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Ex-Mayor Bob Filner was on board with the Chargers’ vision for a downtown stadium.
Ex-Mayor Bob Filner may have come closer to a deal with the Chargers than any other city executive.
The Chargers have talked about their interest in a downtown stadium for years. But current Mayor Kevin Faulconer and a task force he assembled to make stadium recommendations decided a new Mission Valley stadium was the best option.
Filner, who was forced from office in August 2013, said in an exclusive interview with Voice of San Diego that he was on board with the Chargers’ wishes.
“I was the one who agreed to their basic framework, which was a downtown, not just a football stadium, but essentially a sports arena and a stadium where you can have basketball games and hockey games,” Filner said. “I thought that was the best way to go.”
The idea, Filner said, was to use the city-owned Mission Valley and Sports Arena properties to bankroll the city’s piece of the stadium bill.
Mark Fabiani, the Chargers’ stadium point man, backed up Filner’s take.
“Mayor Filner is the only mayor who ever agreed with our vision to wrap the Sports Arena land, the Qualcomm land and a downtown parcel into one mega-project, using the proceeds from the sale or lease of the Qualcomm and Sports Arena land to make the city’s contribution to the project,” Fabiani wrote in an email.
That amounts to the basic foundation of a deal, more than what Faulconer and local leaders have reached with the Chargers in recent history. While Faulconer’s existing stadium and financing plans are further along than any in more than a decade, the Chargers have been clear about their distaste for them – and their intent to move to Los Angeles.
That isn’t to say that there wouldn’t have been hiccups in Filner’s talks with the Chargers.
A downtown stadium could certainly face significant environmental and development roadblocks.
Then there was the big game-changer Filner sought.
Filner said he planned to seek an equity stake in the team on behalf of the city, similar to the arrangement in Green Bay, Wis., a move the Chargers and the NFL would’ve been unlikely to embrace.
“I don’t know that (Chargers owner Dean) Spanos would’ve agreed but I had been, as Fabiani can attest to, I was the only one who agreed with the downtown concept and who knows what I could’ve gotten from it,” Filner said. “Unless I got something, I wasn’t going to do it.”
Fabiani said Filner never shared his equity stake proposal with the Chargers.