On Football: Chargers' stadium saga will drag on past election

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Tony Hawk says no.

Mario Lopez says yes.

Could there be anything more absurd than the world's most famous skateboarder and an actor who appeared in "Saved by the Bell" taking opposite sides of the San Diego Chargers' long, twisting and increasingly bitter push for a new stadium?

Funny thing is, neither Hawk nor Lopez lives in San Diego proper. So they can't vote on Measure C, the ballot initiative that asks the public to approve an increase in the hotel occupancy tax to provide $1.15 billion for a $1.8 billion stadium and convention center annex in the southeast corner of downtown.

Hawk's anti-C comments, delivered with a dose of humor, were included in Bill Simmons' anti-stadium segment on "Any Given Wednesday" on HBO. Lopez's TV ad in favor of Measure C was filmed in the Los Angeles area -- where the Chargers tried to move last year, angering a fan base that's been loyal since the Bolts moved here in 1961 from Los Angeles.

The twisting stadium saga began in 2000, when Ryan Leaf was still the Chargers' quarterback. It probably won't reach the finish line even after the votes are counted Tuesday night.

Few people think Measure C will get the two-thirds super majority needed to pass. The Chargers, who have long sought a significant public subsidy to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, have said privately they hope to get the equivalent of a moral victory if the vote is close to 50 percent. If team chairman Dean Spanos really wants to stay in San Diego, as he keeps saying, he'd likely be forced to negotiate a different plan with City Hall, the city's powerful tourism industry, and other stakeholders. None of those entities had a say in the 110-page initiative written by the Chargers.

If the measure is badly beaten, Spanos could exercise his option to move to L.A., a concession granted by fellow NFL owners after they rebuffed his plans to build a stadium in Carson with the hated archrival Oakland Raiders as a partner.

Is it possible that voters will stand up to the mighty NFL?

Mayor Kevin Faulconer remains as optimistic as ever that something will get done on his watch. He's moved past last year, when the Chargers pressured him to come up with a stadium plan, and then walked away from negotiations to focus on L.A.

"Look, I think San Diego has been part of the NFL for 50 years," said Faulconer, who clinched a second term in the June primary. "San Diegans want the Chargers to stay. San Diegans want a deal that is fair for taxpayers. Those are not mutually exclusive."

Here's the disconnect: While many San Diegans love the Chargers and want them to stay, many don't like what they consider a scorched-earth campaign Spanos waged last year in trying to beat Stan Kroenke's Rams to L.A. Spanos, whose team is valued at more than $2 billion, never uttered as much as "I'm sorry" after fellow owners sent him back to San Diego to try again. His lawyers hurriedly wrote Measure C in time to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The tourism industry opposes both an increase in the hotel tax raised and a convention center annex several blocks from the bayfront convention center. The convention center needs expanding for big clients like Comic-Con, which also opposes Measure C, but attempts to do so have been blocked in court.

Faulconer remained mum for months. Several civic and business leaders, led by Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, urged the mayor to oppose the project.

The mayor finally endorsed C, but only after receiving assurances on certain financial safeguards from Spanos. However, that document is not legally binding.

The Padres, who rode an appearance in the 1998 World Series to approval of a new downtown ballpark, want to see the Chargers stay in town, but have major concerns about the Chargers' plan. If approved, a new football stadium approximately two blocks away would gobble up most of the Padres' surface parking and compete for concerts and other events that swell the Padres' coffers.

Leading the coalition in favor of Measure C is Jerry Sanders, the president and CEO of the regional chamber of commerce. Interestingly, the Chargers complained for years that they couldn't get help from the city, and Sanders was mayor for a large chunk of that time, from 2005-12.

Much like they criticized Faulconer last year, the Chargers have gotten personal toward city councilman Chris Cate and architect Rob Quigley for opposing their massive project. The Chargers took out Facebook ads asking why Cate wanted the team to move to Los Angeles, urging fans to call his office. In an op-ed piece on the website Voice of San Diego, Chargers spokesman Fred Maas called Quigley "a small-town undertaker."

Polling by City Hall shows Measure C getting less than 50 percent of the vote. Polling done for the hotel industry shows it getting 35 percent yes, with 13 percent undecided. A Chargers consultant would not divulge team-sponsored polling.

"Obviously it passing gives us the best chance to be here long term," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But I'm still hopeful that if it doesn't, then it's not the end-all. I don't know that, but certainly that's my hope that if it's short of passing that there still has been enough progress made that there's still a way to get it figured out."

Rivers, of course, will vote yes.

Hawk and Lopez won't have a say.


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