The San Diego Chargers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons for a Week 7 tilt in what will be a very difficult game on the road.
In an effort to provide you with a little insight into the Falcons and their team, I reached out to Scott Carasik of Blogging Dirty (Fansided blog covering the Falcons) and Sportsnaut.com.
Carasik has been writing about the Falcons since 2012 and the NFL and NFL draft since 2010.
1) Covering the Falcons thus far in 2016 has probably been very enjoyable, seeing as the team is off to a 4-2 start, leading the NFC South and boasting the league’s No. 1 scoring offense. What can you attribute to the team’s success in the early portions of the season?
Matt Ryan has full command of the offense that he was struggling with at times in 2015. However, the biggest offseason addition of Alex Mack to play center was huge for the Falcons. Now, Ryan doesn’t have to worry about setting protections or blitz pickups when the offense lines up. Mack also has allowed the line to run block much, much better. This gives the Falcons a great combination of Devonta Freeman running the ball and everyone else going out to catch passes.
2) Wide receiver Julio Jones is arguably the best wideout in all of the NFL. What can opposing defenses do to limit his production on game days? Or can they?
You can limit him, but it’s at a point where the offense is pick your poison. Sure, you can limit Julio Jones with double teams and brackets and matchup zones. But you basically leave the rest of your defense to be burned by the multitude of options the Falcons have at tight end, running back and wide receiver. Everyone has plays that will take advantage of their strengths and weaknesses and will get utilized at some point in the season.
3) Sticking with the Atlanta wide receivers, talk a little bit about the addition of Mohamed Sanu and his role in the Falcons’ offense.
Mohamed Sanu has been a very solid all-around addition. He’s a good blocker in the run game and can create big plays when need be. He hasn’t been super involved with the offense just yet, but that’s more to do with his injury situation more than anything else.
4) The running back duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman provides one of the most dangerous backfields in football. With Freeman handling the majority of the carries and Coleman proving to be a threat as a receiving option, how does Atlanta utilize the two backs in their offense?
Essentially, Freeman plays a role similar to what Brian Westbrook used to play for the Eagles. He gets the bulk of the carries, pass protects and catches the ball out of the backfield. Coleman plays a role similar to Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush. He is on the field for important short yardage carries and will get motioned out to the slot or out wide as a receiver or will catch the ball out of the backfield as well with the goal to get him in open space. Atlanta has done a great job to utilize both.
5) Matt Ryan is off to a scorching hot start in ’16, leading all quarterbacks in passing yards (2,075), yards per attempt (9.9) and quarterback rating (117.9). He is second in the league in TD throws (15) behind Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (16). Can Ryan remain this hot throughout the season, and what should Chargers fans look for with him under center regarding how he runs the offense?
Expect the unexpected. Before every play, I used to have a good idea of what the play call was and who it was going to because of how much I’ve watched Ryan in the offense. This year? I have no clue what the play call is and rarely do I know what to expect. That’s what makes him dangerous. Just when I think the Falcons are going to pass it in a Julio-based design, they go to a play-action deep to one of the tight ends. The play design is just crazy this year.
6) Defensively, outside linebacker Vic Beasley leads the Falcons with 4.5 sacks on the year, surpassing his mark of four sacks during his rookie campaign. How is Beasley used to get after quarterbacks and what flaws does he have in his game?
Beasley is normally just rushing from a nickel left end spot. He’s been a good fit there, but he is very one-dimensional right now as a speed rusher. His best move is a dip-under to the outside shoulder. He’s solid against the run too. He’s not close to reaching his potential though. He still has to figure out some counter moves.
7) I was a big fan of strong safety Keanu Neal coming into this year’s draft. His physicality certainly caught my eye as soon as I started to watch film on him. How has he looked during his rookie year and is there a defender — past or present — who he reminds you of?
Neal has been excellent as a rookie. He reminds me a lot of what William Moore was early on. He’s not the fastest safety and not the biggest safety, but he plays smart and his instincts put him in the right place at the right time. Plus, he can matchup well with tight ends in coverage if he’s actually used there.
8) Veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney, formerly of the Colts and Chargers, signed with the Falcons earlier this year. What kind of impact has he made and does he still have gas left in the tank?
Freeney definitely has gas left in the tank and is a good pass rusher even still. The biggest impact he has made is helping Beasley develop his primary pass rush move. Eventually, Beasley will learn that spin and Freeney and Beasley will dominate teams together.
9) Can you please give the fans a few under-the-radar players which they should look out for on Sunday?
Deion Jones is seemingly under the radar. But he and De’Vondre Campbell have been keys to the defensive improvement this season and should continue to help the defense turn into an above average unit before the season ends. They could be essential in stopping the passes to your tight ends. On offense, the Falcons offensive line as a whole is why things work. Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Chris Chester and Ryan Schraeder all are playing exceptionally well as a group right now even if some have individual lapses at times.
10) Lastly, who wins this game and why?
The game is in Atlanta. If I had to guess, I’d say the Falcons win it 35-28 in a similar fashion to the Oakland game. They get up early and are winning by two scores heading into the fourth quarter and goes back to the prevent to close the game out. San Diego is a good team. Atlanta is just at home and a better team.
I would like to thank Scott for taking the time to do this interview and providing the Chargers fans with a little insight into his Atlanta Falcons.
Although I hope he is wrong about the final score, I do appreciate him giving his thoughts on the Chargers-Falcons contest.
You can find Scott’s work at BloggingDirty.com, Sportsnaut.com and on Twitter (@CarasikS). He also keeps track of the 2017 NFL draft order — which is updated weekly in a spreadsheet format — here at this link: https://t.co/97PiBmB1K7.
Thanks a lot for reading.
Dave Booga Peters
Rarely do we encounter someone who can truly inspire us. Being passionate fans of a sports team, we sometimes feel that athletes are superhuman, especially when comparing them to ourselves. The general public is able to know what pro athletes make on their paychecks, and probably know more about their personal lives than the athletes would like.
The bottom line? They are people, just like you and I. They have the same passion for the game, the same ideals about values, morals, politics..etc. as we do. Outside a few thorns in the NFL, I bet if we were to spend time with them, we might be surprised to find out they are regular human beings with a physical talent that exceeds most.
Since around the time of last year’s draft, I have been very fortunate to have a friendship with our own Craig Watts Jr. I did my first interview of an NFL player with Craig, was able to get him involved with an amazing Chargers website, BoltBlitz.com, and was able to have my nephew meet him out in Arizona – all the while tucked in my little corner of Florida.
What also makes Craig unique, is his reasoning on playing the game of football. “ Football was not my way out; I do it for myself because I love to play – not as a means to an end.”
Craig Watts Jr. is very comparable to….Craig Watts Jr. He has never wanted to compare himself to someone else, nor has he ever tried to emulate anyone. “Some players might even hate the game but they talked always about going to D-1 and playing in the NFL. I just wanted to play the game because I love the game. In all activities that I was involved with, I just loved the competitiveness of the whatever sport I was involved in.”
With so many accolades and adjectives to choose from when describing Craig, the one word that I confidently choose to use is humble. Speaking for over two hours with Craig, and hearing his routine of feeding the homeless when he goes out to eat, warms my heart with a sense of pride and validation in the goodness of humanity. He never informs people he encounters that he plays for the San Diego Chargers. Craig does not brag about feeding several people on the streets when he goes out. Have some of us done this? I know I have. So why would Craig get huge publicity from this when you and I have done something similar with no attention? Because Craig Watts Jr. is a human being first, football player second.
With that I would like to take you on a personal journey into the life of the offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers, Craig Watts Jr.
BWK: As child, who was the most influential person in your life and why?
CW: I have to say my dad. As I got older, I realized how just how much I modeled myself after him; how much I am like him and our similarities. I would say a close second would be my brother. It was just the father-to-son and the brother-to-brother thing, which in itself is a strong bond. I feel that those two were very instrumental as far as what I saw as a role model and influence (to be).
I would also say that others who were a big influence in my life growing up were professional wrestlers. Me and my buddy idolized wrestlers and you could not tell us (back then) that we weren’t going to be professional wrestlers.
BWK: Was there any wrestler in particular?
CW: You know it’s funny that King (Dunlap) and I were just talking about this the other day. My top three were, on the WWE side, The Rock, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. And in particular, the “bad boy” persona of The Undertaker. He was a biker and came out Kid Rock. That portion of him (The Undertaker) I really enjoyed watching. But if I were to include all wrestlers and not just WWE, I would say Goldberg (as my favorite). Goldberg was the dude back then. There were a lot others I really enjoyed, but those were my top favorites.
BWK: How did you spend your summers during your youth?
CW: We moved around a lot so there was various things we would do. With my parents both in active duty me and my brother were usually left alone to be active during our summers. I would go to the YS (Youth Services) a lot. The YS is a lot like the YMCA but for military families. There was the teen center, pool tables, crafts, basketball courts and other activities. No matter where we were at, Kansas, Germany..etc, we were always involved in something. We never just sat at home.
BWK: What branch of the military were your parents active in?
CW: I was the only one in my family who was not involved in the military. My brother, who is about 5 ½ years older, was in the Navy for about 3 or 4 years and I believe is still active. My mother did 21 years in the Army as a medic. Then there was my dad who did 27 years in the Army as a logistics officer.
BWK: With both your parents being in active duty, were you and your brother and sister left alone for any period of time?
CW: From the best of my knowledge the military does a very good job if you have two parents in active duty; never deployed at the same time. Because I don’t ever remember that occurring. I was always with at least one of my parents. It was normal for me. Now thinking back I think the only time that might have happened was when my dad went to visit my mom who was deployed at the time, for their anniversary. But that was for a short time and we stayed with our Godparents.
BWK: In your formative years, was there a teacher that you remember having been particularly influential?
CW: Due to us moving around a lot, I went to 4 elementary schools, 1 middle school and 2 High schools. So I have seen my fair share of teachers and all of them were great in their own right. In fact, if you gave me time, I could probably name almost all of them.
