With the city of San Diego letting the Chargers bail on their lease at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley, the team has started shopping around the county for a new home — starting with Chula Vista, National City and possibly Oceanside — before wandering beyond our borders.
Why on earth the city would willingly let go of an NFL franchise is beyond this columnist, and I don’t even like football. Questionable decisions from our elected officials, unfortunately, have become part-and-parcel with living in San Diego County.
The big question for Chargers owner Alex Spanos is where does one find enough land for a football stadium in San Diego County (apart from that ideal spot in Mission Valley the city has its claws buried so deep in)?
Turns out, an extraneous level of government bureaucracy has already done much of the work for him.
The San Diego Regional Airport Authority has found nine locations large enough to be home to a two-runway, 3,000-acre international airport to replace Lindbergh Field. Since Qualcomm only takes up 166 acres, any of those sites have more than enough room for a new Chargers stadium, and could easily hold Spanos’ condo and shopping complexes, too.
Probably not. The military brass has said time and again that everyone else should keep their hands off their land. Even though, like Mission Valley is perfect for a football stadium, Miramar is perfect for an airport. It’s centrally located, accessible by major freeways and there’s plenty of land.
The military also shuts the door on the airport authority’s sites at North Island, Camp Pendleton and March Air Reserve Base.
So where do we stick the Chargers?
Just as with the airport, Chargers fans could take a high-speed train out to Borrego Springs, Campo or Imperial Valley to watch games. Sure, it’s kind of far out there (as if Chula Vista isn’t for most of the region’s residents), but we’re told Maglev technology is ready to go, and for $20 billion we can have our own, designated football train to a stadium nearly 100 miles away.
We can learn to live with it, right? If business travelers can make the trek to the middle of nowhere there’s no doubt football fans can do the same for the eight home games each season.
Shoot, those sites might be better used for a stadium. Where’s Rep. Bob Filner clamoring to bring the Chargers to his precious Imperial Valley? Surely there are economic benefits to be had. That burgeoning (hmph) area might just be where the NFL wants to host the next Super Bowl.
Unlike the airport, we don’t have other football options. There is no nearby team, whereas there’s always John Wayne in Orange County, LAX and Ontario for flight alternatives.
Los Angeles can’t keep — or gain — a franchise, and all those pesky Raiders fans head south to watch their team play ours.
That could make the Maglev ride unbearable. Who wants to be trapped in a train surrounded by goons in black and silver moaning “Raaaaaaiders” over and over?
The point is, just as with the airport, we are being saddled with the results of years of incompetence and poor planning on the part of our elected officials.
It was clear Jack Murphy was on its last leg in 1997 when the city spent $18 million upgrading it to gain another Super Bowl.
It was clear back then, too, that Lindbergh was too small to serve our needs, yet massive upgrades and remodeling projects have taken place in the terminals serving our one runway. In fact, voters chose Miramar as a preferred site back in 1994 — when the military was more willing to talk.
In both cases city and regional leaders fumbled the ball. Perhaps they were too busy bankrupting pensions, getting free lap dances and taking millions in bribes.
How much time, energy and taxpayer dollars have been wasted during the last 10-plus years because our leaders failed us?
Part of our region’s charm, and draw, is that we are not L.A. It’s doubtful, judging by our current course, that soon we’ll be able to tell the difference.
San Diego residents are going to have to take a train 100 miles to catch a flight or head to the border to watch a game because our leaders can’t, well, lead.
At that point, we may as well drive to L.A., because that’s what we will have become.