Not so fast, says the team's special counsel, Mark Fabiani, who calls AEG's plan to break ground on a downtown stadium by next June "really far-fetched." Fabiani's comments come as San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, desperate to keep the team in town, prepares to look for ideas at sports and entertainment districts around the country (seems a touch late, no?). The Union-Tribune called it "his strongest show of support yet for building the Chargers a new football stadium." Fabiani, perhaps trying to temper the speculation about a move to L.A., laid out on the team's Web site all the hurdles faced by AEG over the next 10 months:
(1) The current non-binding Memorandum of Understanding between the developer and the City of Los Angeles must be converted to a real, binding legal contract - which will require significant and time-consuming negotiations.
(2) The developer will have to finish its Environmental Impact Report (EIR), submit that report to the public for review, and then have the report certified by the City. Generally the EIR process on a major project such as this can take as many as 18 months, sometimes even longer.
(3) All of the inevitable court litigation over the EIR will have to be resolved before construction can begin. (Both Los Angeles City and California state officials have said that they will oppose the kind of EIR litigation exemption that Ed Roski received for his City of Industry project.)
(4) The downtown L.A. stadium project may have to survive a public vote, if project opponents succeed in gathering enough signatures to place a measure challenging the stadium project on the ballot.
(5) The developer will have to find an NFL owner willing to sell either some or all of his team at a price acceptable to all parties. (Recent press reports indicate that the L.A. downtown developer wants to be a majority owner of a team).
(6) Whichever team is bought must apply to the NFL to relocate and must satisfy the NFL's relocation guidelines.
(7) The NFL must decide on a relocation fee (a recent L.A. City analyst's report concluded that such a fee could be in the neighborhood of $500 million) and approve the move of a team.
(8) The entire multi-billion dollar project, which envisions not just the construction of a stadium but the replacement of hundreds of thousands of feet of convention space at private expense, must be financed in capital markets that are under enormous stress because of the ongoing world financial crisis.
Now, maybe all of these issues can be resolved over the next 10 months, but the challenge will be a gigantic one by any measure.
Keep in mind that the Chargers and the city of San Diego face enormous financing challenges in trying to build a downtown stadium (which, by the way, also includes plans to upgrade the convention center). The city had been hoping for development dollars, but the state's budget woes makes that unlikely.
*Update: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa doesn't think the legislature should give AEG's downtown stadium an exemption from environmental lawsuits. The company's CEO, Tim Leiweke, is asking for protection from frivolous litigation, though no specific legislation has been introduced. (LAT)