But to pick the one that was most influential to me has to be Dr. Clarkand his wife, who is also a Doctor. They taught History and his wife was even my advisor. They definitely shaped the academic side of my life and I am still good friends with both of them today. Another person who I have to say was a huge influence on my academics was my mom. My mom would never let me miss a day of school even if I was deathly ill. Our family would move and I still would not miss a day of school. I remember attending one school on a Tuesday, which happened to be the last day I was attending there, and on Wednesday I was attending a new school; literally did not miss a day of school.
As far as my most influential instructor athletically, it is easily my high school coach at Killeen High in Killeen, TX. I was living in San Antonio and attending high school for a while and then moved to Killeen where Coach Gaskamp invited me to play football. He was the first person who really showed me what I could do with it (size and skill). There was a buddy of mine on the team who was all-everything and in the state of Texas that was huge. Coach Gaskamp took me aside and told me that if I trained hard enough, that I could be great.
BWK: Who was your very first love?
CW: I think the first person that I legitimately had a crush on, and I am sure she had no idea, was this girl named Alicia in middle school. I used to think she was the most perfect person on earth; she could do no wrong. I think I liked her because she was one of the popular kids but she was super nice to me. And as a self-proclaimed nerd, that was cool. Like I thought so much of her that if I were hanging off a cliff with a rope tied to my ankles and she cut the rope…I would tell everyone “It’s not her fault! Someone made her do it!”
BWK: What was your favorite music/band in high school?
CW: I liked everything musically but my affinity for great R&B and even jazz, was due to my dad’s influence. My dad listened to Kenny G. I know everyone makes fun of him but I thought he was the man back then. (Side note: BWK did in fact make fun of Craig for this)
The other album that I listened to so often was Maxwell’s album titled Now. It was just his face and like an orange cover. I knew every single lyric to every single song on that album. That was like the only album we would listen to on the way to soccer games. I really don’t think my dad took that album out of the car’s CD player for an entire year.
As far as like my soundtrack to my high school days though, I would say that it would have to be the band The Fall Out Boys.
BWK: What do you remember most about living abroad? Any interesting stories that the readers would enjoy knowing from your time out there?
CW: Without sounding too philosophical, the one thing I really learned from living abroad was unselfishness. Let me give you an example: We lived on a base of Americans in another person’s country, as a result of the most horrific thing that has ever happened on the earth (WWII), yet we loved the Germans and they loved us. You would think that if there was a base of Germans that was placed in like Lexington, Kentucky, how outraged people would be. But the Germans were not like that at all. I don’t remember anyone being too upset, being discriminatory, or even being messed with for that matter. Even when we moved back there the second time, the Czech Republic was tearing itself apart with Germany right next door, 9/11 had happened…etc., and the people were still friendly and unselfish.
BWK: So you were in Germany for 9/11?
CW: Yes I was. I happened to be home after school; which was different from all of my stateside friends since I was 6 hours ahead of them and already finished school for the day. Anyway, I only had about 7 channels to watch and I was trying to find Cartoon Network. Then I saw it and thought it was a movie trailer or a commercial. But something inside told me to call my dad. So I did. At first my dad tried to tell me over the phone by telling me that a plane crashed into a building. Well at 10 yrs old, that was not a good enough answer for me. I had a ton of questions about the incident, where it happened and what the World Trade Center was. My dad then told me that he would explain it when he got home. The base was on lockdown with a ton of extra security around. There was a gate that was always opened, we could come and go as we pleased. Now this gate was locked. It was an experience for sure.
BWK: What was your very first paying job?
CW: My parents didn’t want me to pursue getting a job because they were all about focusing on school and being a kid. I mean I had mowed some yards and such for neighbors. That reminds me of a funny little story. I remember there was a neighbor when I lived in San Antonio that paid me about $20 a day to feed their cats and water their plants. I remember being so irresponsible about this. It was such an easy job as they were just two houses down. I would sometimes forget to go, or I would lose the key, or just felt like an 11 yr old lazy kid. And if I did go, I would water those plants with a TON of water, thinking that I could pass on it for a few more days – not realizing you could drown a plant.
But seriously, the first actual paying job where I received a paycheck was when I attended West Texas A&M. I did it for all four years and actually when I first started, I thought it was a volunteer gig, so when I found out I was getting a paycheck, I freaked out. I was a peer leader at the campus; basically we were the face of the school. The kids would come out for orientation, usually during the summer, and we were assigned to them; kind of like their role models. We would hang out with them all day making sure they had all that they needed. These kids were already accepted into the school, they just had not yet enrolled for their classes. We were not there to recruit and we were not there as a tour guide. What I really loved was that it was workplace simulated. If there was a problem that we saw, we would fix it. My boss would come to me and tell me that we were involved and if there were changes that needed to be made in order for it to be better, whatever it was, then we should do it. It was very empowering. I am the only one, that I know of, that did it for all four years. I really enjoyed it and am still good friends with some of those incoming freshman today.
BWK: Do you remember how much your first paycheck was?
CW: We made an annual salary of $3,500 a year. Every other week I got a check for $146, like clockwork. I could not wait until payday and roll myself to payroll services for those checks!!
BWK: If you were not gifted as a football player, what do you think you would be doing right now?
CW: I would still be in school getting my composite Masters degree in international relations and national security. My emphasis in school was politics and American history and I wanted to pursue a career in a government-related field like the FBI or national defense.
BWK: Which professional athlete during your lifetime have you admired most?
CW: I loved and admired all sports and so I had a player or two from each sport that I really admired. In basketball it is Lebron James. I do watch and like watching basketball a lot, and cheered for the Chicago Bulls. Many pro basketball players I liked; kind of random, but I loved watching Shaq and Reggie Miller. As far as Reggie I really began to appreciate him more and his competitiveness on the court. In baseball, and I am not that big of a baseball fan, it was Ken Griffey Jr. He was such a pure athlete. Football wise, it was Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Those two have a great passion for the sport and their positions and I think those two are the most I identify with.
BWK: If there was a player, former or current, whom you want to mirror, who is it and why?
CW: One of the things that I would really like to become is a student of the game, become more knowledgeable about the game. In my position, there are multiple players whom I would like to mirror. I dont want to mold myself and my game after one guy but take a little from this person and a little from this person. For example, I would take the consistency of a Jonathan Ogden. He was reliable and that is a trait of a very good lineman; more accountable than flashy. His longevity as well is something that I would like to shoot for in my career. Another player at my position I would take from would be Bruce Matthews. His versatility would be the thing I take from him. Bruce was, I believe, a Pro Bowl player at two different positions; starting 3 or 4 years at a different position on the line. Now of course there are plenty of players that I am surrounded by daily with the Chargers, that I would learn from. As far as a current lineman whom I would take something from would be Joe Thomas (OT for the Cleveland Browns). I think his burst and speed is incredible. His first step out of his stance is tremendous and something to watch.
BWK: What is your most embarrassing moment?
CW: There are so many moments, but the first one that popped in my head was when I was about 8 years old and most of the time I wanted to hang out with my brother who is 5 ½ years older than me. So of course, hanging out with older kids is “very cool” right? So anyway, one day I was playing Monopoly with my brother, a few of our neighbor friends and one of their moms. I had just learned the word condominium, or at least associating it with hotels for the game. Anyway, at one point I remember cashing out my houses and saying “Yeah, put me down for new condoms.” Everybody was looking at me wondering what I just said. I didn’t even know what I said, I was just acting like I knew a big word
BWK: What is your greatest fear?
CW: I would say in the most simplest terms, that it would be death. As I got older, it wasn’t just the mere fact of dying that I feared. Let me explain this. When I was 11 years old, I remember being at home and watching re-runs of MTV shows. All of a sudden I had this weird nervous breakdown, like something that you might get going through a midlife crisis. At the moment for some reason I realized that we were all going to die someday.
BWK: Was it a certain show that you watched or something you saw on the TV that triggered this feeling?
CW: No, I think it was the fact that I was sitting around doing nothing. Like I thought to myself, “I’m wasting my life.” I am not sure what caused it, I couldn’t tell you. But I was just sitting there and it randomly hit me. I called my dad. I don’t know how a father is supposed to take that kind of call from his 11-year-old son ya know? Like he was just sitting there and now fielding a call from his son who just randomly, and through a sobbing voice, found out about the death of all humanity. As I have gotten older, my biggest fear is just…to not be. It is not the death or the dying that is my fear, it is the not existing. For example, Genghis Khan. Like his world was horrible but it was life back then. Now life is great and he wasn’t able to witness these times. That is what I mean. Like what is the world going to be and look like in 100 or 200 years? And knowing that I will not be able to witness or know what happens is my fear. Our brains can not imagine the absence of time or space, and I think that was my attempt to try and understand that. Because we don’t control our destiny and I feel that when it’s my time, it is my time. That’s the delicate balance when it comes to our own mortality.
BWK: What is your definition of happiness?
CW: To be free of sadness. Your happiness is dictated by what pleases you in life, by whatever your passion is. It is being content. If you don’t long for anything or you’re not looking at anything that would secure your place in life, you are happy. There are things left that I want to accomplish so in a micro sense, I am content and happy with where I am at. On the macro level of contentment, I know there is much more I want to experience and do which will ultimately define my overall happiness.
I would like to thank Craig for giving his time in providing this glimpse into his life. I want to wish him a very Happy Birthday today (June 20th, 2015), and wish him nothing but happiness and success. Most of us know what kind of player he is and how valuable he will be when he gets the call. I hope that with this interview people will see what an exceptional and valuable human being he is, as well as a talented football player.
Thanks for reading.
- Brian “Big Kahuna” Scott
Booga: There is a feeling among the fans in San Diego that the brunt of the work on finding a stadium location has been placed on the Los Angeles area (Carson and Inglewood). Although that sentiment warrants some consideration, over a dozen years have been spent trying to find a solution in San Diego. How would you respond to the fans that feel that way?
Mark: I can’t blame fans for feeling that way, because we have made such quick progress in Los Angeles in just a few months while making so little progress in San Diego even after 14 years of work.
