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Stadium Could Replace Dead Chula Vista Bayfront Project

A proposed 400,000-square-foot convention center and 2,000-room resort hotel that was supposed to anchor the redevelopment of Chula Vista's waterfront is dead, but the demise of the convention center and hotel could open up the site to potential development of a San Diego Chargers football stadium. The Chargers have been seeking a location for a stadium and related commercial development and have considered two other sites in Chula Vista.

Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment notified City of Chula Vista officials on Monday that the company was "discontinuing its plans" to develop the convention center, hotel and ancillary retail uses on 32 acres.

"We have been unable to overcome perhaps the biggest hurdle of the project funding the enormous infrastructure costs associated with the bayfront redevelopment in a manner that will generate adequate financial returns for Gaylord, the port and the city," Gaylord Senior Vice President Bennett Westbrook wrote in a letter to Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox and Port of San Diego President Bruce Hollingsworth.

The city and the Port District have been working on a master plan for the 550-acre Chula Vista bayfront since 2003. The port controls most of the area, which includes extensive brownfields, an aging power plant, sensitive wetlands, warehouses and a harbor. The plan envisions a wide variety of uses (see CP&DR Local Watch, October 2006), but the Gaylord proposal was the cornerstone because it would provide up to $700 million in infrastructure funding and improvements.

The city, the port district and Gaylord began negotiating in 2005, but the project appeared to founder. The parties missed several deadlines for finalizing the development deal, Gaylord experienced difficult talks with trade unions, and the city's chief negotiator, Laurie Madigan, resigned amid charges of a potential conflict of interest (she was later cleared of any wrongdoing and the city paid her legal bills). Meanwhile, Gaylord opened a similar project in Prince George's County, Maryland, and broke ground on one in Mesa, Arizona and the Chula Vista bayfront planning process grinds on with the review of a 10,000-page environmental impact report.