Stadium Proposal by the Chargers

In somewhat strange timing, the Chargers are set to propose a stadium deal to the Citizens Task Force on Thursday where they will pay half of the $400 million dollar cost of a new stadium, and hope the public will bear the difference.

The curious part is the impending "trigger period" that is still up in the air. The curious part is why now?

The Chargers look good in having a proposal, it is a start whether it is right or not. A proposal is a potential way of making a deal happen. A proposal is willingness to work with someone else, in this case the City of San Diego, and come to a resolution that both sides can be proud of. We want the Chargers to stay in San Diego and if it benefits all parties, which is what each side should want, we all come out better in the end.

The public's contribution of $200 million would be paid off in part by taxes generated by an"urban village" that would include housing, shops, restaurants and a hotel on approximately 70 acres of the 166-acre Qualcomm site and the City would handle all of the development of the "urban village".

The proposed stadium would seat 64,000, but would be expandable to 72,000 to accommodate future Super Bowls. This year's Super Bowl will be played at the 70,000-seat Qualcomm, and the NFL has stated it will be the last played in San Diego unless a new stadium is built.

"We decided that simply proposing a new football stadium was not sufficient to win public support, nor would we consider asking the city for money from the general fund, particularly at a time of serious budget shortfalls," said attorney Mark Fabiani, counsel to the Chargers and heading up the efforts to get a new stadium.

The Chargers would like to see the stadium issue on the November 2004 ballot. First it must present its case to the Task Force, who will likely mull it over through February before giving its recommendations to the City Council.

"Obviously the reaction to it will be of great interest to us. Beyond that, it will give the city a notion of what's possible, then the city has to decide if it wants to move ahead or not."

"You don't have to be a genius to realize this is a badly underutilized site," Fabiani said. "When the Padres leave, it will be the world's largest parking lot and a stadium that will be empty for about 355 days a year."

The Chargers believe the city could make $100 million from selling the land to be developed, with the rest of its commitment coming from a bond sale that would be paid off by property taxes, sales taxes and hotel occupancy taxes. The city would continue to generate revenue off those taxes once the stadium is paid off.

Fabiani said there's the possibility of a $50 million loan from the NFL, which would reduce the Chargers' commitment to $150 million.

"Where it comes from doesn't change the character of the money. It's still public funds," Attorney Mike Aguirre said. "The idea that it's going to come from some kind of magic development and all that, that's all what-if's and speculative.

"It sounds to me that the Chargers have been sandbagging the city. They didn't need to wait until Jan. 16 to say, 'We'll pay $200 million and razzle-dazzle you with where the rest of the money will come from.'"

Aguirre said he wants the Chargers to explain why the city should spend $200 million more when it's already paying off a $78 million stadium expansion in 1997 that was part of a deal to extend the Chargers' lease through 2020 and attract future Super Bowls. Plus, the city has already paid the Chargers some $31 million as part of a controversial ticket guarantee.

More details should be available Thursday.

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