What we’ve tried to explain to fans is that the Los Angeles and San Diego markets are significantly different. In LA, the market is large enough to finance the stadium out of revenues generated by the stadium. In our smaller market here in San Diego, that same type of financing solution simply isn’t possible.
But no amount of explaining will keep our passionate fans from feeling frustrated, and I can’t blame them. After 14 years of work, the fans have every right to expect more progress than they’ve seen here in San Diego.
Booga: To show the readers that you are a fan of the team, what is your favorite moment in Chargers’ history?
Mark: The epic, overtime playoff game against Miami in the early 1980s. The incredible performance by Kellen Winslow and the rest of the team. I’ll never forget watching that game – I still remember to this day that Don Criqui was the announcer. Criqui was old school.
Booga: After CSAG submitted its initial proposal regarding their plan for a stadium in San Diego, what were your thoughts regarding the work they put into devising a plan that they believe would be workable?
Mark: My thought after the CSAG report was released was pretty much the same thought I had when the Mayor announced the creation of CSAG: We are running out of time. With the pressure that Stan Kroenke and the Rams were putting on us in Inglewood, we had hoped to move forward quickly to get something before the voters in San Diego in 2015. We felt this way in January, when the Mayor created the task force, and we have felt this way every day since. And while we are pleased that the city has now assembled a good group of experts led by Christopher Melvin of the Nixon Peabody law firm, it sure would have been nice to have been working with these experts last year – or even starting in January, when CSAG was created. Waiting for CSAG to conclude, and only then starting with the experts on June 2, constituted a huge loss of time – time that we can’t get back.
Booga: It appears to some that Mayor Faulconer and his team have no desire to explore downtown San Diego as an option for a stadium. The Chargers and Dean Spanos seem to be interested in seeking a viable option in downtown. Has the focus turned to downtown, or is the team willing to find a solution at the Mission Valley site?
Mark: Yes, the Mayor and his allies in the hotel industry have made it absolutely clear that they have no interest in the downtown option. CSAG’s chair said that anyone who believed downtown was viable was “delusional.” And the CSAG reports lists reason after reason why the downtown option can’t work. With all of this, it’s hard to see how the downtown option can be revived, at least in the short term.
Booga: How big of a role do the hoteliers have in deciding whether or not a stadium could be built in downtown?
Mark: The hoteliers call the shots on many of the important issues facing the City of San Diego, and they certainly do so on the possibility of a combined stadium-convention center downtown.
Of course, most people don’t follow the machinations of the hoteliers very closely. But if they did, they would be very surprised at what they would see.
For example, for years the hoteliers have insisted that any expansion to the Convention Center be contiguous – which means that the expansion must be connected to the existing facility. The hotel lobby said that a contiguous expansion was essential because that’s what the customers of the Convention Center wanted.
Of course, the hoteliers’ plan for accomplishing this has been thwarted by the courts; the legally dubious taxing mechanism proposed for the project was decisively struck down by the courts, and several environmental challenges against the project are still pending. Through that whole process, more than four years and $10 million in taxpayer money were wasted – only for the city to come up empty in the end.
So, at the behest of the hoteliers, the City is paying for another study of Convention Center customers to re-evaluate the idea of a contiguous expansion. And I’m going to go way out on a limb here and predict that this study is going to show – as Gomer Pyle used to say on The Andy Griffith Show – “surprise, surprise, surprise!” It turns out that our customers have changed their minds and now want a non-contiguous expansion after all! And when this happens, I bet no one will call out the hoteliers for carrying out this elaborate but obvious ruse.
Booga: The NFL owners and the NFL play a bigger role than most are aware of involving the stadium issue. Can you explain to the fans what their impact means to achieving a resolution to keep the Chargers in San Diego?
Mark: Most fans probably know at this point that the relocation of an NFL franchise from one city to another requires a three-fourths vote of the owners – 24 votes out of 32 owners. From the start of our new stadium efforts 14 years ago, we have always shown the utmost respect for the process established by the NFL’s owners. We have done everything possible to keep the League fully informed every step of the way, and the requirements imposed on us by the NFL’s relocation guidelines have been at the top of our minds throughout. In short, we have been very clear on this fundamental point: We will respect the decisions made by the owners about Los Angeles and San Diego.
Booga: Can you explain how the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) affects the situation via the courts?
Mark: CEQA law is pretty turgid stuff, and we only know so much about it because we have paid millions of dollars in legal fees over the years to understand it – because unless you understand CEQA, you will never be able to complete a major construction project in California.
So, despite the complicated nature of the topic, I will take a shot here at summarizing what CEQA means, and why it presents such a challenge for us right now here in San Diego. But readers, please be warned: Prepare to be bored.
CEQA is the landmark California state law requiring that all state and local legislative bodies fully account for the environmental impacts of proposed legislation before the legislation is passed.
For major projects, such as an NFL stadium and a possible ancillary development, CEQA requires that the legislative body conduct a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR), submit the EIR for public comment, incorporate or otherwise account for the public’s input, and then certify the EIR. Once the EIR is certified, the legislative body is free to adopt the project. At that point, for controversial projects in California, complaining parties typically sue to challenge the adequacy of the EIR, and on complex projects the resulting litigation can stall the project and consume several years of time.
What does all of this have to do with the City of San Diego and the Chargers?
An action by the City Council to place a stadium ballot measure before the voters is a legislative act and so must be cleared under CEQA. The standard method of accomplishing this for a complicated stadium project is to conduct a full-blown EIR – a process that usually takes from 12-to-18 months from start to certification by the City Council.
Even though the Mayor Faulconer took office in 2014, the city’s leaders have as of this date not even begun an EIR on the stadium project. Clearly, then there is no longer the opportunity to complete a legitimate, legally defensible EIR in time for a 2015 vote.
To get around this problem, the city has proposed, in three formal negotiating sessions and many informal conversations, four means of circumventing the traditional CEQA EIR process:
- Legislative Exemption: At our first formal negotiation session, the city’s team said that the only way to clear CEQA in time for a 2015 vote was to persuade the California state legislature to pass a law exempting the entire stadium/ancillary development project from CEQA. No other project of this type in California has ever received such a complete exemption, and we do not believe that such an exemption will be forthcoming from the legislation in this case. In any event, an exemption passed by the state legislature in 2015 would not take legal effect until next year and so would not apply to any 2015 ballot measure.
- Categorical Exemption: There are exemptions in CEQA for some projects. At our second formal meeting, the city argued that the stadium project was exempt from CEQA because we would simply be “replacing” the old stadium with the new stadium. This argument received serious legal scrutiny both by our legal team and by experts quoted in the media, and a consensus quickly emerged that this option was legally dubious.
- Reliance on 1983 Stadium Expansion EIR: At our third formal negotiating session, the city proposed to create an addendum for a 1983 EIR that was prepared for a 7,000 seat expansion of the stadium. The city maintained that the addendum could be prepared quickly and would not be subject to public review. Once again, we concluded based on all the advice we received that this approach was legally invalid because the 1983 EIR – which is all of 20-odd pages long – had nothing to do with the construction of a brand new stadium, the demolition of an old stadium, and an ancillary development. Therefore, it would not be possible to create a legally sufficient addendum that would pass CEQA muster.
- Quickie EIR: When it became clear that the city’s first three ideas for circumventing CEQA were untenable, the city proposed to conduct an EIR in time for a January 2016 ballot measure. To accomplish this, the city would have to begin the EIR immediately, spend roughly one month writing the EIR, begin the 45 day public review process, and then take time to account for the public comments – all prior to the mid-October date when the City Council would have to vote to place the matter on the January 2016 ballot.
Preparing a full EIR for a project of this magnitude in such a short period of time is unprecedented in California, and the resulting product would be so slipshod that plaintiffs’ lawyers would have an easy time having the document invalidated by the courts.
Booga: How did the Carson and Inglewood projects avoid the CEQA process?
Mark: Citizen’s initiatives are not subject to CEQA, and both the Carson and Inglewood stadiums were entitled through citizen’s initiatives.
A successful citizen’s initiative must be sponsored by a group or entity that has the financial resources to draft the initiative, gather signatures, and manage an effective election campaign. Starting from scratch today, the soonest a citizen’s initiative could reach the ballot in San Diego, if everything went smoothly, would be April or May of 2016. Finally, there is now a move in the California legislature to close the CEQA loophole that allows citizen’s initiatives of this type, and it is quite possible, even likely, that the law will be changed before there could be a vote on a citizen’s initiative in San Diego.
Booga: Why can’t an EIR be done in a month or two, if the city is prepared to throw significant resources behind the effort?
Mark: There is an entire class of plaintiffs’ lawyers in California that exists solely to challenge EIRs and then collect legal fees from taxpayers when the lawyers win in court. No EIR is legally bulletproof, but to get as close as possible to that goal would require 12-to-18 months of serious work. It is simply not possible to do the necessary work in a month or two.
Booga: San Diego’s mayor believes that the options identified for circumventing CEQA are legally defensible. Why isn’t that good enough for the Chargers?
Mark: The city has a very different tolerance for risk than the Chargers do. For example, four years ago the current city leadership proposed a novel way of increasing the hotel tax, without a public vote, to finance a convention center expansion. Many observers, including the Chargers, said at the time that the tax measure was illegal and that it would be struck down by the courts. The city’s leadership decided to move forward nonetheless and take their chances in court. Now, five years and $10 million in taxpayer money later, the tax was declared illegal by a unanimous court of appeals and the city has no Convention Center expansion plan.
The Chargers are in no position to roll the legal dice in this way. The team would be expected to fund, at a cost of perhaps up to ten million dollars, the election campaign, the vote, and the subsequent legal defense of the vote. And even if the team prevails at the ballot box, the project would be stalled by years of litigation which the team and city are likely to lose in the end.
Booga: Why must there be a public vote? Can’t the City Council simply adopt the stadium funding plan?
