The $1.7 billion stadium bluff

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Ownership of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are hoping the threat to bulld a joint stadium on a 168-acre site in Carson, California is enough to make the existing fanbases and municipalities pony up for new stadia…or lose the teams forever. Below, Death of the Press Box’s Kyle Magin and Andrew Pridgen team up with Stadiafile’s Matt Brown for a roundtable on the topic.

Andrew: When I spent a couple years in Hollywood drinking Mickey’s on my rooftop and waiting for the phone to ring, I found a batting cage where I used to bum cigarettes off 12-year-olds and take BP in the 70 cage to pass the time near the proposed Carson stadium site.

Without sounding too much like SNL’s The Californians, I took the 170 to the 2 to the 101 to the 5 to the 710 to the 105 to the 110 or simply idled on LaBrea’s endless cartoon backdrop loop of liquor stores and car washes. With no traffic on a Tuesday it was about a 58-minute jaunt from Sunset.

I’m pretty sure sticking a stadium, and all the mixed-use moneymakers to accompany (condos, hotels, restaurants, offices), will create something similar to but more severe than the current NFL home of Carpocalypse up in Santa Clara (avg. waiting time in/out of a 49er game, approximately 4 hours).

But it’s LA and traffic is implicit, so we’ll move on to the group: Carson2gether. Yes, that’s the actual name of the business and, um, “labor leaders” who will attempt to strongarm persuade the NFL to let a pair of disgruntled franchises relocate to the proposed site. I don’t care about all that as much as I’m eagerly anticipating the day when names of businesses and organizations are led with a hashtag and punctuated with an emoji.

The proposed privately financed (if you consider municipalities who receive money from Goldman Sachs a private venture) project holds in gnarled hands the still-beating hearts of both the Los Angeles Raiders of Oakland and the Los Angeles Chargers of San Diego fanbases by: 1) making bedfellows/dorm mates with reviled division rivals (the NFL’s version of the Odd Couple) 2) Saying Fuck You to both the city of San Diego and associated fanbase (“Sorry we moved to BFE but could you please pony up $80k for a PSL?”) as well as the city of Oakland and associated miscreants and 3) Saying Double Fuck You to the NFL which for 20 years running has had the biggest and most diverse fanbase in the NFL…with no actual team. And they’d like to keep it that way. 

Both teams were founded in Los Angeles in 1960 and would be coming home, or at least a little bit south of home, so that may actually give #carson2gether a modicum of sentimental health.

But sentiment isn’t going to remove many roadblocks.

NFL owners, three-fourths of whom would be needed to OK the move, may have other plans as St. Louis is already carry-on packed for a stadium build in Inglewood at the site of the old Hollywood Park—next to the Forum and within smelling distance of Randy’s Donuts and Bare Elegance.

NFL owners would likely cast a no-vote based on the notion that the move would require a league realignment. The league demigods also won’t like the idea of shared infrastructure (the NFL is not a duplex-type league). However, the group is at least serious insofar that they’ve got the deed to the land in hand and Goldman’s Tim Romer (who orchestrated the 9ers’ stadium deal with Santa Clara) on line one.

The release of plans is an autoCAD-laden all-in assault from the ownership groups on both the voters of San Diego and Oakland to fast-track public/private new stadium partnerships in the respective current home cities. The efforts of Colony Capital, the investment group spearheading a new home for the Raiders in the East Bay, have stalled and the City of San Diego has similarly not been moving fast enough to extract the Bolts from the only stadium ever named after a sports writer.

The Spanos family, which hasn’t curried favor with local politicos blaming the city for the blocked path to a new facility, may have written a one way ticket out of town with last week’s announcement: “It’s now abundantly clear that while we have been working here in San Diego to create a plan for a new stadium, the Chargers have for some time been making their own plans for moving to Los Angeles,” San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer said. “This would amount to abandoning generations of loyal Chargers fans. Despite this news, we are going to continue our efforts to develop a viable stadium solution.”

