Consultant: Funding a new Chargers stadium needs to be a team effort

By JAMES R. RIFFEL

City News Service

The cost of building stadiums for professional sports franchises has increased beyond the ability for owners or even public entities to pay for them alone, a consultant hired by the Centre City Development Corp. said Wednesday.

Stadium price tags skyrocketed beginning around 2002, leading to the $1.2 billion stadium opened during the current NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys, said Mitchell Ziets, who made a presentation to the CCDC board of directors.

Ziets provided background information that CCDC officials hope will help them negotiate a financial package for the Chargers to build a stadium in downtown San Diego.

"We're a long way from any kind of football stadium yet," CCDC Chairman Fred Maas said.

All 11 NFL stadiums built or renovated since 2002 were funded by a mix of public and private financing, with multiple jurisdictions often being involved, said Ziets, of Evolution Media Capital in New York City.

Ford Field, the stadium for the Detroit Lions, was built with the participation of the city and county, according to Ziets. Lucas Oil Stadium was built for the Indianapolis Colts with the help of several counties, and other stadiums received financing from state governments, he said.

The Chargers said for several years they wanted to privately finance a new home. But when the site at the edge of East Village became the last viable alternative, they conceded that public financing would be required.

The trend, however, is for NFL owners to shoulder a greater share of the financial burden, Ziets said.

"Teams are willing to put more (money) in," he said. "Are they willing to fund it themselves? No."

He said teams in the biggest markets were willing to put in more money for stadium construction. San Diego is traditionally considered a small sports market, but since Los Angeles doesn't have a professional football team, the definition of the local market is less precise.

Ziets' report did include several nuggets for those who support the downtown stadium idea:

  • Since the early 1990s, 27 of 38 stadium referendums in all professional sports were passed by voters. Of the 11 that failed, 10 were eventually built after passing a later vote, gaining legislative approval or obtaining private financing.
  • Around the new millenium, a stadium being a catalyst for nearby development was just an idea, but now it's reality, with recent examples being the Padres' Petco Park and Staples Center in Los Angeles.
  • The Florida Marlins of Major League Baseball managed to attract financing for a new stadium despite a small fan base and poor economic conditions similar to those of California.
  • Lenders who have not been involved in stadium financing in the past are more interested now.

Maas said Ziets will return in two to three months with a report that's more precise about the situation in San Diego, and he hopes the Chargers will have completed a financial feasibility plan by then regarding the East Village site.

   
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