Mark: A City Council vote on a stadium plan would still require CEQA clearance and a full EIR.
In addition, a City Council vote would be subject to the California referendum process, which allows citizens who don’t like what the Council did to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot a referendum invalidating the City Council’s action. Opponents of taxpayer funding for a stadium in San Diego would almost certainly gather sufficient signatures to qualify a referendum for the ballot. The entire project would then be put on hold until the next regularly scheduled election. In short, there will likely be a public vote on the stadium project one way or another. The only questions are how the matter reaches the ballot, and when.
Finally, the Mayor and a majority of the City Council and County Board of Supervisors have insisted that there be a public vote on the expenditure of any public money for a stadium. These political leaders are unlikely to reverse their positions.
Booga: The City and County of San Diego are committed to spending several hundred million dollars of public money on a stadium project. Isn’t that significant?
Mark: The City and County haven’t committed anything yet. Any expenditure of public funds would have to be approved by voters. In the case of a tax increase, a two-thirds vote of approval is required under California law.
In addition, even if there is voter approval, the City and County of San Diego are both proposing to finance the project with money from their General Funds. In the City’s case, this would likely require the sale of Lease Revenue Bonds; in the County’s case, this would require several different appropriations over a period of years. Taking money from the General Fund to pay for a stadium will generate a vigorous public backlash and legal challenges by those who believe that vital services — such as police, fire and public pensions — will be imperiled by this funding mechanism.
Booga: How badly do you want the Chargers to remain in San Diego? Or are you strictly focused on what provides the Spanos’ family with the most lucrative deal possible?
Mark: If Dean and his family didn’t want the Chargers to remain in San Diego, we would have given up long ago. There have been stadium options available in LA going back to 2003, when AEG was proposing a stadium near Staples Center. Ed Roski’s stadium site in the City of Industry was fully entitled in 2008. AEG’s Farmers Field site has been fully entitled for years now as well. If the Spanos family wanted to move the Chargers out of San Diego, the team would have been gone a long time ago.
Booga: There has been a dark picture painted of you via the media and other outlets. It would appear that some do not understand that you have a job to do, and that you must do your due diligence to weigh all options in an effort to find a successful model for a stadium. How do you respond to the critics? Or do you?
Mark: We knew we would create plenty of controversy in January that when we decided to increase the pressure on San Diego political leaders to act. But we felt we had no choice, because of the move that the Rams made in Inglewood.
So, when I speak to fans, or e-mail with them, I try to ask a simple question: If we had simply remained quiet and allowed CSAG’s work to continue until the Fall – which is the schedule that the Mayor first proposed – would our chances of solving this problem have increased, or decreased? My strong view is that if we had simply said nothing, right now we would all be sitting around and waiting for CSAG to finish work in October or November – just as the NFL owners are in the process of considering the Los Angeles question.
Of course, fans have every right to their own opinions about the wisdom of our strategy, and I have no business trying to talk them out of those opinions. But I’m comfortable with the new strategy that we pursued once our hand was forced in January by events in Inglewood.
Booga: In closing, do you have anything to say to the fans of the San Diego Chargers that gives them a true sense of hope when it comes to their team staying put in America’s finest city?
Mark: Anyone who tells you how the Los Angeles relocation process is going to play out at the NFL ownership level is engaging in pure speculation. There isn’t anyone who truly knows how the situation will ultimately resolve itself. And whatever resolution occurs is going to be impacted by important events that have not yet occurred.
Finally, a great deal might depend on how the San Diego political leadership decides to treat the NFL and the Chargers going forward. The good news here is that the city has finally assembled experts in stadium finance who might, we hope, advise a different, more sophisticated approach to the Chargers and to the NFL than the one that some of the city’s political leaders have taken so far.
I am going to get right to the point. A press release was sent out today regarding the Chargers’ thoughts about a December 2015 vote being put in place to keep the Chargers in San Diego. I have been fortunate enough to be in contact with Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers, about this topic.
Here’s the press release:
Chargers release statement on today’s negotiations with city pic.twitter.com/ydLQuXVxLE
— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) June 16, 2015
Below he provides the reasoning behind why the Chargers and their team don’t believe that a December 2015 vote will work.
By the end of our meetings with the city and county negotiators today, and then with our attorneys afterwards, we came to the conclusion that there was no legally viable way to make a 2015 ballot. It was really that simple. We ran through all of the ideas we had, and that the city ‘s experts had, and concluded that it just wasn’t viable.
For the third year in a row I have had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Rank of NFL Fantasy Live and NFL.com. Not only is he incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to fantasy football, high-quality music and Star Wars, he is a really cool, down-to-earth guy.
I met Adam in New York at the 2013 NFL draft. I have interviewed him a handful of times over the last three years and he has yet to disappoint.
Booga: It is that time of year again. It’s time for all of the fantasy football players to get that much-needed info to build a Championship fantasy team. With the No. 1 pick, in this year’s fantasy football draft, fans should select?
Adam: I’m going with Eddie Lacy. Too often, we as fantasy enthusiasts can be reactionary. But it’s going to be important to be proactive here, so I like Lacy a ton. He had some injuries last year and ran o.k. early in the season. But he averaged close to five-yards per carry during the last 10 games of the season. And he plays in one of the top offenses in the league, which is nice.
But perhaps the biggest reason why I like him over a player like Adrian Peterson (who seems to be the consensus No. 1) is that he’s involved in the passing game. He established a career-high in touchdown receptions last year and I see him taking a bigger role for the coming year.
Jamaal Charles is another candidate for the top spot, but dang, he’s the only guy in Kansas City. He gets bullied way too much by opposing defenses. I hope Jeremy Maclin helps him out a little bit, but dang, I get bummed for the guy.
So I’m going Lacy. And if I’m at the end of the first-round, I’m thinking about going WR (like Antonio Brown).
Booga: I asked the fans to submit some fantasy football questions. Here is one from Thomas Powell. “With the Chargers adding to their offensive line, and, especially, the drafting of Melvin Gordon, how will this affect Philip Rivers’ numbers as a fantasy quarterback?”
Adam: Rivers average draft position is in the ninth round. That’s a tremendous value for a guy I have a lot of confidence in.
Everybody is going to pass on him in drafts because they fear his best days are behind him. But as long as Chris Watt continues to develop, Rivers will have another fine season. To me, that’s the key. Making sure that center position is all square and ready to go. People outside of San Diego don’t get how great Nick Hardwick was. It’s a pretty jarring transition to go to a new center.
Booga: Another fan question. Nick Millican asks, “Can you please rank your top-five rookie fantasy players for the upcoming season?”
Adam: This is an interesting one. I think the key to this is, who is the best fantasy running back out there. And I really like T.J. Yeldon in Jacksonville. I know, the Jaguars get besmirched a lot by NFL fans. But they are a pretty fun team. As a former Chargers season ticket holder, I can vouch for the Jags fans. They are a lot like you. Laid-back, but passionate and better fans than they (and you) are given credit for. Why do people think just because we have nice weather, we can’t care about the NFL?
But I digress because none of that really has anything to do with why Yeldon will be good. I like his situation down in Duval County. The Jaguars have made some improvements on the offensive line with Jeremy Parnell and Steve Wisniewski. Plus the team is going to want to run the ball an absolute ton. Which will be great. Yeldon doesn’t have the break-away speed, but he can be that Emmitt Smith-type of runner. I’m pretty high. Oh, and I’m pretty high on him.
After that I like Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, Todd Gurley (he’s going to be a stud at the end of the season) and Ameer Abdullah. I met Ameer at the Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles (I know, I’ll stop name-dropping at some point. Actually, I probably won’t), and I really liked him. I have this irrational thing where I’m drawn to people who are pretty cool.
Remember that when I (expletive) can Amari Cooper. Actually, if you want to mix in a rookie receiver, Kevin White is pretty damn good. Cooper’s ADP is the fifth round, White is the seventh. Nelson Agholor is right around the seventh. I’d take both of those guys over Cooper.
And for the record. If the unthinkable happens and the Chargers fold, and a new team springs up in Los Angeles called the “Chargers” (which is weird because the same stuff happened with the Rams and St. Louis), I would endorse you becoming Jaguars fans. They are cool fans. But let’s not think about such awful things.
Booga: It seems as though we have all been waiting for Ladarius Green to break out and make an impact at the tight end position, both on the field and in fantasy football. Is this the year that Green should be slotted as high as past expectations would see him drafted?
Adam: It seems like we’ve waited years for Laddy Green to make his impact. Enough to make me wonder if it’s ever going to happen. So I would end up taking a pass on him. I don’t like to stockpile tight ends anyway, and so I feel like he’s out of the Top 12 right now. I know Mike McCoy has said he wants to get Green more involved in the offense. But I have to put it in the “believe it when I see it” category.
Booga: With the turmoil surrounding Adrian Peterson and his time with the Vikings, is he still a player that should be drafted in the top three?
Adam: Oh yeah. Like I mentioned previously, Eddie Lacy is my top guy. I feel good about that. Peterson is my No. 2. He’s motivated. And he has a great coach in Minnesota. Look at some of the running backs Norv Turner has worked with (as an offensive coordinator). I mean, as awful as Norv can be as a head coach, dude is an exceptional offensive coordinator (which is why he continues to get these head coaching gigs).
I still can’t believe the Chargers passed on Rex Ryan to hire Turner. I know Ryan’s time in New York ended poorly, but he didn’t have a quarterback like Philip Rivers, either. I say he would have brought a fresh attitude to the Chargers during his tenure and I surmise he would still be the coach here in San Diego. Or down there in San Diego. I’m in Los Angeles right now, but you get my drift.
Seriously, why do the Chargers want to come to L.A.? San Diego is so much better. I’m telling you, I would take a gig in San Diego if the Chargers are committed to stay. I’ll go work for Fox Sports San Diego, do a show on XTRA 1360. I’d go to the Viejas Arena and support the Aztecs unless they are playing the Titans or Rebels. I’m in! But why does San Diego want out? I blame the Padres for building a beautiful stadium, and then not having a competitive team for so long.
