The mayor’s stadium task force spokesman Tony Manolatos is mad at me for being mean to the mayor and the whole process.

I know, I’m super torn up about it.

I’m not sure I’m their worst problem, though. Have I been as mean as U-T sports columnist Nick Canepa?

Stadium Nuts and Bolts logoLast week, Canepa wrote that the mayor’s task force is not “up to the task” after its chairman announced it would stop focusing on downtown as a potential site for a new stadium. It’s now all about Mission Valley.

Canepa did not like the decision, flat out writing that “it’s not going to work.”

It may not, but he’s wrong about the history.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Here’s what he wrote:

Do we not recall why City Hall nixed the Chargers’ idea back in 2005? There was great fear the proposed project would just create more congestion in an already congested area.

Are we forgetting the Chargers just wanted the property for their development? That they were paying for everything else, including cost overruns and roads and infrastructure, even a bridge leading into the site?

Actually, Nick, it doesn’t look like you recall.

First, the city did not nix anything. And it definitely didn’t in 2005.

The Chargers did offer a proposal a decade ago to build the stadium on the site of the current Qualcomm Stadium. The city owns that vast parking lot.

The Chargers wanted it. They wanted to build condos on it — 6,000 of them, in fact. And a hotel. And other things. The team’s leaders thought they would make so much money on those condos that they could easily pay for the stadium themselves.


There was only one catch. The Chargers needed someone who knew how to build condos and who had the money to start the whole thing.

Here was the Chargers’ Mark Fabiani, as quoted by one of Canepa’s colleagues at the Union-Tribune in 2006:

Fabiani said the team has spoken with about 100 representatives from businesses interested in becoming a development partner. He said that only about 10 of them have the financial heft to shoulder a project that may require about $800 million in upfront investment.

I was a reporter on this back then too. Fabiani told me that there were three groups of potential partners. The first group just decided not to do it. The second group simply didn’t have that much cash.

And the others?

“There was a third group that said, ‘This project is interesting but you’re assuming that the housing market is going to remain really strong and we don’t necessarily share your view of the housing market in San Diego.”

Wise folks, they were.

In 2006, you might remember, there were a lot of people still telling us that San Diego real estate was a great investment. But others were growing skeptical.

And they were right. Housing plummeted. Within two more years, the whole country faced a severe economic collapse — all started by people who bet that the housing market would keep on keepin’ on.

Let’s be clear, the Chargers did not have many friends at City Hall. They faced a hostile and tactless city attorney in Mike Aguirre.

And when the team could not secure a development partner, Fabiani blamed Aguirre.

Remember, the city then was a drumbeat of scandal and embarrassing stories of financial mismanagement. The mayor had resigned and the candidates to replace him had said they did not support giving the Chargers that deal. It was hard for anyone to imagine prioritizing the team’s search for a new home. There was no tangible threat from other cities.

But contrary to what Canepa wrote, the deal was still on the table in early 2006 and the Chargers were gearing up to gather signatures to put it on the ballot that year.

Had the team found a development partner, it would have been something real. At that point, the city might have indeed nixed the plan.

It never got the chance. Perhaps lucky for the Chargers and its nonexistent partner. Had they built a stadium first and needed to pay it off with the money from the sale of so many condos in the nadir of a terrible recession, things might have gotten ugly.

Why does this matter? This is basically going to be the same plan we’ll see this year. Except now the Chargers want a much, much nicer stadium. It could cost more than $1 billion. In 2005, they were saying it would cost $450 million.

We’re all waiting to see how the mayor’s team will close that gap in the plan it releases.

But the claim that the city nixed a plan in 2005 because of traffic is just not how it went down.

    This article relates to: Chargers Stadium, Land Use, Must Reads, Quest

    Written by Scott Lewis

    Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently breaks news and goes back and forth with local political figures. Contact Scott at or 619.325.0527, and follow him on Twitter at @vosdscott.

