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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA, JR.

Chargers seek split on tab for stadium

January 16, 2003

Abstract:
Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, released limited details of the project to reporters late yesterday afternoon. He provided renderings of the development plan, but no written proposal.

Fabiani said the Chargers and the NFL would pay $200 million for the new stadium, with the NFL's contribution likely to be a loan to the team.

The Chargers want to ask voters in November 2004 to approve a ballot measure that would pay for a new stadium. Fabiani acknowledged the time is short to accomplish that.



Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Jan 16, 2003

The San Diego Chargers want taxpayers to pay half the cost of a $400 million stadium that would be built on the current 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site.

The team envisions using 100 acres of the site, which would consist of a 25-acre stadium surrounded by parking and open space. Under the plan, the city would find a developer to purchase or lease the remaining 66 acres, which would feature an urban village with a mix of retail shops, housing and a 300-room hotel.

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, released limited details of the project to reporters late yesterday afternoon. He provided renderings of the development plan, but no written proposal.

Fabiani and team consultants are expected to make a presentation on the proposal at tonight's San Ysidro meeting of the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues, a City Council-appointed panel.

Fabiani declined to give specifics yesterday on the financing or land-use plans, but he described the team's proposal as "meant to inspire community debate and discussion."

Under the proposal, the city would continue to own the 100 acres used for the new stadium and surroundings and the team would sign a 25- to 30-year lease, with the rent to be negotiated, Fabiani said.

He said he expects the public contribution would likely be paid for by a public bond that would last for 20 to 25 years. Fabiani said one possibility would be for the city to sell the 66 acres for $100 million and use the proceeds to secure the bond.

Council members reached last night greeted the proposal with skepticism.

Councilwoman Donna Frye, whose district includes Qualcomm Stadium, said, "When we are facing a $100 million deficit (in the city), facing layoffs and cuts in basic public services, given those financial realities, to say their timing is poor is likely the understatement of the century."

Councilman Michael Zucchet, elected in November, said getting the city to sponsor any kind of public bond for the stadium is a "total nonstarter."

"It's such a joke. The Chargers have a contract (for the current stadium). They can honor it or initiate litigation. I don't really care," he said.

Mayor Dick Murphy declined to comment, saying through a spokeswoman that he will wait for the task force to make a recommendation.

Fabiani said he understands the city's financial situation, which is why the team is proposing a plan that pays for itself. He said commercial development of the 66 acres would "net well in excess of the public's investment."

"This is brand-new revenue not currently flowing to the city," Fabiani said, noting that the current Qualcomm site costs millions of dollars to operate annually.

Fabiani said the Chargers and the NFL would pay $200 million for the new stadium, with the NFL's contribution likely to be a loan to the team.

The city's Chargers task force has spent six months analyzing redevelopment plans for the stadium site.

Task force Chairman David Watson, a land-use attorney and former city planning commissioner, said some panel members have developed "serious questions about whether a redevelopment plan can pay for itself."

"They have to balance land-use planning, work with environmental constraints and mitigation measures and financial requirements," Watson said. "This is a real challenge, and I'm interested to see how they deal with it."

He said tonight's meeting could "determine the future of the National Football League in San Diego."

The Chargers want to ask voters in November 2004 to approve a ballot measure that would pay for a new stadium. Fabiani acknowledged the time is short to accomplish that.

City leaders first would have to negotiate with the team on its current lease, which runs through 2020, and then almost immediately begin a public planning process on the Chargers' proposal. That would include public hearings and environmental reviews, followed by a council vote.

Then the matter could go before voters.

"All of that goes on simultaneously," Fabiani said.

It is possible to meet those tight deadlines, Fabiani said, "but it's going to take a tremendous amount of work."

The last time San Diego voters were asked to finance a stadium was for the Padres' ballpark in 1998. Nearly 60 percent of voters approved Proposition C, a $411 million public-private partnership to create the ballpark district.

With delays caused by court cases and political scandal, the price has risen to $458 million. The city's share is $206 million, most of which was raised through a bond sale last year.

The Padres are putting in $157 million, some of which is revenue from an as-yet-unsigned naming-rights deal for the East Village ballpark. The team also agreed to arrange for new office, retail and hotel development in the area immediately surrounding the ballpark.

The Centre City Development Corp., the city's downtown redevelopment arm, contributed $74 million. The San Diego Unified Port District will fund $21 million in infrastructure improvements.



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