But there I go again.
Booga: Chargers wideout Keenan Allen, despite having more receptions last year than he did as a rookie, experienced a sophomore slump of sorts. Where do you believe he should go in fantasy drafts? Is he only reliable in PPR leagues?
Adam: Allen is going to be a great value this season. I’m ready to kind of write-off last year, not so much as a sophomore slump, but as a bad season for the team in general. There was a turnstile at the center position. Danny Woodhead and a host of running backs got hurt. The team was a mess. So everybody suffered accordingly. Allen unfairly gets criticized because people over-drafted him and were burned. That’s the way fantasy enthusiasts operate. Hell, I’m still a little wary to draft Adrian Peterson because he nearly wrecked my team last year.
But I was surprised to see his ADP was in round five so far. Realize the only people doing drafts right now are the marks, the inside people who are super serious about fantasy. If those guys (and gals) are serious about Keenan, I feel very good about it.
Booga: Antonio Gates surprised so many last season, recording 12 receiving touchdowns. What should fans expect for his fantasy output in 2015?
Adam: I honestly don’t know, dude. I mean, you can continue to predict a drop-off for Gates every year and you will be right at some point. He has an ADP of the late-ninth round right now, which is a pretty good. I can live with that. If you are the type who likes to wait for a tight end and see what happens, that’s a good move. You can handcuff him with Laddy.
But if I’m projecting out for Gates, I can see about eight touchdowns. He’s still going to be a valuable asset for your team. He might not get double-digit touchdowns again, but he’s going to be good.
Booga: How does the trading of LeSean McCoy to the Bills affect his fantasy status? Is it safe to say that he will thrive in Buffalo’s offense?
Adam: I liked this deal. It was a good move for Buffalo. (And another fine set of football fans, too.) I really like the volume he’s going to get with the Bills. Ryan is going to want to run the ball a ton. Or more to the point, he’s going to have to run the ball a ton. And you’ve all read the reports the Bills want McCoy to lead the league in carries, much like DeMarco Murray did last year. So that’s encouraging.
The only downside is Fred Jackson. The guy always seems to find a way to weasel into our fantasy hearts. Watch, McCoy will end up getting dinged a little bit and here comes Action Jackson to get like 200 touches. It’s uncanny.
Also, McCoy was kind of salty because I gave him a fun little ribbing during the Madden Bowl. Geeze, dude. Why do you have to be so sensitive? He can’t take a little good-natured ribbing?
Booga: Odell Beckham Jr. posted phenomenal receiving numbers as a rookie in only 12 games played. If Beckham Jr. plays all 16 games, where do you believe he should be drafted?
Adam: OBJ’s rookie season was kind of like Guns-n-Roses debut album, “Appetite for Destruction”. You might want to Google that, kids. It was a big hit when I was a young boy, and trust me, it was huge. But the follow-up, well, not so much. I mean, I could go through tracks on the Illusion albums and find some hits. But it’s never going to be Appetite.
So it’s hard to expect OBJ to reach similar type numbers this year. Especially if he’s got this hamstring problem that lingers. Still, though. I love OBJ. Loved him at LSU. I’m probably going to overspend for him. Just because he was so amazing last year. Eli Manning is going to have a full offseason to get familiar with Ben McAdoo’s offense. So I see some big things. Plus Victor Cruz should help ease the pressure off OBJ a little bit, too. Hell, if the Giants can establish a ground game, he can be even better.
Great, now my expectations for OBJ are similar to the expectations I had for “Chinese Democracy” I just hope I don’t have to wait more than a decade for it.
And for the record, “Chinese Democracy” is a pretty great album.
Booga: Last year’s rushing leader, DeMarco Murray, crushed opposing ball carriers by almost 500 yards rushing in 2014. Now that he is in Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia, sharing the workload with newly acquired Ryan Mathews and former-Charger Darren Sproles, what type of fantasy impact do you think he’ll have in 2015? Where should he be drafted?
Adam: He currently holds an ADP of the second-round, just ahead of C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill. And I would take both of those guys ahead of Murray. I just fear a guy who was unhealthy for most of his career, suddenly found a magic elixir that made him healthy enough to run behind the best offensive line in the game. Now he’s got to share the load with your buddy Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles (another one of your buddies!), so there might not be enough of an opportunity for him.
At least he will be motivated in two games against the Cowboys! So there is that. But I’m going to find another direction in Round 2, and if he somehow makes it to the third round and he’s sitting there? Fine. But I don’t anticipate that.
Booga: Charger fans everywhere, myself included, are extremely excited about the drafting of running back Melvin Gordon. With a big, run-blocking offensive line, what are your expectations for the rookie runner out of Wisconsin?
Adam:Remember when I said that I have this thing where I will always lean towards the guys I meet in person and favor them? I really liked Melvin when I met him. So that is either good or bad depending on your perspective.
The big thing is the offensive line. Can it play well enough to open the holes for Gordon? The sizeable holes he enjoyed at Wisconsin? If the o-line plays well, Gordon will be the top rookie running back. The team is already trying to work him into the passing game. Listen to McCoy, he talked about pass protection when it came to Gordon and that’s a huge sign. So take this as a good thing.
Booga: In an effort to give you a bit of bragging rights, how many fantasy football championships do you own? And, please, be specific when it comes the ‘ships that were obtained among your peers at the NFL Network and NFL.com.
Adam: Oh stop, it’s not about the championships. I’ve done great on the NFL Fantasy Live League. I’m the Patriots of that league, replete with pushing the rules. But there is one league that continues to hang over my head. It is a keeper league. Over the last five years, my team has been: Tom Brady/Andrew Luck, Peterson, Forte, Le’Veon Bell, Alfred Morris, Brandon Marshall, Josh Gordon (his good year) and Rob Gronkowski. I never won that league. I always lose on the worst circumstances. Two years ago, I lost to the guy who played Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith that one week against the Raiders. I was going to win last year because I did pretty well with my waiver wire guys (I had CJ and Hill), but Luck put up a donut. It’s the best because I can never win it.
I would like to thank Adam for taking the time to do this interview. As expected, his responses were intelligent and humorous. You can follow him on Twitter @adamrank and you can catch him on NFL Fantasy Live on NFL Network.
Thanks a lot for reading.
EDITOR’S NOTE: With all of the uncertainty regarding the stadium situation in San Diego, we here at BoltBlitz.com thought it would be helpful to request and obtain an interview with Mark Fabiani, special counsel to the Chargers. Mr. Fabiani was kind enough to agree to the interview. BoltBlitz reporter Thomas Powell asked some very difficult questions, and Mr. Fabiani did not shy away from answering any of them in a very blunt and honest manner.
Thomas Powell: In your meeting with CSAG in January, they said your position on the location of a new stadium was “agnostic”. Many people believe the Chargers favored downtown for a variety of reasons. What do you believe led to the miscommunications, if there were any?
Mark Fabiani: One of many problems created by meetings that aren’t public, and that aren’t transcribed in any way, is that people can come out of those meetings and say whatever they want about what occurred in the meeting – and there is simply no way for the public to sort out what actually happened.
That’s why, right when I appeared before CSAG, we made public the text of my testimony. That testimony can be read in full here: http://www.chargers.com/news/2015/02/16/chargers-remarks-stadium-task-force-extended-version. I’m sure that fair-minded readers will conclude that the team’s position is made very clear in this testimony.
Indeed, over the last 14 years, we’ve made our position on various sites extremely clear. We have spoken regularly with the media and with the community at hundreds of public events. And over all of that time, our position hasn’t changed: What’s most important is finding a funding solution that works for the public, the elected officials, the Chargers, and the NFL. Once you figure out a mutually acceptable financing solution, the exact site chosen is of secondary importance. Remember, over the last 14 years, we have carefully evaluated sites in Chula Vista (two separate sites), National City, Oceanside, and Escondido as well as several in the City of San Diego.
Of course, having worked on this for 14 years, we have our own strong views – formed with the help of people who we’ve hired and who we believe to be the best experts around – about which sites are financeable and which ones aren’t.
Now, CSAG has said that it believes that the Mission Valley site can be financed in a publicly acceptable way, and we look forward to reviewing the plan when it is released in May.
Thomas Powell: Eric Grubman is the NFL executive VP for the NFL. Tony Manolatos is the CSAG spokesperson. Tony accused you and Grubman on an LA Radio Sports Station of being in a bluff scheme regarding the Carson stadium issue. I found his statements to be damaging to the process of getting a deal done here in San Diego. Tony said on the show, The Beast 980am, “We do think that Carson was collectively a big bluff, if you will, built around PSL’s. Mr. Fabiani used to be a consultant for Goldman Sachs. Mr. Grubman used to work for Goldman Sachs. So, there are many existing relationships there. We are not surprised that Goldman stepped up and said, ‘we’re going to be involved.’ I wanted to give you a chance to respond to Tony’s comments here.
Mark Fabiani: I can’t explain why the Mayor’s Office and CSAG chose to hire the spokesperson they hired, and why they apparently agree with his continuing efforts to criticize NFL officials, the Chargers, Carson elected officials, and Goldman Sachs. That’s really a question for the Mayor’s Office and CSAG.
Thomas Powell: In an article in the San Diego Reader on April 3, 2015, by Matt Potter, questions were raised about Jason Roe. Jason is Kevin Faulconer’s top political consultant. Now the city is negotiating with Delaware North, a food and beverage service contractor for sports’ venues. They have been rumored to have an interest in replacing Centerfield as the Padres’ main concessions provider. Roe has a new lobbying firm that was retained to provide support for Delaware North taking over said contract. What concerns do you have, if any, about Jason Roe and his relationship with the Mayor Faulconer?
Mark Fabiani: On February 17, we sent a letter to the Mayor asking what we thought were reasonable questions about Mr. Roe’s role. A copy of that letter can be found here. The Mayor chose to not answer those questions. Since then, although the Union Tribune has religiously avoided any critical reporting on this issue, other media outlets have launched their own inquiries. Take a look here http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/city-council-deal-could-pump-millions-into-an-endangered-qualcomm/, or here http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2015/apr/16/ticker-could-feds-be-prowling-mayors-qualcomm-DEAL/.
