ESCONDIDO: Large parcels near Sprinter could simplify Chargers' stadium proposal : Local

ESCONDIDO: Large parcels near Sprinter could simplify Chargers' stadium proposal

Proposed sites have no known environmental hurdles
2009-09-10T20:25:00Z ESCONDIDO: Large parcels near Sprinter could simplify Chargers' stadium proposalDAVID GARRICK - North County Times
September 10, 2009 8:25 pm  • 

The presence of four large and underused parcels near the city's Sprinter station could simplify efforts to assemble the 30 to 60 acres of connected land that the San Diego Chargers need to build a stadium in Escondido, city officials said Thursday.

Other factors that make that area viable as a stadium site are the absence of any known environmental hurdles and a dearth of thriving businesses, according to city officials.

Members of the City Council have long expressed a desire to redevelop the area, which they describe as Escondido's oldest and least vibrant industrial corridor.

Chargers' officials said this week that they are attracted to the area because it is on the Sprinter rail line and has freeways that provide easy access to San Diego, coastal North County and Riverside County.

The area is just south of Highway 78 and just east of Interstate 15.

The Chargers recently added Escondido to the short list of cities where they might build a new stadium, and team officials said they've been quietly crunching numbers and exploring potential sites in the city.

Team officials have said they plan to leave outdated Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley within the next decade for a new state-of-the-art facility.

One of the biggest hurdles to building the $1 billion stadium in Escondido would be acquiring property from the more than 50 land owners in the area, said Jo Ann Case, the city's economic development manager.

But the four large parcels might give that process a nice jump-start, she said.

The 12-acre site of the Escondido Swap Meet could be combined with a 10-acre site to the north that once featured an Albertsons grocery store, a vacant 10-acre parcel to the southwest that is city-owned and the city's 8-acre public works yard, which could be relocated.

Dave Ferguson, a local attorney spearheading the city's efforts to woo the Chargers, acknowledged Thursday that those large parcels might play key roles in assembling land for a stadium.

But he emphasized that dozens of other landowners would have to agree to sell their properties.

And he said the city and the Chargers must work out the financial portion of the proposal.

The city would be required to provide land and other incentives for some kind of ancillary project of large office buildings, retail businesses or condominiums.

And the team would use the revenue from that project to cover most or all of a $500 million gap in funding for the stadium.

If those issues are solved and the land is assembled, the project might face relatively few additional obstacles, said Jon Brindle, the city's planning chief.

The 15- to 20-acre stadium would either be surrounded by a series of multistory parking garages, 30 to 40 acres of surface parking or some combination of the two.

It would be 180 to 220 feet tall.

The site would be about half the size of the 83-acre Westfield North County mall.

A project of such magnitude would require significant and comprehensive study, Brindle said; but there is no particular reason for pessimism.

"Nothing has been identified as a critical deficiency," he said. "There's no environmental problems unique to that area."

Brindle said the city would have to study the stadium's effect on noise and traffic, and that there might be a need to widen some roads, erect new traffic signals and improve city infrastructure in other ways.

He said the project could be an exciting way for the city to upgrade an area that has great potential because of the freeways and Sprinter.

The city has been hoping to slowly and steadily replace the many vacant parcels and older industrial businesses in the area with electronics manufacturers, medical equipment companies and other businesses known as "clean" industrial.

Such businesses would be far more appealing than the cement plants and other polluting businesses in the city's industrial core, city officials have said.

And those businesses would provide the city thousands of badly needed, high-paying jobs.

But building a stadium there for the Chargers would give Escondido a dramatic boost in local tax revenue, the prestige of having an NFL team and the possibility of hosting the Super Bowl about once a decade.

Call staff writer David Garrick at 760-740-5468.

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