Now that the Chargers’ Measure C convadium proposal has failed, we should look to our best option, revamping Qualcomm Stadium.

For half the cost of a new Mission Valley stadium, we can transform the old Q into a state-of -the-art new sports facility. The building’s got good bones and an iconic architectural style that’s worth preserving.

Commentary - in-story logoNews reports about Qualcomm Stadium, though, have given San Diegans the impression that the facility is falling apart, or a total dump that has to be completely demolished and replaced with a new structure. But let’s review the facts.

A city-sponsored study found that the old stadium needed about $80 million of renovation work to bring it back to good condition. At the time, the dissenters complained about how much money that was. Replacing it with a new $1 billion stadium, however, certainly wouldn’t save anyone any money.

The mayor’s Citizens Stadium Advisory Group later determined that it would take around $700 million to bring Qualcomm Stadium up to modern standards. The projection for a new Mission Valley stadium was estimated to be about $1.1 billion.

The group asked why the city would want to spend $700 million on the old Q if we could have a new stadium for only $400 million more. Well, that might be chump change for the NFL, but it is real money for San Diego taxpayers. That money could be spent on road repairs, libraries, parks and the rest of the city’s deferred expenses.


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

Why not instead save millions and focus on upgrading Qualcomm Stadium? Aside from some code upgrades, the Q is a perfect framework for a refurbished state-of -the-art stadium. Plus, rehabbing an old building rather than building a new one is better for the environment.

Tearing down the stadium would have a huge, negative environmental impact. Although the concrete could probably be turned into onsite fill material, the rest of the demolished portion would have to be hauled away using lots of resources at about a $100 million expense.

With the addition of multiple new video boards, reconstructed sky boxes, public toilets and locker rooms, Qualcomm Stadium can be a great sports facility once again.

The stadium occupies less than a third of the 163-acre Mission Valley site, which leaves 100 acres or more to do something else like build a regional park and a satellite campus for San Diego State University. We would even have room left over for some tailgating.

Now that the downtown stadium idea has been voted down, we can give the Chargers a viable alternative in Mission Valley. And it can be one that we can afford.

Let’s stand up for our stadium and our tax dollars and make the new Q the new home of the Chargers.

Jack Carpenter is an architect and chair of the Qualcomm Study Group.

    This article relates to: 2016 Elections, Chargers Stadium, Opinion

    Written by Opinion

    Op-eds and Letters to the Editor on the issues that matter in San Diego. Have something to say? Submit a commentary.

    27 comments
    Fred Williams
    Fred Williams subscriber

    How about just telling football to go away.  Not just the parasitic NFL, but out of the universities, community colleges, and especially high schools.


    Football is a stupid, immoral, wasteful spectacle.  It has no place in a world class city.

    Bob Stein
    Bob Stein subscriber

    How about we learn why voters rejected Measure C before we start Hyperbole Bowl II? 

    Did they vote no because they don’t want public funding of a private business?  Did they vote no because they’re happy to pay for a new stadium, as long as it’s not downtown.  What about issues in between? 

    Same with the yes vote.  We should know why voters decided as they did.  (Looked to me like the yes vote didn’t extend beyond fans; hardly an endorsement the team is important enough to the local economy or culture to warrant a couple of billion in taxpayer support.) 

    If we don’t learn what happened – which messages resonated with voters and which didn’t -- whatever arguments come up in the future will be relative nonsense. 

    Of course Spanos and his political friends (like Mayor Sanders Faulconer) know why his supporters voted yes, and presumably the opposition knows why voters voted no. 

    Perhaps VoSD can tease the information from each side, although I doubt it.  Which brings us to wondering how citizens can understand what’s going on?