Thomas Powell: Many fans wonder, as it relates to the Carson and Inglewood projects, why are the Chargers so active in Los Angeles, yet so quiet here in San Diego? What message can you relay to the Charger fans in San Diego regarding this matter?
Mark Fabiani: Quiet in San Diego? I don’t think I agree with that assessment. On the contrary, ever since the Mayor announced in January that his task force would deliver its results in October, we have been extremely public about the need to speed up that timetable. And since then we have been extremely public about the concerns we have about how the entire task force process is unfolding.
But even before January, take a look at the last 14 years. We’ve made nine separate proposals. We have made available $400 million in funding from the Chargers and from NFL loans. To date, spanning 14 years, these are the only serious proposals that have ever been made, and ours is the only serious money that has ever been pledged to the project.
Thomas Powell: The Carson City Council just voted to enact the stadium initiative sponsored by the Chargers and the Raiders. What does that mean for the prospect of a new stadium in Los Angeles – and for San Diego’s prospects?
Mark Fabiani: The Carson City Council vote puts the stadium site in Carson on exactly the same footing as the proposed Inglewood stadium site. Both sites are now fully entitled, with financing plans in place and NFL teams committed to the sites if the teams cannot find solutions in their home markets. Ultimately, it will be up to the owners of the NFL to make the final decision, and the matter will only come to the owners if a team (or teams) submits a relocation application for Los Angeles. That would start a formal review process by NFL officials that would eventually culminate in a vote of the owners.
At the same time, both the Chargers and the Raiders have made clear from the outset that their first priority is to find solutions in their home markets. And both teams have made clear from the start that they intend to respect the decision of the NFL owners.
Thomas Powell: Speaking of NFL owners, the Chargers met this week with the NFL’s Los Angeles Committee, which is made up of some of the most influential owners in the League. Tell us about those meetings.
Mark Fabiani: Yes, on Wednesday afternoon at NFL headquarters in New York City, the Chargers and Raiders made a joint presentation to the LA Committee of owners. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve been before the Committee. Previously we have presented, with Goldman Sachs, the financing plan for Carson, along with our strategy for securing entitlements and initial architectural renderings of the proposed Los Angeles Stadium.
At this week’s meeting, our goal was to update the owners on the progress that has been made in Carson, unveil new LA stadium renderings that are the result of two months of close collaboration between the Raiders and Chargers, and update the Committee on the situations in each of our home markets. So the Chargers provided an update on the San Diego market, and the Raiders did the same thing for Oakland. Since Eric Grubman and Chris Hardart of the NFL had visited both cities just last week and had already reported back, I don’t think we added much that was new to the League about our home market, but we appreciated the opportunity to offer the update and to answer questions that the owners had.
Thomas Powell: Have the Chargers changed their stance at all regarding controlling the naming rights to a stadium and a revenue-sharing program? Is this a possible negotiating tool after the financial plan is announced in due time?
Mark Fabiani: As I made clear in my February testimony to CSAG, the only reason for any team to have a new stadium is to allow the team to remain financially competitive with the other teams in the NFL. If the stadium developer needs to take all of the stadium revenues to pay for construction, then the team would receive no stadium revenues and would be in a dramatically less-competitive financial position than the team is in its current stadium. And, throughout the NFL, teams generally receive the revenues derived from naming rights. So if the Chargers are going to be financially competitive over the long term in San Diego, the team needs access to the same revenue streams – including naming rights – that other teams receive in their home markets.
Thomas Powell: I would stand behind a special election in early 2016 on a stadium vote. Do the Chargers have a position on a possible special election?
Mark Fabiani: A special election will not lead to a successful result. The turnout in special elections is always extremely low, and the voters who do turn out in special elections in San Diego are inclined to vote against major public projects such as this one. Our only hope for success at the ballot box would be a high-turnout, general election – and unfortunately the next one of those elections is in November 2016.
Thomas Powell: Have the Chargers considered moving forward in San Diego just as you are doing in Carson, with the so-called “citizen action” strategy: Gathering signatures, qualifying a measure for the ballot, and then asking the City Council to adopt the measure as is once the signatures are certified?
Mark Fabiani: Yes, we have looked closely at this option for San Diego and concluded that, unfortunately, it is not likely to succeed here. Simply put, in San Diego, the stadium question is going to end up on the ballot, one way or the other.
That’s because any action taken by the City Council is subject to the referendum process. Opponents of the Council’s decision can gather signatures and demand that the Council’s decision be placed before the voters. Once that happens, everything stops and the Council’s decision is effectively nullified to allow the voters pass judgment on it. Generally, that would occur at the next regularly scheduled election.
We are seeing this process play out right now in San Diego around the One Paseo development project. After six years, the project finally emerged from the entitlement process, at which point opponents started to gather signatures to put the entire project on hold until voters can decide its fate at the next regularly scheduled election. And the exact same process is playing out now statewide, as opponents of the California legislature’s plastic ban bag qualified a referendum and so put a halt to the law’s implementation. Here is a good explanation of what happened to the legislature’s plastic bag ban law: http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-california-plastic-bag-ban-20150223-story.html
So, what would happen with a controversial City Council vote on the San Diego stadium project is that opponents would likely qualify a referendum – and the whole matter would end up on the ballot in 2016 anyway. That’s why, under these circumstances – if you have the time – you always try to put your project’s initiative on the ballot yourself, so that you can control the precise wording of the measure and the timing of the election.
Thomas Powell: There was a proposal to the Mission Valley site regarding the river walk presented by councilman Scott Sherman. You have studied the Mission Valley site for years. It seems to bring up a lot of potential obstacles that could aid in the effort to fund a stadium. What is your heart-felt message to the voters and Charger fans in San Diego? Have the Chargers communicated an opinion on the river walk proposal?
Mark Fabiani: We have a great relationship with Councilman Sherman, and we welcomed his recent involvement in the process. Councilman Sherman is exactly right when he says that the parking lot at the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley could be put to a much more productive and better use, including by creating a riverfront park.
This was the exact premise of the proposal we made to the City in 2004, which would have required the Chargers to finance the entire project (including a river-front park) in return for the City providing 60 of the 166 Mission Valley acres to the team. As you know, the City at the time refused to support our proposal.
What we encountered in 2004, and what Councilman Sherman’s press conference participants encountered more recently, are questions about what kind of density can be supported in Mission Valley in light of all of the other development that has occurred there in recent years. These issues are vital to the residents of Mission Valley, and they potentially create huge infrastructure improvement costs that must be added on to the cost of any project in Mission Valley.
One way or the other, though, as Councilman Sherman said, these issues will have to be dealt with at some point in the future, either as part of a stadium development or as part of a new use for the entire Mission Valley site.
We have promised to evaluate carefully CSAG’s Mission Valley proposal when it is made public. We look forward to doing that.
Thomas Powell: Are you okay being labeled the villain in all of this? Some view you as the most negative influence in all this, and the main reason there is so much friction between the Chargers and City Hall. Do you care about your reputation in San Diego? Or are you just focused on doing your job and being a good soldier? Basically, for the people who don’t know you, who is the real Mark Fabiani?
Mark Fabiani: If it were easy to build a new NFL stadium in Southern California, several new facilities would have been built a long time ago – in LA, in San Diego, in Orange County. This is very difficult stuff. And when you try to do difficult things, there’s inevitably going to be controversy. And then there’s the old saying: Incoming fire is evidence that you’ve been hitting the right targets. So that’s pretty much how I look at it.
Thomas Powell: Some fans were deeply hurt by the team’s decision to negotiate with Carson over the past 9 months in private, and the mutual announcement with the Oakland Raiders. Why was that decision made, and do you have a message you’d like to deliver to the fans here in San Diego? If so, please do it here.
Mark Fabiani: We explained the Carson decision on the day it was announced, and that full explanation can be found here: http://www.chargers.com/news/2015/02/20/chargers-and-raiders-join-forces-carson-community-group-support-new-los-angeles-nfl/.
And, of course, we understood that fans would be upset by this decision. That’s why we waited 14 years to make this decision; we did everything we possibly could do over that time to avoid making an announcement such as the one we made in Carson. So we hope people in San Diego will keep that in perspective as they evaluate all of this.
We also hope that fans understand that the steps we have taken in Carson have only been taken as a last resort – taken only after 14 years of inaction here in San Diego and only after an aggressive move by another NFL franchise to take over the LA and Orange County markets.
Finally, and most important of all, we hope fans will remember what we have said again and again: Our first priority remains to find a solution in San Diego in 2015, and the Carson option will be exercised if only if we fail to find such a solution.
We’d like to thank Mr. Fabiani for taking the time to do this interview. This was not our first interview with him, and hopefully it won’t be the last.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a reoccurring series of the best and worst memories from Charger fans. This week, longtime Bolt fan Bill Carli provided us his greatest and most fond memory. Please read and leave a comment about your reaction to The 1995 AFC Championship win over the Steelers.
Part of being a fan is having some ruthless memories of your favorite team. On the other hand, there are also some incredibly great ones. The 1995 AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is arguably the greatest recollection in Bolts history.
Now, I don’t recall this game as many of my readers do because of my age, however I do remember snippets of my household during the game. In typical party fashion, my parents had the true football game time goods which included food, TV cranked, and of course beer. It’s very likely all of you had the same theme going.
The Chargers 1994 season was not perfect by all means. Head coach Bobby Ross and the team had their losses, but they still were crowned AFC West Champions and earned a ticket into the playoffs. You may have heard this before, but the playoffs are a whole different league. The NFL’s very best teams are setup and sent to battle in order to get to the ultimate game; the Super Bowl. For San Diego, it was their destiny to be there.
Do you believe in miracles? Many don’t, but I guarantee that the entire NFL football nation did that day on January 15th, 1995. Just ask Bill Carli, he was with family and friends watching every play of that game to its final seconds.