And the Oakland City Council is still trying to figure out ways to market themselves as the, errr, “New Brooklyn” and doesn’t have enough in the city coffers to refurbish Caspers on Telegraph, much less take on a billion extra dollars to throw at the Davis family.

Blah.

The 72k-seat stadium plan, courtesy Manica Architecture—which is also in charge of the Warriors’ new small plates-serving waterfront arena in San Francisco—looks like the Love Boat capsized and the pool deck and Pirate’s Cove are dumping Piña Coladas and tube tops out into the ocean. But I’ll defer to Stadialife’s Matt Brown on the design, feasibility and financing front.

Matt: First off, $1.7 billion! That is insane.

The Meadowlands, which similarly is a shared facility was $1 billion if memory serves me correctly and that factors in the cost increase of doing work in the New York area. I’ll give the group the benefit of the doubt that you are fitting out locker facilities and probably offices for both teams and what looks to be a lot of luxury suites but $1.7 billion is an ungodly number especially since it seems to be a pretty easy, flat, non-urban context to build in.

The project is not without its positive aspects however. In general I am in favor of stadium shares especially for NFL stadiums that only get 8-10 days of use per year. It is an open air building, thankfully the developers have rejected the trend to include a retractable roof on the project, though for $1.7 billion one might expect one. Also, I like the suburban location; NFL stadiums, so big and so infrequently used, probably shouldn’t be located in city centers. Put them on innocuous sites, outside cities, with lots of space for people to tailgate pre and post game. It would be nice if there were some mass transit option to the facility, as exists at the Meadowlands but this is LA and that might be asking a bit much. No word on sustainability of the project, I definitely think, as with new Levi’s Stadium these buildings should become renewable energy facilities, in addition to sport facilities, no word on that yet it would seem.

As for the design, I like the asymmetrical, open-ended arrangement. That very 2000-era inspired, rounded corner wall of suites looks a bit dated especially in the less exuberant, post-recession architecture design world.

Kyle: My favorite part of this entire announcement is how quickly it’s taking to backfire amongst my San Diegan friends.

The Chargers have been begging around a broke town for about a decade to no avail whatsoever. They’re not going to find a hugely significant piece of public money to get this thing done. When they publicly unveiled their notes to a local government “task force” earlier this week, it reeked of thirsty-ass desperation and not a little bit of indignation that they’ve been told ‘no, you’re not getting $900 million from us’ and later, “no, you’re not getting $650 million from us.”

The team went ahead and claimed in the notes that 25 percent of their fanbase already comes from LA (which, what, Laguna Niguel is LA now?).

People I talk to in the city or with San Diego ties are more than happy with their beautiful downtown baseball stadium (which they already helped to publicly fund and cost less than a half-billion) and sure as hell aren’t paying for another especially to a team that’s so openly blowing the counties just up the coast.

On top of just not wanting to pay, period, the old mechanisms for publicly paying for this sort of thing in California—a city’s redevelopment agency—have been done away with under Governor Jerry Brown’s tenure. No longer can cities pledge incremental tax revenues from their downtowns to cover the massive costs of projects like this.

A friend also reminded me that this team’s 2007 firing of Marty Schottenheimer and hiring of Norv Turner turned off a lot of fans to the Chargers in general. The Chargers threatening to leave town sort of feels like a 30-year old threatening to leave his mom’s pad.

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  1. Jeez I hope that someone out on the left coast has enough sense to tell the NFL that this is just too crazy?
    How can you ever sell enough tickets to make up that kind of money (given the shelf life of these stadiums are 30 yrs maybe, i.e. Jones Dome – St Louis).

  2. Matt, no matter how green the roof, there is nothing sustainable, in any sense of the word’s meaning, about a massive antiurban single-use building meant to replace a massive antiurban single-use building that’s well under 50 years old.