    Sam Crow
    Sam Crow

    I purchased a townhouse in MV in 2004 and I remember there WAS a lot of nonsense from the city during that time that they didn't want to gift any land around Qualcomm to the Chargers, specifically citing that the Charger's development proposal didn't take into consideration the impact it would have on congestion, etc. Mike Aguirre was the devil incarnate and reminded me of Bruce Henderson who did everything he could to stop the downtown ballpark construction. I seem to remember Donna Frye also came out against giving the land to the Chargers and cited traffic as one of the reasons. Their argument was that the Chargers were only important to a small segment of people in SD and that the city would lose out on their own potential development of that land if they just gave it to the Chargers. They used the traffic excuse to try and get people behind their unwillingness to give the land to the Chargers. The leadership in their obstinance failed the people. I thought it was stupid then and it's even more stupid looking back on it now. Did the city ever do anything with that land? No, of course not.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    Nick Canepa reveals time and time again that he is a Chargers' flak.  Last week he lambasted the task force for picking Mission Valley (not the Chargers first choice) knowing full well that Mission Valley was one of two choices put forth by the mayor.  Why didn't he criticise Mayor Faulconer for raising it in the first place?  Canepa wants a stadium in the worst way and he doesn't care how it gets paid for.

    During the convention center discussions he wrote disparagingly about the contiguous proposal for the expansion.  I wonder how many times Mr. Canepa has even been in the convention center and if he really cares how it's built or what it looks like.  The Chargers challenged the expansion because it would make it harder for them to go after the TOT money.  So Canepa has to attack the expansion.

    Now he claims that it was traffic that stopped the city from approving the the Mission Valley site back in "05.  As Scott points out, it was the Chargers that nixed the project because the numbers didn't pencil out.  Maybe Mike Aguirre saved the Chargers from themselves if they want to blame him for the failure to get Mission Valley done.  After all, had the Chargers or their development partners gone ahead with the project, a lot of red ink would have been spilled when the real estate market collapsed.

    Nick will blame anyone but the Chargers for the situation we are in today.  This from a guy that wrote that Jimmy Carter's decision to boycott the Moscow Olympics was the worst decision ever made by an American president.  He's a small town writer in a big city and while I understand that sports are important to him, his worldview leaves much to be desired.

    Dennis1960 subscriber

    Why do the Chargers need a $1B stadium now? If you use the CPI that $450M is now about $538M. Essentially, that stadium would cost about as much as the Cardinal's stadium in Glendale. Last time I looked the UOP stadium was nice enough to host two Super Bowls and the BCS championship game. Hell, you could even put a retractable roof on it and still be under $700M

    Dennis1960 subscriber

    @Scott Lewis @Dennis1960

    Yes, read it. Personally I would like to wake up every morning next to Brandi Williams and Dagmar Midcap - that sure seems reasonable to me.

    A stadium will not get built in Carson. LA wants the Rams back, they always have, and Inglewood is a better location (if you can say that about anywhere in LA). Carson is likely nothing more than leverage to get the NFL to demand that Kroenke accept a second tenant. That would be either The Duhs or the Chargers. LA's second choice is the Duhs. The NFL will not want a third team in LA nor would LA accept one. So that would leave one team, likely the Chargers, on the outside looking in. San Antonio or St. Louis would be a possibility for them then. Not sure how the golfing is in either location which Deano will have to deal with.

    If all this is the Spanos wanting to "keep up with the Joneses" then they can leave. They would be dead to me and we have had season tickets since 1963 and had to deal with a lot of crappy football over that span. If they do leave I hope the city, county and any entity that calls San Diego their home would divest themselves of any dealings they have with Goldman-Sachs. I do think the NFL has reached its peak and rule changes, the overall sissifying of the game, and looming further litigation over head injuries are not going to make the league healthier.

    Who knows, perhaps we can take some of the money we would spend on a stadium and build a new sports arena at the downtown site (which makes much more sense economically than a football stadium) and try to attract an NHL club. Maybe Kroenke's son would want to move to beautiful Southern Cal and be closer to his dad. I can dream, right. Just read my first sentence.

    Tony Manolatos
    Tony Manolatos subscriber

    This is good, interesting, different. Tho your point at the end about this being the same plan but larger is incorrect. This plan will be diverse and draw from numerous sources of revenue, and it's only framework. The deal -- if there's one to be made -- will ultimately be put together by the Mayor and Mr. Spanos. BTW, if I was mad those tweets would have been in ALL CAPS. ;) 

    Scott Lewis
    Scott Lewis moderator administratormember

    @Tony Manolatos I didn't say the plan would be larger. I said the stadium was more expensive and I was eagerly anticipating how the task force would close the gap.