The Stadium Conflict Grows

The latest revelation is that under the city's 1995 lease agreement with the Chargers, taxpayers are footing the bill for seats that are never sold. Maybe we should all start doing business with the city.

A deal struck to settle a federal disabilities act suit several years ago takes out up to 1,800 seats per game.

Based on the original lease, the Chargers still receive compensation for seats.

For example, the Chargers announced they had a sellout last week against San Francisco, but invoiced the city for 666 seats worth $38,454.

This is not good for the Chargers, who say they want to be part of this community as long as a new stadium can be built.

The issue of phantom seats revolves around $5 million in modifications made this year to Qualcomm as part of the settlement of a lawsuit over the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

In March 2000, the city agreed to pay the Chargers $225,000 to cover legal fees as well as indemnify the team against revenue losses resulting from the settlement. The team says the change affected 1,840 seats.

San Diego Chargers Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ken Derrett issued the following statement on Friday regarding the current ticket issuing involving the team and the City of San Diego:


Ken Derrett

San Diego Chargers

Everyone agrees that the City is legally obligated to reimburse the Chargers for the cost of the City's failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") at Qualcomm Stadium. There is no dispute about this basic fact.

Nonetheless, the Chargers have made a good faith attempt to resolve this issue. We did so because we want fans to enjoy the great season that the team is having and the exciting Chargers playoff run that is about to occur. We should all be focusing on football now.

So, in a good faith effort to quickly resolve this issue, the Chargers will immediately stop billing the City for the 1,840 seats impacted by the City's failure to comply with the ADA.

Instead, the Chargers have proposed that issues regarding these seats be resolved at the end of the season, through discussions with the City and, if no agreement can be reached, through a fair arbitration process.

In short, the issue of the "phantom seats" has been eliminated for the rest of the season by the good faith actions of the Chargers. The Chargers and all of their fans are looking forward with great excitement to the rest of the season.

Source: San Diego Chargers

This disagreement comes at a critical time for the city and its relationship with the professional football team. The Chargers can trigger an escape clause in the lease with the city in less than two weeks, which could lead to talks with other cities about moving.

The Chargers, given 60 days to trigger an escape clause in their Qualcomm Stadium lease beginning Dec. 1, but will not do anything until Jan. 27, the day after the Super Bowl has been played in San Diego. (The Rams used an escape clause to vacate Anaheim Stadium and go to St. Louis.)

The city of San Diego and the Chargers — per agreement — will have 90 days to come to terms on a new stadium.

That brings us to around April 1, and for the next 18 months the Chargers will be free to shop elsewhere for a stadium deal, which will be show-and-beg time for the Rose Bowl, Coliseum and Avenger owner Casey Wasserman, who is interested in building a downtown football stadium near Staples Center.

The Chargers don't have to wait 18 months, but only until the 2003 season is over — the last year they're obligated to play in Qualcomm. If they were to come to terms on a new stadium anywhere, they would then give San Diego 60 days to match a stadium offer or say goodbye.

Muddling matters further is the Chargers will leave San Diego and move into their Carson training camp facility, which they are already contracted to begin using this summer.

Given the way this whole situation has been handled, it could mean the Chargers will be playing elsewhere in the near future.

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