I published a blog post Friday that questioned Mark Fabiani’s criticism of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Convention Center expansion plan. Fabiani, who serves as special counsel to the San Diego Chargers and is the team’s point man on stadium talks, sent me a response on Saturday. Here it is:
Tony, thank you for the opportunity to weigh in on your latest Chargers stadium post.
I particularly appreciate the chance to give you a direct answer to your question about why the Chargers made the proposal to combine a new stadium with the convention center expansion. The answer: Because we are doing everything possible to keep the Chargers in San Diego, and we believe that the combination idea gives us perhaps our last and best chance to accomplish that goal.
We knew that controversy would ensue when we made this idea public, after months of private discussions with the Mayor’s Office, organized labor, and business leaders. But we moved ahead because we wanted to stimulate an open, vigorous public debate on these issues.
Unfortunately, but typically, I guess, there are some in the downtown community who want to cut off discussion before it even starts.
These are the same people who told the Chargers that we should not pursue the Chula Vista bay front site because the Gaylord project would be built there. Never happened.
These are the same people who told us that we should not pursue the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, because the main tenant there was going to sign a long-term lease and allow the port facility to grow. Never happened.
Or that we should not push for a ballot measure in 2010 because the new City Hall plan would be put before voters then and it would not be smart to have two such significant measures before voters at the same time. Never happened.
And there are a lot of very smart people around town who believe that the current convention center expansion proposal is never going to happen either – because the taxing mechanism being used is potentially illegal. Or because the Coastal Commission will never approve a box-like structure impeding public access to the waterfront. Anyone up for another Navy Broadway project — 20 years of work resulting in a unanimous condemnation by the Coastal Commission? Or because prominent hoteliers believe that the proposed funding formula is unfair, or for any number of other reasons.
So this time around, we were determined to push our idea out there to the public and not be deterred by those who are watching out for their own interests more than the best interests of all taxpayers.
The fact is that these kinds of joint use facilities have been very successful in other cities, and such a facility in San Diego would put us in the running for the kind of mega-events (Super Bowls, national political conventions, NCAA Final Fours, BCS bowl games, etc.) that our city will never otherwise be able to host.
The facts also show that there is no magic to the word ‘contiguous’ in the convention business. The Indianapolis and San Francisco case studies show how workable non-contiguous solutions can be — especially if your city is now vaulted into eligibility for a whole new category of mega-events. San Diego will never be able to host these kinds of events, even if the current expansion plan goes through.
And, if the current San Diego expansion plan fails and billionaire Phil Anschutz builds his combined Super Bowl-quality football stadium-convention center facility in downtown Los Angeles — well, the distinction between contiguous and non-contiguous facilities is going to seem pretty academic here in San Diego.
In short, we believe that this combination stadium-convention center proposal deserves to be seriously considered. And we are doing everything that we can to make sure that it will be. That does not mean, though, that other options are closed off. We continue to work closely with the Mayor’s Office and Fred Maas, with the County, and with business and labor on other funding options.
But no matter how things turn out, one thing I’m sure of is this: Those of us hired by Dean Spanos and his family to find a publicly acceptable way to keep the Chargers in San Diego would have been derelict in our duties if we had not publicly advocated the promising convention center-stadium concept.