Doug Manchester made the biggest splash in his short tenure as publisher of U-T San Diego when the newspaper published a front-page, full-color editorial in January promoting a new Chargers stadium as part of a waterfront mega development at the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal downtown.
Promoting the project, the editorial said, would become the newspaper’s No. 1 priority. Since then, the paper and the Unified Port of San Diego, which controls the terminal, have entered into the equivalent of open warfare.
But on Thursday morning, Manchester said he believed the Chargers had a better option for their stadium than his “priority No. 1.” The team, he said at a breakfast Q-and-A session at San Diego State University, could keep playing in Mission Valley at a stadium that could be refurbished at a fraction of the cost.
“If you give me $200 million,” Manchester said, “and I’ll fix Qualcomm Stadium.”
Manchester said he’s spoken to Chargers President Dean Spanos about rehabbing Qualcomm, instead of building a new facility that could cost more than $1 billion. At the breakfast, Manchester was responding to a questioner who was extolling the virtues of the Qualcomm site.
“You’re preaching to the choir here,” Manchester said. “I have been talking about that all along.”
“The shortest distance between two points, you’re right on, is the fact to keep it where it is,” he said. “I’ve said that. I’ve said that to Dean. But there is a lot of problems associated with that.”
Manchester didn’t elaborate much on the problems surrounding a Qualcomm rehab. And Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani couldn’t be reached for comment.
When a group of architects floated the same idea last year, both Fabiani and Darren Pudgil, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, said thoughts of rehabbing Qualcomm were outdated. They cited reports commissioned by the city and the team that said a renovation would be costly and difficult. The current preferred stadium site is an 11-acre parcel in East Village.
Manchester, however, is one of the biggest Chargers boosters in town and the only developer in town with a newspaper. If his numbers are even in the ballpark, it raises an interesting question: If it only costs a few hundred million dollars to rehab Qualcomm satisfactorily, why are the team and the newspaper pushing for hundreds of millions more in public funding to build a new stadium?
Manchester ended the section of the Q-and-A by saying he deferred to the Chargers on whether to build a new stadium or rehab Qualcomm. He also joked about the team’s on-field collapse earlier this week.
“I’m not the owners of the Chargers,” Manchester said. “And you gotta respect the fact that they look at it probably more carefully than you and I am. They want a new stadium, and I just think that we should try to do we possibly can to accommodate keeping the Chargers here in San Diego, notwithstanding last Sunday, or Monday.”
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?
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