on building a publicly funded stadium to keep the Rams from moving to Los Angeles. The St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority hired Goldman two years ago to find ways to keep the Rams, or at least NFL football, in St. Louis.

The Voice’s Beau Lynott puts all this together to suggest that since Goldman would make more money on a Carson stadium than a San Diego one (since it would cost more and require more private lending), and keeping the Rams in St. Louis would mean they’d get to help finance two stadiums instead of one, the firm is secretly trying to maneuver that scenario into happening. Or not secretly, maybe, but … fiendishly? Yeah, “fiendishly” sounds about right, even for things that Goldman Sachs just does as a matter of everyday business, because come on, people, Goldman Sachs.

Meanwhile, the Carson stadium backers launched a ballot initiative on Wednesday, which means they’re now looking at an Inglewood scenario: Either hold a public vote this summer, or have the city council just vote it in once the ballot signatures are collected, thus avoiding both the normal environmental review and an actual vote. Three guesses which one the Chargers would like to see.

I’m still having a really hard time finding the exact language of the Carson proposal or figuring out what’s being proposed — an attorney for the project promised that “not one penny [of city money] will go into the project,” but everybody says that. If anyone does manage to track it down, can you throw a link into comments? Thanks!

San Diego economist reports that all the other teams’ moms are buying them new stadiums

The president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research — hey, it’s never heard of you either, okay? — has come out with a report on plans for publicly funding a new San Diego Chargers stadium, and determined that all the other kids are doing it:

San Diego County would have to cover up to 65 percent of the cost of a new stadium, based on what other NFL markets have contributed. … The center’s president, Erik Bruvold, said he is still preparing his findings, but a much lower public contribution matched by a much higher private share would make a stadium deal in San Diego an “extreme outlier” in the NFL stadium world.

Well, yes, cities do tend to put in most of the money for stadiums these days — I believe I’ve read a book or two about that. This is somewhere between “painfully obvious” and “answering the wrong question,” since the point should be whether it makes sense for San Diego to pay 65% of the cost of a stadium, not whether other teams have gotten away with it. (It’s worth noting, which Bruvold did not in his U-T San Diego interview, that the Chargers’ best alternative option at the moment is a stadium in Carson that would be covered 0% by the public, at least so far as we know now.)

Bruvold did acknowledge, kind of, that 65% is a lot of money, but mostly because those pesky voters might not be happy about spending it:

“It’s unclear to me that the region has got an appetite for a 60 to 65 percent contribution on an $800 million stadium,” he said.

Fabiani has said a new stadium could cost as much as $1.5 billion or more — meaning that the public contribution according to Bruvold’s calculation could reach $975 million.

“People may not like that and I’m not expecting people to like that,” Bruvold said. “That makes some sense of Fabiani’s negative message in his letter to the task force, which is there may not be a deal.”

So to sum up: Other NFL teams have gotten an average of 65% of their stadium costs covered by taxpayers, so the Chargers are going to want that, even though no one else is offering it to them, but San Diego residents aren’t going to like it, so … let’s throw up our hands and say that people can either like the Chargers’ demands or lump them? I’m not really sure what to make of this, except that I’m now thinking I’d get more press coverage if I changed the name of this site to the National Institute for Analysis and Research of Field Schemes.

AEG says Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium no good because terrorists could shoot down airplanes from it

In what the Los Angeles Times calls “a bold move to undercut an NFL stadium at Hollywood Park” — “bold” being an adjective usually reserved by journalists for the sort of things done by, say, Vladimir Putin — AEG has attempted to throw a roadblock in the path of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s proposed Inglewood stadium by getting former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to write a report that it would be too tempting a terrorist target and should not be built:

In a 14-page report, Ridge suggests that because the Inglewood stadium proposed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke would lie within three to four miles of Los Angeles International Airport and beneath the flight path of airliners, terrorists might try to shoot down a plane or crash one into the stadium, scenarios Ridge described as “a terrorist event ‘twofer.’ “

Because when terrorists want to shoot down an airplane, the first thing they do is look for an NFL stadium to launch surface-to-air missiles from. It’s easy to bring those in, so long as you put them in a clear plastic bag.

