San Diego Voters Reject Taxpayer Funding For New Chargers Stadium

The vote against a new stadium may cast doubt over the Chargers' future in San Diego.
The Chargers were seeking more than $1 billion in public money to replace Qualcomm Stadium.
The Chargers were seeking more than $1 billion in public money to replace Qualcomm Stadium.

San Diego voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have devoted taxpayer money to a new stadium for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, a move that could throw the team’s future in the city into doubt for the second time in two years.

Measure C, as it was known on the ballot, would have raised local hotel taxes to put $1.15 billion in taxpayer money toward the new stadium Chargers owner Dean Spanos is seeking.

The loss isn’t surprising: In polls conducted just a week before Election Day, a majority of residents opposed the proposal, which needed a two-thirds majority to win. The San Diego Union-Tribune urged residents to vote against the measure, as did local skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, and Chargers owners were expecting defeat, according to CBS Sports.

Nearly 57 percent of residents voted against the measure, with 43 percent voting in favor.

Spanos has for years sought funding for a new venue to replace Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967 and is among the oldest facilities in the NFL.

The Chargers unveiled the $1.8 billion stadium proposal, which also included a new convention center, in March, and argued that it would provide vast economic benefits to the city while keeping the team in town.

A large body of economic research, however, has shown that stadiums almost never live up to such grandiose promises, and San Diego voters weren’t swayed by the team’s arguments.

The loss at the polls is the second major defeat in a row for Spanos, who last year entered the Chargers into a three-team sweepstakes to move to Los Angeles. NFL owners ultimately allowed the then-St. Louis Rams to move to L.A. instead. The third team, the Oakland Raiders, is currently seeking a move to Las Vegas, after Nevada state lawmakers approved $750 million in taxpayer funding for a new stadium in October.

The Chargers now have to make a decision about their future. Spanos could seek a modified deal with San Diego and Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who endorsed the stadium measure and has repeatedly said he wants to reach an agreement with the team.

The team could also exercise an option to join the Rams in their new stadium in Los Angeles, a scenario NFL owners already approved during the Rams’ relocation process earlier this year.