By Jason Riggs
Yesterday, Mayor Sanders spoke at the Riford Club in La Jolla to a crowd of about 100 people in a small gathering that was open to the public.
Sanders began the discussion on the effort to build a new stadium in Downtown San Diego by recapping the history and timeline behind Petco Park’s development.
“We spent about $192M in public funds on [Petco]” said Sanders. “Every dollar that was put into that has been leveraged by seven dollars in private investment. So that’s where you see all of the new hotels downtown, all of the new condos, all of the returning sales tax, all of the returning property tax, all of the tourism and transient occupancy tax… that was a great investment.
Baseball though, has 81 home games a year and that really energizes the entire area. Pro Football only has 10 [home] games a year. The Aztecs probably have five or six home games a year. There are two bowl games. So, it’s not a great investment if you do that by itself. It’s a pretty expensive proposition.”
However, he went on to point out how Qualcomm stadium is also an expensive proposition for taxpayers. “Right now, Qualcomm stadium costs the city between $10M and $12M each year just to keep it open.” Adding, “It’s a 42 year-old facility and it’s falling apart.”
Sanders also discussed how he saw tremendous economic prosperity among the cities he visited last week, derived largely through their stadium/entertainment district redevelopment projects.
So, the solution appears to involve liquidating or somehow utilizing the Qualcomm property while redeveloping a blighted section of Downtown.
According to Sanders, “We have to find a way to make it a venue on the East end of Downtown…. a lot of people won’t walk there now during the day and nobody walks there at night. We think it makes all of the sense in the world to have an entertainment center between the Convention Center bridge, to Petco and over the Stadium so that we activate that every single night.”
Finally, the Mayor noted that he is looking at this as a pure business decision and in fact he “hasn’t been to a Charger game in at least 15 years.” He also said that this will be a County issue and will require cooperation from people and groups well beyond the City of San Diego.
In terms of timing, he said that his team is working on a timeline for a 2012 ballot initiative and details would be forthcoming.