Plan B needed for Convention Center expansion

A recent court ruling shooting down the hotel tax for the Convention Center expansion has the city as well as tourism officials, the mayor’s office and Convention Center staff scrambling to come up with a Plan B. Some believe Plan B will include a new Chargers stadium. Expansion proponents huddled Tuesday to begin discussions on what to do next. Options include an alternative financing plan that doesn’t require a vote, an appeal of the court ruling or putting a tax increase before the voters. There will be several more meetings before San Diego gets a decision.

Staff members from the mayor’s office, the Council president’s office, the Convention Center and tourism officials are struggling now to come up with a Plan B to let the community know the city plans to go forward with expansion. The question is whether Plan B will involve a vote of the people or some other scheme to go around the voters.

“Should we vote,” declared chairman Richard Rider of San Diego Tax Fighters. “Should it be the will of the people, the state constitution, I sense that yes, this will be the ultimate outcome. We will decide, not some backroom deal.”

Rider also wonders why all the talk of financing a stadium is laid at the feet of city voters, while half or more of Chargers fans get a free ride.

“More people come from outside San Diego but within the county, than come from inside San Diego. And up to now, we’ve been talking pretty much about taxing the people of the city of San Diego.”

Rider has an alternative plan that brings those Chargers fans to the table.

“If this deal is going to go through, it’s really a tax that should be paid countywide. I’d like to see it put on the ballot as a sales tax, not because I want the sales tax to pass, but because everybody gets a say and everybody gets a vote.”

San Diego citizens keep hearing that expansion is necessary to keep Comic-Con and to attract larger conventions, but Rider claims San Diego doesn’t need more convention space and doesn’t believe the big numbers associated with Comic-Con.

“If Comic-Con wants to stay, great, but we don’t need to build them a new stadium – a new convention center for a once a year affair.”

Naming rights for the convention center has surfaced as a source of revenue. Qualcomm Stadium, the Sports Arena is now Valley View Casino Center and Petco Park is our baseball field. Berkman Strategic Communications says naming rights benefit the company and the city.

“Because they get the great brand that gives the money to help offset and defray some of their costs, and that brand gets great identification,” stated Jack Berkman.

The Chargers wanted to tap into hotel taxes to help finance a new stadium, but that died when the city and hoteliers came up with the financing plan that the court struck down. Is the city’s loss the Chargers’ gain? Will the two start substantive negotiations? If you’re wondering what naming rights could bring, Berkman says you have to start at $75 million.

Categories: KUSI