SAN DIEGO – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in the attempt to fund a new downtown stadium.
Goodell, in town to attend the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s Celebration of Hope Gala, was one of many big-time guests in the Manchester Grand Hyatt’s Elizabeth Ballroom on Wednesday night, including Chris Berman, Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk and Michael Irvin.
“Just to get an update what’s happening on the stadium front,” Goodell characterized the point of the meeting. “It’s not unusual for me to do that when I come into cities.”
Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani has been consistent in referring to the current idea of formulating a downtown stadium in conjunction with convention center expansion as the team’s “last, best” option.
Twenty-six NFL stadiums are new or recently renovated, Goodell estimated. The commissioner, asked about the need to replace Qualcomm Stadium, cited the general need around the league for any older stadium to improve the quality of sight lines, fan amenities, the stadium seats themselves, suites, access in and out of the facility and revenue opportunities.
The Chargers’ franchise isn’t alone in the Golden State, which has proven to pose unique challenges in finding the type of private-public partnership necessary to complete such a massive undertaking.
“The three stadiums in California certainly are not up to the standards we’re seeing in the rest of the NFL or, frankly, other sports,” Goodell said, adding that the stadium experience is becoming even more important as the league aims to provide fans incentive to continue to attend in person.
Though Goodell said he travels to NFL cities often and wants to stay abreast of the league’s relationship with local communities, it seemed his early-November visit to San Diego, spurred by the opportunity to attend the HD fundraiser, meant something to him because of his relationship with Chairman of the Board – CEO Dean Spanos and the rest of the Chargers’ ownership.
“The San Diego Chargers are here because the Spanos family wants them to be here and I believe they want to continue to be here. It’s up to us to find a solution. We have to work together to find that. That’s our commitment and the team’s commitment and the commitment of the leaders here in this city,” Goodell said.
“(The Chargers) have been trying for 10 years to find a solution. I think everyone recognizes a new stadium is needed to keep the Chargers competitive and they’ve worked tirelessly to find a solution with the community leaders. We need to find a solution that works for the community and the team.”
Asked about the likelihood of an NFL stadium being built in Los Angeles sometime in the near future, Goodell explained getting a venue financed and constructed that’s acceptable to the community and produces the right kind of revenue is a delicate task and certainly not guaranteed. Goodell also said a substantial relocation fee “would be a consideration” for any team pondering a move.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement all but guarantees 10 years of labor peace and includes stadium financing abilities where the players and teams share as investors in the game’s future, Goodell said, a factor that’s shifted in a positive direction this year.
HGH TESTING: The NFL and NFLPA came to a general agreement to implement HGH testing during labor negotiations but have not been able to settle on details of testing.
At this point, the NFL recognizes the NFLPA’s understandable concern about ensuring a valid test, but has spent seven years investigating the science behind its proposed test and is very confident and comfortable with its validity.
“We’re completely focused on (getting HGH testing implemented),” Goodell said. “We think it’s the right thing to do. It’s important for the credibility of the game and it’s an important message to kids.”
HEALTH POLICIES: Goodell received a few questions regarding recent rules changes to further protect defenseless players as well as a much-fortified focus on preventing head injuries.
The NFL has devoted hoards of time and money to formulating most vigilant, responsible way to handle football’s inevitable high-speed and forceful collisions, but it’s a science and an area of policy that’s still evolving, Goodell said.
He called identifying players that have potentially suffered concussions “the responsibility of everybody on the field” and urged everyone around NFL games to be alert.
“If they think someone needs to be evaluated, they should ask the team to do it,” Goodell said. “I think we’re all learning and improving. You’re always trying to adapt and get better at it.”