Image of proposed San Diego convadium
On November 7, 57 percent of voters rejected the downtown stadium Measure C, and only 43 percent approved the construction of a combined football stadium/convention center.
But local media are not asking the right questions. A group called No on C, which had done a very good job opposing the convadium scam, got quotes from city leaders, including council members. All but one talked about a future deal with the Chargers, almost surely with a fat subsidy from San Diegans. This makes no sense. San Diego is the leader among U.S. cities in overwhelmingly rejecting a subsidy for billionaire owners. This is a breakthrough, and San Diego can be proud.
The vote must be viewed in context. Statistics show that the National Football League's grip on the public is weakening. TV audiences for the NFL are down 11 percent thus far this year. Ratings have declined in 27 or 28 prime-time games this year. TV-viewing of Monday-night games is down 20 percent; for Sunday evening, down 18.5 percent. The NFL is overexposed. There may be widespread revulsion about injuries, particularly concussions.
The Chargers' numbers are bleak. The team has filled only 78.5 percent of seats in home games this years — by far the worst in the league. Yet San Diego leaders can't wait to set up a deal with the Chargers.
The truth is that San Diego voters have displayed wisdom. The magnitude of the "no" vote will become a national story. San Diego is sometimes — wrongly — considered an intellectual backwater. Now San Diego vaults to "enlightened city" status. San Francisco used to be considered the intellectual center of the West Coast. But its new stadium in Santa Clara is beginning to look like a flop. Los Angeles is building a new stadium without government subsidies.
The Chargers say they have an "option" to move to Los Angeles. I doubt that very much. I suspect that all the Chargers have is permission of NFL owners to move to L.A. if they plunk $250 million into the owners' pot; the owners won't have to vote again. But we have no idea what kind of a deal the developers of the new L.A. stadium will offer the Chargers — probably not anything significant.