March 12, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) The San Diego Chargers reacted coolly to an advisory group's unanimous recommendation that the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley, not downtown, is the best location for a new multi-use stadium for what is currently Southern California's only NFL team.

As members of the advisory group and former Chargers stars held a news conference in front of aging Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday, team attorney Mark Fabiani was in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson for the beginning of a petition drive for a $1.7 billion stadium proposed by the Chargers and Oakland Raiders if they don't get new stadiums in their current hometowns.

The Chargers have pushed for a downtown stadium as part of a complex including a non-contiguous addition to the convention center.

But that idea has been opposed by downtown hoteliers who want the convention center expansion to be contiguous. Additionally, the Metropolitan Transit System said recently that it would take up to seven years and $150 million to relocate the bus yard the Chargers want to build on.

Fabiani certainly didn't endorse the selection of Mission Valley.

In an email to The Associated Press, Fabiani said: ''On the Qualcomm vs. Downtown site issue, we've really tried to make our point of view clear on this issue repeatedly over the last couple of years, and there isn't anything new to add today.''

Asked to be more specific, he referred to his pointed remarks to the nine-member advisory group on Feb. 16. Those remarks don't mention a stadium site.

''When we met with the Chargers in February, they described their position as neutral. We can only take them at their word,'' advisory group chairman Adam Day said.

In a news release, the advisory group said, ''The team described its position as agnostic.''

Day said the advisory group's research showed that building a stadium downtown would be more expensive, take more time and be far more complicated.

He said building a new stadium near the old stadium would save at least $250 million and avoid delays since the city owns the 166-acre site.

''Mr. Fabiani told us personally that he's open to a stadium at either site,'' Day said. ''We've heard the media suggest that his preferred location is downtown, but that's not what he told us.''

Pressed on the issue, Day said: ''Again, Mr. Fabiani told us he's open to developing a stadium here in Mission Valley. We're not going to negotiate with the Chargers. That's not our role. Our job is to pick a site and develop a financing plan that works for everybody. That's the city, the taxpayers, the Charges and other tenants.''

In an email to the AP later Thursday, Day said: ''Every member of the committee will attest to the fact that Mr. Fabiani said the team was neutral on site selection. I imagine the mayor would attest to the same thing regarding his meeting with Dean Spanos.''

Mayor Kevin Faulconer met with Spanos, the Chargers' chairman, on Feb. 22, three days after the surprise announcement that the Chargers and Raiders are planning a joint stadium in Carson if they fail to get stadium deals in their hometowns. Faulconer agreed then to have the advisory group speed up its work.

The Chargers and Raiders were responding to the possibility of the St. Louis Rams moving to Los Angeles. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is part of a joint venture that wants to build an 80,000-seat stadium in the L.A. suburb of Inglewood.

Faulconer was scheduled to speak by phone with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday. Also, Eric Grubman, the NFL's point man on Los Angeles, told Day in a letter that he could meet with the advisory group in early April.

Grubman is a former Goldman Sachs investment banker. Goldman Sachs, the longtime investment banker of the Chargers, is committed to cover any operating losses suffered by the team in the first few years of a potential relocation to Los Angeles, along with any costs for renovations necessary to a temporary venue, the Sports Business Journal reported last week.

The advisory group is due to release a financing plan by May 20. Day said the group would not recommend a plan that would require approval by two-thirds of the voters. Most people think such a measure would have no chance of passing.

The Spanos family has been pushing for a public contribution of more than 60 percent, which Fabiani said is the NFL average.

Shawne Merriman was one of six former Chargers who attended the news conference and encouraged the team to stay put.

''Today's a great day to show that this can happen and should happen,'' Merriman said. ''If it's not, we wouldn't want to share a stadium with that other team. This is what the city wants, what the people want. To me it just doesn't make any sense to go anywhere else. It's too close for it not to happen.''

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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