A stadium for San Diego: A task force that just might work

U-T San Diego

Editorial Board 02:25p.m. Jan 30, 2015

Despite much public skepticism about “yet another task force” to plan a new football stadium for San Diego and the Chargers, and despite the history of failure of many similar groups, there is solid reason for optimism that this time it will be different, that this time it will succeed.

The task force announced Friday by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is packed with the right mix of expertise. It has unmatched National Football League expertise in Jim Steeg, the former NFL executive who more than anyone turned the Super Bowl into one of the world’s greatest sporting events. It has top-flight business expertise in Sempra executive Jessie Knight, business leaders Jason Hughes, Rod Dammeyer and Aimee Faucett, a top executive at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. It has extensive experience in San Diego sports issues in Doug Barnhart, who has served on the Qualcomm Stadium Advisory Board, the San Diego International Sports Council and past Super Bowl committees and whose construction companies helped build Petco Park and other major landmarks. It has unparalleled government and public finance expertise in Walt Ekard, the county’s former top administrator. It has political savvy in Adam Day, a state college system trustee and assistant manager for the Sycuan tribe and who has strong ties to Gov. Jerry Brown. And it has land-use expert Mary Lydon, executive director of the Urban Land Institute of San Diego and Tijuana, who will also infuse expertise about this binational region.

There are no representatives of the Chargers on the task force. Nor is businessman Steve Cushman, a Chargers nemesis, on it. Faulconer rightly wanted to keep the group small and unencumbered by members with a direct stake in the outcome.

Their task will hardly be easy. But this is a group that can get it done.

“If it was easy, it would have been done 10 years ago,” Faulconer told the U-T Editorial Board Friday, acknowledging the many questions that must be resolved regarding location, the thorny issue of whether to combine a stadium with an expansion of the downtown convention center and, the toughest nut of all, the financing.

The mayor also acknowledged the lukewarm response of the Chargers and of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to the Friday task force announcement.

“This has been going on for 13 years,” he said. “There’s no doubt there’s been a lot of false starts. What I’ve tried to do is set a real deadline with a real plan and real financing. I think that’s what’s been missing from the equation.”

Another thing that’s been missing in the past is mayoral commitment. Faulconer is the first to have made it.

“My goal is to have Super Bowls in San Diego,” he said.

There is an adage that task forces are where controversial ideas go to die. Maybe not this time.