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— "If you have to cantilever the stadium and come in, like, four rows cantilevered, that's going to be a tremendous engineering and construction problem, and there's no time. How can you do it? You're playing football games. I don't see how that's going to work."

Yet another serious problem with that option is that it would cost millions of dollars, further embarrassing the city council in the eyes of taxpayers already irate about the Chargers ticket guarantee.

Thus, the multimillion-dollar question would appear to be, will the NFL accept far fewer than the 70,000 seats originally promised by the city, or would the league bolt town for another location, such as Pasadena's Rose Bowl? "I think it's pretty much too late for them to go to Pasadena, but who knows?" says the source.

"They've done it with fewer than 70,000 seats before. The Super Bowl has played to less than 68,000 before. I think they did it in Texas; I think Rice Stadium did. How could you go to the Rose Bowl at this late date? I honestly think this will be Qualcomm's third and final Super Bowl."

Security will also be a costly item, and the city is not yet saying how much more money will be needed as a result of extra measures required in the wake of the terrorist attacks. In any case, local taxpayers are committed to picking up a substantial part of the tab. "Resolution NO. 291571 of the San Diego City Council and Resolution 99-124 of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors confirm that there will be no charges for any public-safety services provided outside of the Stadium itself and for other official NFL events," according to the official NFL bid document from April 1999.

"The security situation is still under resolution," says the NFL's Anderson. "There are applications made to the federal government. I don't know what the status of those are. When I do, that will give us some direction."

Speaking of the vast stadium parking lot, a source with knowledge of the city's plans says, "The Secret Service is going to come in here and fence this son of a bitch off. I don't know if we're ever going to put any cars in it this time. That's the concern I have. I don't know how we're going to get people here."

And that, in turn, influences the location of the NFL Experience, which also appears to be in limbo. Asked about the status of that project and where it will be located, a Super Bowl host committee spokesman said that the location had yet to be decided, but he would not elaborate.

As is the case for all of its Super Bowl-related functions, the NFL makes stringent demands regarding a site for the event. Attached to a 1998 letter from Super Bowl task-force coordinator Ky Snyder is a list of "must haves" from NFL Properties official James Steeg. "The space (including associated parking space) should be provided cost free," Steeg wrote. "If the location is an outdoor facility, it should have approximately seven acres of grass and 13 acres of asphalt, with drainage. Ample power and water should be available for use by NFLP at the facility at no cost. Identify a suitable adjacent location with unobstructed access to the Southwest sky large enough to park required television trailers at no cost. At least 750,000 feet of additional space is required for parking."

In its 1999 bid, the city listed the stadium parking lot, the fairgrounds in Del Mar, and the Naval Training Center as possible locations but ultimately settled on a 15-acre parcel across from the stadium along Camino del Rio North on the south side of the San Diego River. Part of the site is occupied by a skateboard park. The plan was to accelerate construction of a bridge that the city had already planned to build to service a new shopping center near the site, linking it to the stadium parking lot. But costs and environmental problems plagued the $11.2 million project almost from the beginning.

According to Frank Gaines of the city engineering department, the city still lacks a secure source of funds for the last $3.9 million. But even more significant for the NFL Experience is the opposition of Randy Berkman, a longtime Mission Valley environmental watchdog who has raised a series of questions about the motives and wisdom of rushing the bridge to completion. He has rallied the Sierra Club and other environmental allies to oppose the project.

"This bridge is basically a luxury road for a private floodplain development, paid for with mostly our tax dollars," Berkman says. "The developer was originally supposed to pay for the whole cost of the bridge. How it went from that to where we are supposed to pay for all but $2.6 million of an $11 million-plus project should be reviewed in detail by the grand jury -- since it doesn't make sense as 'traffic mitigation' for the stadium remodel because such added traffic would only occur about eight days a year, during Charger sellouts.

"This is one of the most ridiculous and deceptive projects I've seen, which is why I jokingly refer to it as the Enron Bridge. The city is not honest about alternatives for the bridge, the lack of need for it, the lack of significant traffic relief, the visual impact, the recreational loss of the skate park used by hundreds of kids per day."

The NFL Experience, Berkman also notes, would destroy 7.57 acres of endangered coastal sage scrub. The bridge project itself would remove 1.6 acres of wetlands and threaten the habitat of the endangered least Bell's vireo. Libby Lucas, of the state department of Fish and Game, says that construction of the bridge couldn't begin until at least September 15 because of the vireo's nesting season. The city engineering department's Gaines says that the bridge is set for another hearing the before the city council on May 28, but Berkman and his allies will testify against the project and might sue if the city council moves to approve the project. "Let's welcome the NFL Experience as long as it's not in the flood plain or river habitat."

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