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Q&A: Mark Fabiani

Posted Oct 11, 2011

Special counsel to the president Mark Fabiani answers your stadium questions.

Special counsel to the president Mark Fabiani joined the Chargers in 2002.

His primary function is to work with the greater San Diego community to explore opportunities for a new state-of-the-art football stadium in the San Diego region.

Since joining the Chargers, Fabiani and his La Jolla-based firm, Fabiani & Lehane LLC, have taken the lead in working with taxpayers and fans to create a publicly-acceptable solution to the stadium issue. He also has managed the grassroots effort to solicit ideas from the community.

Fabiani took time to answer your stadium questions this week.

Kevin Mendoza; San Diego

What is the problem with our current stadium and why do we want to build a new stadium?

There are two answers to your question, Kevin:

First, from the perspective of San Diego taxpayers, the problem is that the use of 166 acres of prime, publicly- owned land in Mission Valley to host an aging, seldom-used stadium is a very bad financial deal for the City. The deal for taxpayers is bad because the City owns and operates the facility at a loss of more than $15 million a year – with tens of millions more in deferred maintenance now due. The deal is also a bad one because the 166 acres could be leased or sold, with the goal of creating a large park along the river and a tax-generating development on the northern portion of the site. But of course, none of this will be possible as long as the stadium sits smack-dab in the middle of the site.

Second, from the perspective of the Chargers, the problem is that the aging stadium does not allow us to generate sufficient revenue to remain financially competitive over the long haul with the top teams in the NFL. We have great fans, and our fans rightly expect us to spare no expense in the quest for a Super Bowl title. But, over time, and you see this in virtually all professional sports in this country, the teams with significant financial advantages will also maintain a consistent competitive advantage. The Chargers cannot afford to play permanently in one of the oldest and most revenue-poor stadiums in the NFL. Yet that is exactly the path the franchise is on right now, and that path must change, for the good of our fans, and for the long-term health of the franchise.

Ron Murray; Murrieta, Calif.

Mr. Fabiani, There seems to be a lot of push-back from the convention center folks about a joint-use stadium connected to the convention facilities. Mostly it seems to revolve around a disagreement on whether a joint-use stadium facility would be seen as a positive, or even be used by large conventions considering San Diego. What is the Chargers’ take on this?

Ron, you are right that our convention center-stadium proposal has created a great deal of controversy. But we expected that. What we want to do is stimulate an open, vigorous public debate on these issues. Unfortunately, there are some in the downtown community who want to cut off discussion before it even starts. These are the same people who told the Chargers that we should not pursue the Chula Vista bayfront site because the Gaylord project would be built there. Never happened. These are the same people who told us that we should not pursue the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, because the main tenant there was going to sign a long-term lease and allow the port facility to grow. Never happened. And there are a lot of very smart people around town who believe that the current convention center expansion proposal is never going to happen either – because the taxing mechanism being used is potentially illegal, or because the Coastal Commission will never approve a box-like structure impeding public access to the waterfront, or for any number of other reasons.

So this time around, we were determined to push our idea out there to the public and not be deterred by those who are watching out for their own interests more than the best interests of all taxpayers. The fact is that these kinds of joint use facilities have been very successful in other cities, and such a facility in San Diego would put us in the running for the kind of mega-events (national political conventions, NCAA Final Fours, Super Bowls, etc.) that our city will never otherwise be able to host.

Sean Parmente; Los Angeles

Why can’t the Chargers squash the media frenzy over the AEG snagging them up? Doesn’t everybody know AEG wants more than half ownership? What NFL team will take that deal? Thanks Mr. Fabiani; it’s nice to see you taking the time to answer all of our burning questions.

Sean, AEG has been aggressively promoting its project, which it has every right to do. And AEG’s promotional efforts get a lot of attention. That’s just the way it is, and there’s nothing we can do about that. For our part, the Chargers must remain focused on our downtown San Diego options while explaining to our fans that there are many, many impediments in the way of the AEG project.  You mentioned perhaps the biggest one of all:  AEG wants to buy a significant chunk of a team at a discounted price. That is just not going to happen, at least as far as the Chargers are concerned, and from what I read, not as far as the NFL is concerned either.  See, for example, this article from Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-farmer-nfl-20111012-17,0,1486401.column, or this recent article from Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.com: http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news;_ylt=A2KJjbx1zZVOrQUAti9NbK5_?slug=jc-cole_nfl_downtown_la_stadium_concerns_100611

Brian Barnes; Dallas

Will a downtown stadium proposal be put to a public vote in the fall 2012 elections?

I wish I could give you a definitive answer, Brian, but everything depends on how our proposal for a joint convention center-stadium proposal is received by community leaders. If the key leaders are interested in pursuing this proposal, then the November 2012 ballot date is certainly doable. If we do not have the support of these key leaders, though, it would not make any sense for us to put something on the ballot that is doomed to defeat (especially when we may need a two-thirds majority to prevail).

There are also other external events that will impact our ability to meet the November 2012 deadline. For example, the California Supreme Court is evaluating the legality of the State of California’s raid on local redevelopment entities. If the redevelopment agencies prevail before the Supreme Court, another source of funding could be available to us.

William DeFelice; Santee, Calif.

Mark, it seems like the Chargers have pushed all their chips into the center of the table for this downtown site. What is the likelihood of this project? And if it fails, can we kiss our San Diego Chargers goodbye?

Things are very much up in the air, William. We hope that our new idea for downtown will generate an open and forthright public debate, but there are already those who are trying to shut that debate down. If the debate does get shut down, then we will obviously need to regroup and figure out if other funding sources are potentially available to us. But the bottom line is that the downtown idea is now very much up for grabs, and that’s why we hope that our fans – along with taxpayers who see better uses for the existing Qualcomm site – will weigh in with City officials and other community leaders.

Tim Hynes; Carlsbad; Calif.

This discussion has been truncated and seems to be going on for years. Is there a designated time limit to make a decision? Are other locations like Los Angeles still on the table, or have we “locked” to the San Diego area? Can you please offer a timetable for the remainder of 2011 and 2012? Thank you.

You are absolutely right: This has been going on far too long – almost 10 years now! However, it is important that we all keep things in perspective. No NFL stadium has been built in California since the 1960’s. The three California NFL teams play in the three oldest, un-renovated stadiums in the NFL. And, of course, there are no teams, and no suitable playing venues, in two of the wealthiest markets in the world, Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Simply put, finding a way to construct a Super Bowl-quality stadium in California is an enormous challenge, one that has thwarted many, many people up and down the state for many decades.

As for the timetable, our goal remains to be on the November 2012 ballot. Whether we achieve that goal will be determined over the next several months. You should keep an eye on whether we get any traction with community leaders on our proposal for a joint convention center-stadium proposal downtown.  You should also be looking for a decision from the California Supreme Court on the future of redevelopment agencies, which could come by the end of the year.  

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