Bill distinctly remembers “On fourth down when it appeared imminent that the Steelers were going to score. Dennis Gibson knocked down Neil O’Donnell’s pass in the end zone to send the Chargers to their first Super Bowl.”
The Chargers finished the game with 14 unanswered points scored in the second half to upset the Steelers. Junior Seau certainly played one of his greatest games of his career. It was an incredible effort by San Diego who struggled to finish in the end zone majority of the game.
Immediately following the tipped pass, Bill fell to the floor. Rolling around, in full Chargers gear and Charger cape, crying tears of joy. After that play, I’m sure the City of San Diego could be heard across the nation. The blissful tears from diehard fans could have probably flooded the Nile. There was complete football ecstasy in America’s finest city that day.
After the win against the Steelers, it was official that the Chargers owned the entire AFC and would represent the conference in the biggest game of the year. It was a great season which included some of the team’s best players to wear the blue and gold jersey. Memories like these are forever kept in the hearts of Bolt fans and will never fade away. The 1995 AFC Championship game is just that.
REMARKS TO THE MAYOR’S STADIUM TASK FORCE
Special Counsel to the President of the Chargers February 16, 2015
We appreciate the enormous difficulty of the challenge before you.
We are now in the midst of our 14th year of work on this issue – an effort that has cost the Spanos family more than $15 million, has explored sites all over San Diego County, and has resulted in nine different proposals – all unsuccessful so far.
So the Chargers understand firsthand how difficult your job will be over the coming months. And at the outset of your work, we would like to thank you all for volunteering your time to trying to find a solution to this long-running San Diego stadium dilemma.
Based on this 14 years worth of experience, we would like to suggest four principles we hope will help guide your work:
– First, you should resist the political pressure you will feel to make a proposal simply for the sake of making a proposal.
– We appreciate the pressure that you will feel to find a solution. We at the Chargers have felt this pressure for every one of the last 13 years. And now, in our 14th year of work, the pressure has intensified even more as the result of events in Los Angeles.
– But after all of these years of work, we also understand this: It might be that — despite the great effort that has been expended — there is at least at this time no publicly acceptable solution to the stadium issue in San Diego.
– If the facts lead you to this conclusion, we hope you will say so, even though you will be under tremendous political pressure to propose something – anything – just to show that the politicians are trying.
– The second guiding principle is this: The Chargers have no intention of quietly participating in any effort to provide political cover for elected officials.
– Former elected officials have tried to exploit the Chargers and the stadium issue for their own political advantage.
– It might be worth checking with Dick Murphy and Mike Aguirre to see how that worked out for them.
– We have already heard the talk around City Hall that the November 2016 ballot is going to be a graveyard for ballot measures involving revenue increases – so much of a graveyard, in fact, that the Convention Center expansion proponents have decided already that they do not want their next financing scheme to appear on that ballot. And yet, that is the very same ballot that the Chargers are being urged to try for.
– Simply put, we have no intention of allowing the Chargers franchise to be manipulated for political cover – and we will call out any elected official who tries to do so.
– The third principle: Any proposal that emerges from the work of your Task Force should be subjected to serious, real world stress tests. In particular, any Task Force proposal should pass each of the following three real world tests: –
– First, is the proposal one that has a strong chance of being approved by two-thirds of the voters?
– As you commence your work, you will find yourselves again and again running squarely into the California Constitution’s two-thirds vote requirement.
– The City of San Diego has just wasted five years and many millions of taxpayer dollars trying to circumvent the two-thirds vote requirement with an illegal Convention Center expansion tax.
– The Chargers have no interest in participating in another halfbaked scheme to attempt to get around the two-thirds rule.
– If the funding mechanisms that this Task Force considers cannot win two-thirds approval, when such approval is required by the California Constitution, then they should not be part of your final recommendations.
– The second real world stress test should be this: Are the Mayor and a strong majority of the City Council prepared to support the recommendations of your Task Force?
– Too many times over the last 14 years we have heard the following statement from elected officials: The Chargers should gather signatures, qualify a measure for the ballot, and then campaign for approval. We’ve also heard this variation of the same idea: If the Chargers had a real proposal, they would put it on the ballot themselves.
– Of course, this is not a realistic solution. It is just not possible to obtain voter approval for a stadium measure of this type without the strong support of the Mayor and the City Council. This is especially true in our situation, where a two-thirds approval will likely be required.
– Therefore, any proposal that emerges from this Task Force should be one that the Mayor and City Council majority would be willing to place on the ballot themselves, and then campaign wholeheartedly to pass.
– The third real world stress test for any proposal should be this: Does the proposal recognize the economic realities of our local marketplace and of the NFL?
– The City has already wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on two separate out-of-state consultants who made recommendations that were ultimately useless — useless because they ignored the realities of our local marketplace.
– For example, some expect the Chargers to match the financial contributions made by the Cowboys’ owner in Dallas, or the 49ers owner in Santa Clara. • These owners were able to make such contributions because of their ability to sell hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of Preferred Seat Licenses (PSLs).
– Our studies – and the real world experience of the Padres – demonstrate that we cannot sell PSLs in any significant numbers here in San Diego. A Task Force recommendation that ignores this reality will be worthless.
– In addition, some consultants have suggested that the stadium should be financed using revenue streams that, throughout the rest of the NFL, go to the teams. These revenue streams include naming rights, sponsorships, and the like. Of course, if the Chargers were to forego all of these revenues, then the team would be fall even further behind the rest of the NFL than we are right now.
– And yet another example of a real world stress test that is often ignored is the true cost of the stadium.
– We have heard commentators say that the stadium could be built for $700 million, or even less. (This lowcost stadium was a key assumption made by the Lazard consultants hired by the City several years ago.)
– These off-the-cuff estimates ignore the real world costs of stadiums now being built all around the country – from San Francisco to Minnesota to Atlanta. Looking around the country, new stadium costs are coming in at $1.2 to $1.5 billion.
– And, of course, by the time we would be ready to start building here in San Diego, today’s cost estimates are likely to have escalated even more. This is a real world fact that simply cannot be ignored when putting together a truly workable plan.
– In short, any proposal that you make must be workable in the real world. If the proposal doesn’t meet these real world tests, it will fall flat with the NFL, the Chargers, the voters, and the financial markets that must provide financing.
– The fourth and final guiding principle is this: It should not be enough to suggest a plan that might succeed under perfectly controlled laboratory conditions – but that is unlikely to succeed in the real world of San Diego politics.
– Instead, any plan that the Task Force recommends should be one that can actually be implemented by the people now in elected office in the City of San Diego.
– The owners of the Chargers – like any rational business owners – should be looking at the capability of current elected officials to carry out a plan that, at least on paper, may look just fine.
– Our examination of any plan must include an assessment of whether the capability exists to implement that plan.
– For years we were all told that the Convention Center expansion was a done deal – and we were told this by the people who are still in charge at City Hall.
– Now, years later, after millions of wasted tax dollars, the whole project is back to square one – with no realistic solution in site.
– With regard to a new stadium project, we are hearing rumblings of another ill-conceived scheme to avoid the two-thirds vote requirement: Two ballot measures, one that would raise a tax for a general purpose, and one that would be non-binding and would advise the City to spend some of the new money on a stadium. To be clear, we will not support any such effort to circumvent the State Constitution. The City tried a similar scheme already on the Convention Center, of course, and was decisively defeated in court.
– The Chargers do not intend to waste years of time and millions of dollars on a proposal that City leaders simply do not have the capacity to actually implement. In short, a proposal that looks good on paper should not be sufficient. What we all need is a proposal that our city government has the capacity to actually implement.
– These, then, are the four basic principles, and three real world tests, that we believe should be applied by the Task Force. In addition, we would like to take a moment to describe the situation now facing the Chargers franchise.
– The Los Angeles and Orange County market has been without an NFL team for 20 years. ! Over those two decades the Chargers have worked diligently to win fans and business partners in the LA/Orange County market.
– And the Chargers have succeeded. Now, fully 25 percent of the Chargers’ season ticket base comes from the LA/Orange County market (along with the Inland Empire).
– If another team – or two other teams – enters the LA/Orange County markets, most of that Chargers’ business there will disappear.
– This will put the Chargers at a significant competitive economic disadvantage. ! Simply put, it would not be fair to the Chargers – a team that has worked for 14 years to find a stadium solution in San Diego County – to allow other teams that themselves abandoned the LA market to now return and gut the Chargers’ local revenue stream.
– The Chargers are continuing to work hard to find a solution in San Diego.
– But we also want to be clear with this Task Force right at the outset: We are keeping a close eye on developments in LA. We do not have a choice but to also monitor and evaluate our options there. Simply put, it would be irresponsible for the Chargers not to be taking every possible step to protect the future of the franchise.
– Moving forward with your Task Force, we are ready to cooperate with your efforts and, in particular, to assist you now in at least two specific ways:
– First, we have created a website for Task Force members. We have populated that website with electronic copies of original documents and other materials on the different proposals we have made over the course of our 14 years of work on this project.
– Second, we will work with the Task Force to arrange the participation of National Football League executives at a future meeting of the Task Force, so that you can speak directly with NFL officials.
We would now be happy to answer any questions you might have about the work we have done over the past 14 years and the various proposals we have made over than span of time. And, once again, thank you for the time and effort you will be devoting to this project.
Mark Fabiani was appointed special counsel to Dean Spanos in 2002. After doing some research, I found out that he has quite the resumé. The former Harvard graduate has worked for both Bill Clinton and Al Gore. He has dealt with Mayors in the past while serving as L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley’s Chief of Staff. Additionally, he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the United States Justice Department.
This man clearly has a history of accomplishments and achievements. It takes multiple parties to engage in negotiations and find a suitable solution that benefits all groups involved. But, Mr. Fabiani has had to deal with 6 different mayors. Now the urgency level is at an all-time high. Los Angeles is a vital part of the Chargers’ market. The NFL has taken steps to consider placing two teams in L.A. The Chargers have offered many proposals to the city, and all have died at the City Hall door steps.
