Tourism consultant says Chargers stadium plan would be asset

SAN DIEGO — After weathering a blitz of three critical reports on the Chargers’ plan to build a downtown stadium and convention center annex, the team went on offense Wednesday, releasing a consultant’s report that said the project will be an asset for San Diego.

The Chargers will put their plans before voters in November as Measure C, which sets out a financial and land-use framework for the project. It needs 66 percent approval to pass because it would increase San Diego’s hotel room tax.

Rob Hunden, president of Hunden Strategic Partners said the plan appears to be sound.

“We’ve got great faith in the folks who are designing the designing the facility — if they were designing a piece of garbage we wouldn’t be promoting or supportive of it,” Hunden said at a news conference.

“I started out as a skeptic, but the more we got into it I realized that, hey, this is a smart idea,” he said. “They’re not going to be overtaxing, they’ve got a pretty sound proposal in front of us.”

The city of San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District, the financial consultant Public Resources Advisory Group and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association each issued reports contending that the Chargers’ plan for paying for construction and operations of the facility doesn’t add up.

Those reports were balanced somewhat by a fiscal analysis from the city’s Independent Budget Analyst’s office, which suggested that an increase in the city’s hotel room tax would likely raise enough money to pay for the public contribution to the estimated $1.8 billion project, but only if the team’s estimates hold up.

But like the taxpayers’ group, the IBA cautioned that the city’s general fund — which pays for basic services like public safety and libraries — would be put at risk if revenue projections are overly optimistic. The IBA issued its fiscal analysis of Measure C on Monday.

According to Hunden, the other studies compared the meeting annex and San Diego Convention Center as if it were apples to apples, but the so-called “Convadium” will actually be marketed toward mid-sized events. He called that the “heart of the market” for conventions today and the “biggest bang for the buck.”

Such conferences would range from 1,000 to 15,000 attendees, with most averaging around 3,000 to 5,000, he said.

He said the National Football League has accommodated long-range scheduling issues at similar facilities, and medium-sized events may move in and out again without impacting Chargers games.

He projected the annex would generate 225,000 hotel room nights per year for the first 10 years, with area hotels making an additional $750 million over the initial decade and the city gaining $125 million in new hotel tax revenue in that period.

The Chargers, who’ve wanted a new stadium for about 15 years, have proposed to build the facility in the East Village near Petco Park. The team and National Football League would contribute $650 million and the public would add the rest by raising the hotel room tax to 16.5 percent — from the current 10.5 percent plus 2 percent tourism marketing fee.

The Chargers have agreed to play in the new facility for 30 years if Measure C passes. If it doesn’t, the team has an option to join the Rams as the second tenant of a future stadium in Inglewood in Los Angeles County.