SAN DIEGO - City and team officials Tuesday emphasized the importance of the Chargers football team to San Diego in encouraging residents to vote in the upcoming general election, and especially to support plans for a downtown stadium.
Measure C would set up a framework to build a stadium and convention center annex near Petco Park. Because it would raise hotel room taxes, it requires two-third support for passage.
"A vote for C is a vote to keep the Chargers in San Diego. It's also a vote for the future of our city," said Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who endorsed the measure after agreeing with team officials on certain safeguards.
"I believe it's very important for San Diegans to have professional sports -- it brings us together just like music, arts, strong cultural institutions -- professional sports are one of the building blocks of a world- class city," he said at a news conference where he was flanked by Chargers President A.G. Spanos.
While the Chargers' plans to build a new stadium in Los Angeles County, in conjunction with the Oakland Raiders, was shot down by National Football League earlier this year, the team has a deal in place to become the second team in a future facility in Inglewood, along with the Rams.
With Measure C trailing badly in the polls, it's unclear whether the Chargers would exercise that option if the proposition fails next month. Some observers have suggested that Faulconer's agreement with the team could lay the foundation for a Plan B in San Diego.
Chargers President A.G. Spanos handed the mayor a No. 16 jersey that said "Yes on C" on the back.
Chargers signal-caller Philip Rivers said he took Peyton Manning's retirement speech about being the quarterback of a city to heart, and understands the "special bond" of the community with the team.
"I can't imagine the Chargers not being the San Diego Chargers," Rivers said. "Voting yes on Measure C gives the Chargers the best chance to remain the San Diego Chargers and to play here in San Diego."
"I don’t want my kids to say 'Dad, you played for the who? The Los Angeles Chargers? No it’s the San Diego Chargers," said Luis Castillo, Former Defensive End.
Opponents contend that Measure C would be a giveaway to a billionaire owner, and that the mayor's deal with the team to protect the city's general fund from a shortfall in new tax revenue is not legally binding.
"Any promises that are made by Mr. Spanos to the Mayor are not legally binding," said Haney Hong, President of San Diego Taxpayers Association.
"It raises taxes by over a billion dollar, creates a rent-free stadium for Dean Spanos and what this does is creates significant risk task payers," said Hong.
The city's hotel room tax is currently 10.5 percent, plus a 2 percent fee that funds tourism marketing. If Measure C passes, the rate would rise to a total of 16.5 percent.