Everything you need to know about Measure C
The movement began with the verdict from the National Football League (NFL) owners almost 11 months ago. This Nov. 8, it could come crashing to a halt and steal the San Diego Chargers from hometown fans in the process.
Back in January, with three teams competing for approval from the NFL and its owners to relocate to Los Angeles, the now-Los Angeles Rams garnered the necessary votes to make their westward move from St. Louis official.
Although the other two teams pursuing relocation, the Oakland Raiders and the hometown Chargers, did not receive enough votes to gain approval for their own moves to Los Angeles, each was given an option to relocate in later years if a new stadium deal in their respective original cities could not be worked out.
This agreement gave the Chargers and owner Dean Spanos a year to overcome longtime stagnation in negotiations with the city of San Diego. The threat of relocation also brought a glimmer of hope that the team could find common ground that would provide the Bolts with a new home in America’s Finest City.
Most importantly, all of this created an escape route from the increasingly-ancient concourses of their current Mission Valley residence, Qualcomm Stadium, where the Chargers have played since 1967.
Racing against the clock to get a plan for a new stadium on the ballot this year, the city and the organization soon settled on what has become known as Measure C. The stadium initiative, which calls for an independent expansion of the current downtown convention center in the East Village, is now set to be voted on throughout Election Day next week.
As locals prepare to cast their ballots, many still remain confused by the politically-biased jargon of both sides of the debate and continue to look for straightforward answers to questions about the stadium.
First, the basics: the current design plan would build a stadium meant to seat 61,500 fans, with potential expansion to 72,000 for non-local sporting events. On game day, this would render the stadium slightly smaller than Qualcomm Stadium’s current capacity of around 71,000.
The design also includes a retractable roof and outdoor concourses that would offer views of the Coronado Bridge, the San Diego Bay, and the downtown skyline.
The stadium would sit on a property bounded by K Street to the north, 16th Street to the east, Imperial Avenue to the south, and 12th Avenue to the west, placing it slightly inland from the waterfront and adjacent to both the city library and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres.
An event venue of that size and scale may put a strain on the wallets of its financial supporters, and the Chargers’ potential new lodgings are no different. Projected to cost approximately $1.8 billion, the new digs certainly won’t come cheap for the hometown team. However, city officials were able to guarantee that none of that money will be funded by San Diego residents.
By virtue of the team both missing out on last winter’s move to Los Angeles and ultimately working out a deal in their current city if the measure passes, the NFL has pledged a $100 million grant to the team as well as a $200 million loan. The Chargers organization would be expected to kick in an additional $350 million of their own money, raised largely through seat license sales and sponsorships.
The bulk of the financing, however, would come from a four percent increase in the city’s hotel tax, pulling the remaining $1.15 billion of the stadium’s costs from San Diego’s renowned tourism industry.
Voters must also consider the fact that the uses for the cleverly-termed “convadium” go beyond 10 Chargers home games each year. The facility will be designed to host concerts, major conferences, and other non-athletic events, including the continuation of one of San Diego’s trademark gatherings, Comic-Con.
On paper, an expensive multi-use stadium that can be built without any increase on local taxes seems ideal. However, concerns about how the hotel tax increases will affect the city’s tourism dampen this excitement somewhat. If the tax is unable to raise enough money to cover the expected public contribution toward the new stadium, the measure offers little protection against any increases in local taxes in the future.
Other detractors of the measure express concern about the fact that these additional funds are being used to build a football stadium instead of going toward infrastructure, educational improvements, and other public concerns.
Other negatives are the potential impact of the new stadium on local traffic and parking for stadium events, as the property would engulf a current parking lot used for baseball crowds while failing to replace it with anything similar, meaning the end of game day tailgating and potential future headaches for major, multi-day events.
These drawbacks have prevented the stadium initiative from warranting widespread support from local San Diegans. Requiring approval from a super-majority, or two-thirds of voters, recent estimates show the measure falling far short of these aspirations. In fact, a survey performed in early October showed that just 36 percent of likely voters say they are certain to support the initiative.
Furthermore, experts have said that a rebound from these depressing totals to those needed for the initiative to pass would be historically unprecedented.
Luckily for hometown fans hoping to keep the Bolts in America’s Finest City, a second initiative, Measure D, could serve as a much-needed Plan B.
This alternative would also increase the hotel tax, although not by as significant of a margin, and privatize stadium funding, meaning there would be no chance for locals to be on the hook for helping cover construction costs.
While this has garnered more promising results in predictive polls, it could also mean that the Chargers would be unable to afford those extra costs themselves, possibly preventing the building of a new facility altogether.
If neither measure is able to survive Election Day, the Chargers will be left with a difficult decision to make. The organization will have until Jan. 15, 2017 to decide on a course of action, but given the absence of many other viable options, it would appear all but certain that San Diego’s longtime football franchise will bolt for Los Angeles, rendering 2016 the team’s last season in America’s Finest City.
Throughout this season, the Chargers’ on-field product has wavered wildly between top-notch and terrible. Off the field though, the team is soon set to solidify an answer to one of its longest-standing questions. Having ruled out Qualcomm Stadium as a practical long term option, a close vote next Tuesday would translate to additional efforts to find a solution either in downtown San Diego or elsewhere in the county.
However, if the initiative is turned away in a landslide, a team that has called this city home since 1961 could be gone for good.
The stakes are certainly high, and the odds of success certainly appear to be long. But, as has been proven time and again in this controversial and head-scratching election cycle, anything can happen. Wins and losses of pigskin past aside, Bolts backers are ultimately left with a single option once they cast their ballots: wait and see.
Written by Noah Hilton, Staff Writer