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    I think the Spanos family is holding out for a new stadium that only has high end skyboxes. No room for regular fans in field level seats.

    mike johnson
    mike johnson subscriber

    Should move the ticket ring of office 100 feet into the parking lot. Then construct an additional 100 foot ring  walking deck on the lodge. press evel and top deck. On that ring more bathrooms and refreshment stands. Of course replace all refreshment stand and bathrooms in the stadium. Probably with the writers idea. An improvemnt of 300 million instead of 1.2 billion.

    bgetzel
    bgetzel subscriber

    The City is in a good bargaining position right now, and should not give away the store to Spanos. The Chargers do not want to move to L.A, because they would only be a tenant in the new Stadium built by the Rams. That means, they are leasing and have no share in parking or concession revenue. They wanted downtown San Digo, because they envisioned big revenue from all these, plus naming rights, luxury suites, etc. The City should hold the line and let Spanos foot the bill for rehabbing Qualcomm, as the Dolphins did with Joe Robby  (Now "Minute Maid") Stadium. They really do not have much choice!

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @bgetzel  --The Dolphins own their stadium.  The Chargers do not.  If the Chargers and city want to partner up on this--go for it.  But the Chargers will never do it themselves.

    bgetzel
    bgetzel subscriber

    @David Crossley @bgetzel It would make sense for the city to figure out a legal way of giving Qualcomm the Chargers  with a certain amount of parking. The property would be restricted to its current use and their would be a legally binding pledge for the Chargers to stay in San Diego for a specified minimum amount of years. The Chargers would have to improve the stadium on their own, but they would have no leasing expense and they can keep all the parking revenue. That would be a lot better deal for the citizens than paying off a long term bond issue.

    merlot4251
    merlot4251 subscriber

    Finally, some common sense. 

    Mark Demos
    Mark Demos

    Maybe they can ease the traffic snarl by spending some money ($40 million?) to build ramps directly from the parking lots onto Eastbound and Westbound I-8.  

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Mark Demos  --IIRC, the city was asked if they wanted on and off ramps from the stadium parking lots to I-15 by Caltrans the first time the city expanded the stadium.  The city said they couldn't afford them.  Now, with all of the construction that has gone into expanding the current freeway system in MV, there really is no way any direct ramp to either I-8 or I-15 is possible.

    wadams92101
    wadams92101 subscriber

    Clearly the best of the stadium options (other than telling Spanos to split, with which I'm more than OK).  Thanks for writing Jack!   BTW, its increasingly apparent to me that small market cities just can't afford parasitic NFL teams.  We should be focusing our affection on the Aztecs.  Ohio State plays in a stadium that is 95 years old and seats over 100,000.  They just renovated it for under $50 mil. Universities, unlike NFL teams, actually contribute to local economies in a big way.  Their Division 1 programs have become important marketing tools that allow them to grow. 

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @wadams92101  --Actually, OSU has spent hundreds of millions enlarging and renovating their stadium over the years.  The last major renovation took place in 2001, which cost close to $200 mil.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    All you people saying "Let Spanos build his own stadium", here's a reality check:  The Chargers will occupy any facility for ten days a year, maybe 12 if the unthinkable happens (They get to the playoffs and host 2 games).  Tell me again why the team should build it?  


    Now, if you want the Chargers to own the facility, schedule all the non-football events, pay all the expenses, etc, etc.  I'm with you.  How come the other teams don't own their stadiums, Stan Kroenke notwithstanding? Because they may not be too smart but they're not morons.  They're in the football business, not the stadium management business.  Kroenke wants to be in both.  I wish him luck, but Spanos is neither that adventurous nor that rich.  If you want the Chargers to stay, and I could personally care less, you have to face reality.  

    Ben Adams
    Ben Adams

    @Bill Bradshaw The Chargers should build their own stadium because they are the only entity that needs a NFL stadium.  The city of San Diego doesn't need a stadium or the NFL, we will be better off without them.  The voters made that very clear.  SDSU football can exist in a stadium that would cost a small fraction of a NFL venue and honestly the voters would likely decide that we really don't need college football either if you expect us to pay for it.

    The Patriots, Giants & Jets, Panthers, Redskins, and Dolphins own their own stadiums, these are the ones I could remember and there may be more.  Spanos may have to cut back on the bells and whistles but the business brings in enough money to pay for their own stadium.  It's up to Spanos to decide if the deal the NFL brokered in LA is better than staying in San Diego with nothing on the table while letting the Raiders move to LA.  The Raiders would take the LA option on Jan 16th if Spanos passes and they would be huge in LA because they are a very good team with a built in fan base.  People should've voted yes on C if they really wanted the Chargers to stay. Fans are fooling themselves if they think the LA option isn't real.  I think Spanos takes the deal because he doesn't have any better options.

