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.