The Times reports that “it is not known how widely AEG distributed the report,” which the paper got from Ridge’s PR firm. NFL vice-president Eric Grubman effectively dismissed its findings, saying, “We feel that the best approach is to look at these things with an independent eye.”

In addition to giving everyone a good laugh, the AEG report should show what we have to look forward to as three different developers and three different NFL owners all circle around the L.A. market, which is full corporate titan smackdown action. Recall that when the owners of Madison Square Garden faced off with the New York Jets owners over a proposed Manhattan stadium, it culminated in a giant ad war, so one can only hope that this will have as entertaining a denouement.

Back nearer to planet Earth, meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are reportedly looking for a smaller, 55,000-seat stadium in Oakland, which would be more in line with the NFL’s new marketing reality, not to mention with what Raiders owner Mark Davis said two years ago, than an 80,000-seat behemoth in Carson. Not that anybody, including Davis, is proposing how to build such a thing, but it’s a way to get another Raiders stadium story into the paper, so hey, do what you gotta do.

And speaking of getting stadium stories into the paper, consummate NFL insider Peter King has an article at SI.com theorizing that since Kroenke seems to be “the most determined owner to want to move to Los Angeles” (though he hasn’t actually said anything about moving, and has only partnered with a development company in Inglewood on a stadium with unspecified funding) and St. Louis has the most advanced stadium plan (though it has its own problems with mystery funding), maybe the Rams will move to L.A. and then the San Diego Chargers will move in with them and the Raiders will move to a new stadium in St. Louis?

Even King calls this “a virtual sports-talk-show bit of guesswork by me,” but that doesn’t stop him from putting it in print. (And in a pull quote.) Nor does it stop him from writing his entire column with only two people quoted: Grubman and St. Louis stadium plan chief David Peacock, neither of whom say anything other than what you’d expect them to say. (Grubman talks about L.A. having “real momentum,” Peacock says “if we do our job, I can’t imagine 24 votes to approve the Rams moving.”) And now I just wrote almost two paragraphs about this piece of wild speculation, so maybe I’m no better than the rest of them — though at least I reserved the headline for the far more entertaining piece of wild speculation. That’s the defense I’m going with, anyway.

San Diego officials propose bold new Chargers funding plan: Borrow money, pay it back somehow

San Diego county supervisors testified before Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Chargers stadium task force yesterday on ideas for funding a stadium, and man, are they terrible. (The ideas, I mean. Not the supervisors, necessarily.)

  • Supervisor Ron Roberts suggested that the county provide a “bridge loan” that could later be paid back by property and sales taxes on new development around a stadium — tax money that would normally go to the general fund to pay for schools and other public costs associated with new development, but would be instead diverted to repaying stadium loans … somehow. Also, Roberts didn’t indicate how the loan would be repaid if the development didn’t pan out as expected.
  • Another idea, from supervisors chair Bill Horn, was for the county to sell a revenue bond that would be repaid by revenues on … something. (In the inimitable words of U-T San Diego, “no payback source was suggested — though he said there would need to be one.”)

No offense, guys, but it’s not much of a challenge to come up with ways of paying for a stadium that just amount to “Borrow the money, then pay it back somehow.” The not-so-fancy footwork is apparently being inspired by a California law that requires a two-thirds public vote before adding new taxes, a voter threshold that is never going to be cleared for a San Diego stadium, no way, no how. So instead we have local officials trying desperately to think of ways to fund a stadium with existing taxes, which would then need to be made up somehow, and backstopped if they don’t come in sufficiently, and oh it all just makes your head hurt, doesn’t it? I’m starting to understand why Sacramento used an arena financing plan that involved using city parking revenues and then filling in the resulting gap with more city parking revenues and then filling in that resulting gap by shrugging a lot and changing the subject.