    Barry Vague
    Barry Vague

    Get that old relic of a stadium out of San Diego! The "Q" is just a pile of cement on 160 of the most valuable acres in San Diego. Forget the Chargers, we have a City to build! Take the 160 acres and build the following; low rent apartments, low income homes for sale, apartments, lofts, commercial, retail, luxury homes, and lots open space with parks, walking and jogging trails, and aquatic features like ponds near the San Diego River. This can be accomplished while leaving 40 acres set aside to build a truly world class football stadium on the very same site. Who will buy the naming rights for the new state of the art stadium?  Uber? Maybe Google?

    michael-leonard
    michael-leonard subscriber

    Actually, there are existing idea plans for a  refurbished Q with a smaller footprint and the remainder being used for what you suggest. Our stadium won San Diego it's first ever design award when it was built. It CAN be made good again! 

    Rob Qugley, the architect of the "Not Downtown" group that defeated Measure C, has some concepts (as do others I can't recall right now).

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    I agree w/ Q refurbishment as the only true option.


    I completely disagree that the SD taxpayer should be any part of it. This is a 100% private deal to be paid for by the NFL and Spanos.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Dean Plassaras  --Dean, you know this isn't possible.  Now, if the Chargers want to contribute to this idea, then that's just fine.  But rest assured that the team will remind you they are nothing but a tenant in a city-owned facility.

    Tony Maxon
    Tony Maxon

    I wanted a DT stadium, it seemed really cool.  Fellow San Diegans have voted though.  That being said, I can totally get behind a Q renovation!  So many memories there.  Tony, Jerry, LT, Stan, Trevor... all of our greats.  I would love to keep their footsteps alive.  I hope we can keep our team.  I'd like for SD to move past the quarrel with Dean.  Can't we at least show the Bolts we want them?

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    I see the problem with Qualcomm as largely a public relations one.  Both the team and the NFL have vociferously cried “no more” on Qualcomm.If Spanos really loves San Diego, not just it’s money, he might be persuadable, but you can bet the league “contribution” would shrink to almost nothing and the team would likely come up with little real CASH; it would define such things as “naming rights” as part of it’s contribution, of course. 


    The taxpayers could end up footing most, if not all, of the bill for renovation.  Still, it’s the best option anyone has come up with at this point.  I doubt that anything requiring a public vote (I.e., any form of tax increase) would pass.  My guess is that Spanos will play Hamlet for an additional year and we’ll be back to this “crisis” again for most of 2017.  


    Can the NFL really afford to have a small market owner pick up all or even most of the cost?  Time is on the city’s side here because attendance is down in a lot of cities and the product is looking a bit shopworn with all the official replays and the concussion problem. 


    I don’t think environmental concerns will be very high on the team’s list. The city will pay lip service, of course.

    Robert Thomas
    Robert Thomas

    I agree completely. There is already a working system there, with mass transit options. A great refurbishment is best.

    Allen Carter
    Allen Carter subscriber

    It's about time to call Spanos' bluff. Moving to LA was always a fairy-tale as that city wouldn't give him a dime to build anything. The Carson co-op with the Raiders, or joint tenancy with the Rams was just more chicken-little stuff--NFL owners don't share stadiums. Upgrading the Q should be the city's only offer--with Spanos paying for it.

    Brandon Rigg
    Brandon Rigg

    Correction: the jets and Giants share a stadium in New Jersey. Not saying Spanos wants to do that, but there is one example of a shared stadium in the NFL.

    StaciJackson
    StaciJackson subscriber

    I totally agree. The Q was ahead of its time when it was built, fits the San Diego look (our city was so booming in the 60s), looks great from the air during national NFL broadcasts, and is a good size for a variety of uses (who knows if the NFL will even exist in 30 years). Other cities have rehabbed existing stadiums and made them "better than new."