Which leads us to where we are now.
The Mayor gave a speech last month and, of course, the Chargers remaining here was one of the focal points. However, he mentioned Steve Cushman would be involved in the Convention Center expansion. Cushman has been an obstructionist in every step the Chargers have taken over the years including the Chula Vista and 10th Ave Terminal locations. As fans of keeping the Chargers in San Diego, you have your guy to get this done here in America’s finest city.
It will take a 66% approval vote in November of 2016 to keep the Bolts. The Mayor, in the eyes of many, punted the issue by naming another task force to achieve the goals of a stadium. But this means nothing until August. A task force will be announced and work through the spring and summer to develop the plan for a stadium. Hoteliers do not want a hotel tax mixed in with the stadium and convention center expansion.
Now let’s meet the man whose sole mission is to keep the Chargers in San Diego.
1) A few months ago it appeared that neither the Chargers nor the city officials wanted to talk on the record regarding the stadium issue because they didn’t want the negotiations to be played out in the media. What has changed to make both parties open to discussion?
Mark Fabiani: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions. With all of the recent news in San Diego, and then the inevitable and recurring rumors out of Los Angeles, we always appreciate the opportunity to reach our fans directly.
Your question is right on. For months we had been working quietly with the Mayor’s Office, establishing what we had thought was a good line of communication and the open sharing of ideas. What changed recently, of course, was the Mayor’s State of the City address on January 14. I think we all watched the buildup to that speech, both in the media and by the Mayor’s Office, and wondered if a major announcement would be made.
Instead, though, we heard from the Mayor about the dual appointment of another task force and of Steve Cushman to a key role in the process. And we reacted to those developments in a way that pleased some people but troubled others. We understood there would be that kind of mixed reaction, but in the end we determined that the best interests of the process would be served by a forthright public response. So that’s what we did.
2) The idea of forming a committee to find a solution for a new stadium has already been tried and failed. Is there anything new that makes you feel fundamentally different that can lead to a solution which keeps the Chargers in San Diego?
Mark Fabiani: We would be the happiest people in the world if someone suddenly showed up in San Diego with a magical solution to the stadium problem – a solution that we had looked over the last 13 years. That would be a fantastic result, and perhaps someone the Mayor appoints to his task force will devise a solution that has eluded everyone else for all these years.
The challenge, of course, is that stadium solutions that have worked elsewhere in the country generally don’t work here in California because of special provisions in the California Constitution. In particular, in California, any tax increase for a particular purpose must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the people – an extraordinarily difficult hurdle to overcome under any circumstances.
Remember, the City of San Diego has already appointed a 15-member task force on the stadium issue, and on two other occasions the City spent a considerable amount of money hiring expert stadium consultants from outside of San Diego. In all of these instances, the work that was done did not produce fresh solutions.
3) It was announced that Petco Park will host the All-Star Game in 2016. City officials and the media immediately pointed to economic impact the event will have for San Diego. Can the All-Star Game be used to swing public opinion for a new multi-purpose stadium that has the potential to hold many large events with similar financial impact?
Mark Fabiani: Yes, that’s right. The best argument we have for our proposed downtown multi-use stadium is that the facility will allow San Diego to attract a wide variety of events – not just NFL games and Super Bowls, but the NCAA Final Four, the college football national championship game, major boxing and MMA matches, International soccer matches, large religious and political conventions – the kinds of events that we will never be able to attract without such a joint use facility.
4) What do you need from the fans to help with the situation? What is your opinion of the SaveOurBolts grassroots movement to keep the Chargers in San Diego?
Mark Fabiani: We are incredibly grateful for the support our fans have shown us over the last 13 years as we have pursued a stadium solution. No doubt, this period has been as frustrating for our fans as it has been for us.
Going forward, it’s important for fans to let their elected representatives know that this is an important issue for the San Diego region. This can be done by communicating directly with the offices of elected officials, or by commenting online whenever there is an article published on this topic.
It is also really important for our supporters to share the information they have on the stadium issue with family, friends and work colleagues. That type of one-on-one communication can be particularly persuasive.
5) What are the hurdles that are in the way that need to be overcome to entice the Spanos family into staying in San Diego?
Mark Fabiani: First, the Spanos family wants nothing more than to stay and keep the Chargers in San Diego. After 13 years of work, there is really just one hurdle – and it is a huge one: How do you finance the stadium in a way that works for taxpayers and allows the Chargers to remain economically competitive with the top teams in the NFL going forward?
Other cities and states around the country have surmounted this hurdle by providing a taxpayer subsidy to their stadium projects. That option simply hasn’t been in the cards for us here in San Diego.
6) I’m under the impression that you don’t think PSLs will work in San Diego for funding the stadium. Can you elaborate why?
Mark Fabiani: The sale of Preferred Seat Licenses (PSLs) in tremendous amounts has provided the backbone for some of the most recent stadium financings, including in Dallas, at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and, most recently, with the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara. For example, by selling hundreds of millions of dollars of PSLs at the outset of their project were able to minimize the amount of public contribution required.
When it comes to the San Diego market, this is always a tough question for us, because the answer to this question can sound like a complaint about our current market. But the answer is not intended as a complaint; we truly value our market and our fans. The fact is, though, that the San Diego market simply will not support the sale of PSLs on top of the purchase price of tickets that fans already pay. Our marketing studies confirm this, as does the experience of the Padres when the team attempted to sell a PSL-like product at the opening of Petco Park.
Again, I want to emphasize that this is not a complaint about our market. It is simply a candid answer to the question about why the Chargers can’t follow in the 49ers’ new stadium footsteps.
7) You didn’t sound too impressed with the Mayor’s plan of a task force and waiting until the Fall for their recommendations. What specifically did you find disheartening for those fans that haven’t heard your radio interviews?
Mark Fabiani: We made our views clear after the Mayor’s speech regarding the task force approach and about Steve Cushman’s continuing involvement in the process. (For those who want to read more about what we said, take a look at http://www.chargers.com/news/2015/01/15/chargers-respond-mayor’s-proposal-another-city-task-force). But at this point, it doesn’t make sense to dwell on what happened. Instead, going forward, we will continue to do as we have done over the past 13 years – now into our 14th year – and find a way to work with the Mayor’s task force and to finally find a way to overcome the hurdles that have so far stymied us.
8) How can fans in the county but not in the City of San Diego do to support and be on the same page as the Chargers in this effort?
Mark Fabiani: We are going to do everything possible to make any ballot measure that goes before the voters a county-wide ballot measure. Everyone recognizes that the team is a regional asset and any solution should be a regional one as well. We have always believed that there are solid legal justifications for a county-wide vote and we remain determined to achieve that goal.
On behalf of BoltBlitz.com I would like to thank Mr. Fabiani for taking the time to do this interview.
I was given the opportunity to attend and observe the Second Annual Ryan Mathews Golf Tournament at the Rancho Bernardo Inn this last Tuesday. I flew out for the day from Phoenix, Arizona to San Diego in order to participate in such an incredible event. The proceeds from the event benefit Trish and Ryan Mathews’s Door of Hope Chest, a non-profit charitable foundation overseen by the Salvation Army. After multiple encounters from the most well-known San Diego Chargers, with all respect, some players are awful – awfully humble that is.
Walking onto the Rancho Bernardo Golf premises, seeing all the supporters and fans of Ryan Mathews, I couldn’t help but think how incredibly awesome it was to be there. To be at an event that supports and helps homeless women and their children get back on their feet was the focus, but to have met Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown and Seyi Ajirotutu “Tu-Tu” was the icing on the cake. Meeting them wasn’t just what it implies. I’m talking about being able to discuss and interact with them; something many people, especially fans, are unable to do.
Ronnie Brown, current running back for the Chargers, was one of the first players to arrive. However, you would have never known it was him by his casual demeanor and undisturbed attitude. Yes, Tuesday’s are off days for players, which means that any Charger may not want to be disturbed, but Ronnie didn’t seem bothered at all. In fact, he welcomed those around him and engaged in conversation. I had mentioned that I was in from Phoenix for the tournament and he eagerly replied, “Oh great! I used to train in Phoenix.” We briefly discussed how I am familiar with the training facility that he is referring to and how many NFL athletes train there as well. I even brought up the bye week and asked if he had any plans to go to an Auburn football game – considering he played at Auburn. He said, “Yes, I plan to go to the Auburn vs. Texas A&M game” and we eventually ended the conversation of how great of a SEC matchup it will be. The whole time I thought, “Oh my god, Ronnie is the chillest player I have met and doesn’t seem irritated by our interaction.”
Ronnie wasn’t the only player at the tournament. Of course Ryan Mathews was there with Seyi Ajirotutu accompanying him. Many do not know this but the two played at Fresno State together and are actually great friends outside of football – they even train with each other in the off-season. Even though Ryan was being pulling in different directions as he arrived, I still managed to talk briefly with him. Growing up, I played club soccer in various cities across Southern California – Bakersfield and Tehachapi to name a few. Well, Ryan is from Bakersfield and when I brought up that I used to play soccer there, he instantly became intrigued. He said, “I used to play football all over Bakersfield. We probably even played on the same fields.” Ryan and I are very similar in age and his statement very well could be true. Again, he didn’t feel bothered to chit-chat and made me feel welcomed to his charity benefit.
Of course I can’t forget Tu-Tu. Not only was he humble, but a real comical guy. His laid back personality fit the theme which others adopted. I didn’t get to talk much to him, but I can say he has a mean golf swing that slices through the air like soft butter – even if it went in the complete opposite of the intended direction. To see all the players and attendees of the event having so much fun was completely satisfying. All three of them even signed some items I had with no hesitation whatsoever. After this experience, I can say that the Chargers are some of the most down to earth guys in the NFL. I’m not too sure if it’s the cool San Diego air, beautiful beaches, or relaxed persona that they have embraced, but I’m happy to continue to call myself a Charger fan after this incredible experience.