Don Bauder 11:54 a.m., May 20
Chargers hawking combined convention center/roofed stadium
Trouble is, experience says they don't work out
A judge begins hearing a case next week on the legality of hotel room rate surcharges to pay for the proposed expansion of the convention center. Later, the Coastal Commission will decide if the expansion should go ahead. Mark Fabiani, Chargers flack, has told NBC7 that "If for any reason -- whether it's the court next week or the Coastal Commission in a few months -- the existing convention center expansion is stricken down, we would stand ready to present an alternative which would be a multi-use stadium with a retractable fabric roof on the East Village site, a couple blocks from the convention center." This idea is similar to the Farmers Field proposal that is stumbling in Los Angeles. NBC7 says Mayor Bob Filner would look favorably on such a proposal -- but Filner demands a public vote.
The NBC7 story is a good one, but, unfortunately, it doesn't look into the record of such multi-use stadiums/convention centers. They have not been successful in places such as Indianapolis, Atlanta, and St. Louis. One reason is convention attendees do not like to go from one building to another -- particularly go two blocks to another facility. Even traversing from the Moscone Center to Moscone West in San Francisco, right across the street from each other, annoys some conventioneers. Also, football stadiums and convention center floors are not good matches. "The flat floor space [of a convention center inside a stadium] is about 150,000 to 180,000 square feet," says Heywood Sanders, professor at the University of Texas San Diego, and the ranking expert on convention centers. "That's not very much space." Of course, convention centers are vastly overbuilt in the U.S. and centers, including San Diego, are slicing prices -- a very good reason that any expansion is a bad idea. Massive subsidization of a football stadium for a billionaire family is a horrible idea.