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Carson Appears Out as NFL Site

League said to consider it too costly to clean up. Chargers might begin checking out their other L.A.-area options.

August 03, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Less than three months after putting a toxic landfill in Carson on equal footing with the Rose Bowl in the Los Angeles stadium derby, the NFL has all but eliminated the South Bay site from consideration, sources said Saturday.

The turn of events comes into focus only days before the San Diego Chargers could take their first official steps toward exploring the L.A. marketplace.

The San Diego City Council will break for summer vacation Wednesday and will not reconvene until early September, after the current 90-day good-faith negotiating period with the Chargers has passed. The Chargers are free to talk to any suitors, and they might begin doing that this week if the city does not act.

The L.A. options appear to be dwindling. Sources say the NFL's interest in the Carson site evaporated in large part because of the potential costs of cleaning and developing the site. The preliminary concept was embraced by league owners in May. At that meeting, the league issued a resolution authorizing Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to advance the Carson group as much as $10 million to investigate the feasibility of the site, near the junction of the San Diego and Harbor freeways.

The league has not advanced that money, however, and sources say it was recently discovered that the proposed developer of the Carson site, GMS Realty, no longer owned the rights to the land.

Representatives of GMS and the Carson site could not be reached for comment.

The NFL's foray is the latest in a series of abandoned efforts to develop the 157-acre parcel, which has a history of failed plans for shopping malls and mobile home parks.

The Rose Bowl, the other stadium specifically mentioned in the May resolution, now appears to have regained a lead in the stadium race.

But investment banker John Moag, leader of the Rose Bowl team, is not ready to characterize where his project stands with the NFL.

"It's not necessarily a productive business predicting whether your conversations with the league are positive or not," said Moag, who three months ago said he was "blindsided" by the league's interest in the Carson site.

Moag said he is in regular conversations with league executives regarding L.A., which has been without an NFL team since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season.

The resolution also left open the possibility of other stadium options, and Coliseum backers have long contended theirs is a viable option.

"We never believed we were out of it," Coliseum General Manager Pat Lynch said. "The media and other folks believed we were out, but we've always just stayed our course. We're just trying to take care of business."

The Chargers are seeking a new Qualcomm Stadium lease -- one without the controversial ticket guarantee -- which will help them pave the way to put a stadium proposal on the ballot in 2006.

"We've been working on this project for more than 500 days," said Mark Fabiani, the team's point man for stadium issues. "We've been negotiating directly with the city for five months.... We hope the city looks favorably on our proposals."

The three most likely scenarios to come out of the San Diego discussions this week:

* The city asks the Chargers to extend the negotiating period another 90 days, just as it did earlier this summer when the first such period was about to expire. There is no guarantee the Chargers would agree to another extension, however, and they are free to talk to other cities during the 90-day period, anyway.

* The city and the Chargers agree to an interim lease that sets up a stadium vote in 2006. Sources familiar with the negotiations say this is unlikely and almost certainly would require a lot of time to negotiate.

* The city essentially makes no decision, the talks are tabled for now, and the Chargers begin talking to parties in L.A.

After the negotiating period comes an 18-month window during which the Chargers can enter into negotiations with another city. At any point during those 18 months, the Chargers can bring a letter of intent back to San Diego and the city has the right to match the offer.

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