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San Diego Union-Tribune

Stadium proposal | Chargers' plan comes up short for taxpayers

January 19, 2003

Abstract:
In the meantime, the Chargers can advance their cause by being more open about their finances and more straightforward with the public. Members of the task force and the City Council can promote a healthy dialogue by not engaging in premature Chargers-bashing before the major issues have been fleshed out. The Chargers' plan is a promising start, but only a start. A great deal of work now must be done on an expedited basis.

Let's be clear: San Diego voters, soured by the Chargers' costly seat guarantee, are plainly in no mood to shell out another $200 million subsidy for the team, as well as shoulder all of the risks of a massive redevelopment project. The Chargers' plan, however, leaves ample room for negotiations between the city and the team. The goal should be to overhaul the Mission Valley site, including building a new stadium, in a fiscally self-sustaining way -- that is, in a way that produces enough new tax revenues to pay for the city's costs, averting any drain on the general fund.




Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Jan 19, 2003

The long-awaited stadium plan unveiled last week by the Chargers provides a solid starting point for discussions on how to redevelop the sprawling Qualcomm site in Mission Valley in a way that benefits both the city and the NFL franchise. But it comes up short of being a good deal for taxpayers.

The centerpiece of the Chargers' proposal is a $400 million stadium that would generate millions of dollars a year in higher revenues for the team from the sale of luxury boxes and club seats. Under the plan, the Chargers would contribute $200 million and the city would contribute $200 million toward a 100-acre facility that included parking structures and park-like green space. In addition, the city would be responsible for redeveloping the 66 remaining acres at Qualcomm for housing, retail, a hotel, office and commercial space, thus generating a new tax stream to help offset the city's $200 million in stadium construction costs.

Let's be clear: San Diego voters, soured by the Chargers' costly seat guarantee, are plainly in no mood to shell out another $200 million subsidy for the team, as well as shoulder all of the risks of a massive redevelopment project. The Chargers' plan, however, leaves ample room for negotiations between the city and the team. The goal should be to overhaul the Mission Valley site, including building a new stadium, in a fiscally self-sustaining way -- that is, in a way that produces enough new tax revenues to pay for the city's costs, averting any drain on the general fund.

A host of fundamental questions must be resolved:

o What kind of redevelopment plan is needed both to create a thriving urban village in Mission Valley and generate enough tax revenue to cover the city's costs?

o How much new public infrastructure is needed -- and at what cost for taxpayers -- to convert barren acres of parking lots at Qualcomm into an attractive mixed-use neighborhood?

o Who will bear the financial risks of what could be a billion- dollar private sector redevelopment initiative? Will the Chargers assume much of that risk, as the Padres did in the downtown ballpark project?

o How will the city's outstanding debt of more than $50 million for the 1997 expansion of Qualcomm be retired? Will the Chargers pick up that tab?

o Who will pay the costs of demolishing the existing -- and recently renovated -- stadium?

The first entity to address these issues will be the Citizens Task Force on Chargers Issues, which is scheduled to forward a report to the City Council at the end of February. After that, it will be up to Mayor Dick Murphy to take the leadership role in engaging the Chargers in substantive talks, with the aim of putting a ballot measure before the voters in November 2004.

In the meantime, the Chargers can advance their cause by being more open about their finances and more straightforward with the public. Members of the task force and the City Council can promote a healthy dialogue by not engaging in premature Chargers-bashing before the major issues have been fleshed out. The Chargers' plan is a promising start, but only a start. A great deal of work now must be done on an expedited basis.

 



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