SAN DIEGO — With one eye on the developing NFL situation up the freeway in Los Angeles, the San Diego Chargers issued their sternest warning yet to City Hall in their long-running effort to get a new stadium.
Attorney Mark Fabiani, who's handled the team's stadium push since 2002, told the mayor's advisory group that for the time being, anyway, there might not be a publicly acceptable solution to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium.
That was one of many points Fabiani made to the nine-member advisory group, which was appointed earlier this month by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to recommend a site and financing plan for a new stadium that can go on the November 2016 ballot.
Fabiani's statement, released to the media even as he was reading it to the volunteer advisory group during a private meeting, backed up the belief this is likely the city's last chance to keep the Chargers. The team is considered one of the top candidates to move to Los Angeles if a new stadium is built there.
In a not-so-subtle threat, Fabiani said the Chargers "have no intention of quietly participating in any effort to provide political cover for elected officials. ... Simply put, we have no intention of allowing the Chargers franchise to be manipulated for political cover — and we will call out any elected official who tries to do so."
Faulconer's spokesman, Matt Awbrey, said Fabiani's call for a tax increase to finance a stadium was "one option, but it's not the only way or even the best way to replace the aging Qualcomm stadium."
"Today Mr. Fabiani talked about the possibility of the team moving to Los Angeles while also calling for a tax increase to finance a stadium in San Diego," Awbrey said in a statement.
"We invite Mr. Fabiani be open to other solutions and to join the community and fans that want to keep the Chargers in San Diego."
While continuing to work to find a solution in San Diego, "we also want to be clear with this task force right at the outset: We are keeping a close eye on developments in LA. We do not have a choice but to also monitor and evaluate our options there. Simply put, it would be irresponsible for the Chargers not to be taking every possible step to protect the future of the franchise," Fabiani said.
St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is part of a joint venture that wants to build an 80,000-seat stadium in the L.A. suburb of Inglewood. The Oakland Raiders also could be interested in moving to Los Angeles.
Fabiani said in his statement that 25 percent of the Chargers' season-ticket base comes from the Los Angeles-Orange County market.
"If another team — or two teams — enters the LA/Orange County markets, most of that Chargers' business there will disappear," Fabiani said. "This will put the Chargers at a significant competitive economic disadvantage."
The Chargers' push for a new stadium has coincided with various political and financial upheavals at City Hall. Qualcomm Stadium has fallen into disrepair and lacks the modern amenities the team says it needs to compete financially with other franchises.
The city expanded Qualcomm Stadium in 1997. Just three years later, owner Alex Spanos said the team needed a new stadium.
Advisory group chairman Adam Day said the meeting was "very productive" and cordial.
But he also said the group would "test and question" the four principles Fabiani suggested.
"We think that we can find a solution that works for everybody that's fair," Day said during a news conference. "Our objective is to come forward with something that settles this once and for all. Obviously it's something the voters need to support. If there's not a solution out there that the voters can support, you're not going to find us recommending it."
Fabiani said the group "should resist the political pressure to make a proposal simply for the sake of making a proposal."
He said the pressure on the Chargers has intensified because of developments in LA.
"But after all these years of work, we also understand this: It might be that ... there is at least at this time no publicly acceptable solution to the stadium issue in San Diego. If the facts lead you to this conclusion, we hope you will say so, even though you will be under tremendous political pressure to propose something — anything — just to show that the politicians are trying."
He suggested the task force's work be subjected to "serious, real-world stress tests," including whether a stadium proposal had a chance of being approved by two-thirds of the voters.
Many people feel that a financing plan that would require a two-thirds vote would fail.
Chargers president Dean Spanos did not attend the meeting. He was out of town due to the holiday, Fabiani said.
The Chargers' most recent proposal was to build a multiple-use stadium downtown as part of a non-contiguous expansion of the convention center. A financing plan for a contiguous expansion favored by convention center officials and downtown hoteliers was recently struck down in court.
Fabiani said a new stadium could cost $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion.
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