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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Chargers task force report may offer financing options

February 26, 2003

Abstract:
A citizens' task force studying ways to keep the Chargers in San Diego is to decide tomorrow whether to support specific financing plans for a new stadium.

"The umbrella document is a very clean set of guidelines for future negotiations with the Chargers, covering planning and financing principles," said task force Chairman David Watson. "I think it gives the council some good recommendations on how they might proceed with the Chargers."

A business-model option would have the city lease the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site to the Chargers, with team owners bearing the risk and cost of developing the stadium and land. They also would be required to build a public riverfront park and accommodate current stadium users.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Feb 26, 2003

Editions vary | For chart see microfilm.

A citizens' task force studying ways to keep the Chargers in San Diego is to decide tomorrow whether to support specific financing plans for a new stadium.

The Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues already has decided to call for immediate negotiations between the city and team, but a draft of the panel's final report doesn't say that the talks have to lead to a new stadium being built.

The report, which the task force is to complete at its final meeting tomorrow, does contain parameters for financing a stadium without tapping into the city's general fund, should the City Council opt for a new facility.

It also provides a set of negotiating principles.

"The umbrella document is a very clean set of guidelines for future negotiations with the Chargers, covering planning and financing principles," said task force Chairman David Watson. "I think it gives the council some good recommendations on how they might proceed with the Chargers."

The 15-member volunteer task force is expected tomorrow to either recommend one financing option for a new stadium or offer the council a choice of several options.

A business-model option would have the city lease the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site to the Chargers, with team owners bearing the risk and cost of developing the stadium and land. They also would be required to build a public riverfront park and accommodate current stadium users.

A public-amenities option would require the council to ask voters to approve a temporary sales tax or user fee to pay for the stadium and public improvements. Two-thirds of voters would have to OK such a measure.

Another option is to endorse the Chargers' $400 million stadium proposal, made last month to the task force. The team's plan calls for a 50-50 public-private partnership split. The city's $200 million contribution would be repaid over several decades by creating a redevelopment district at the current stadium site.

Other options including renovating the current stadium, examining alternative sites, such as downtown, or enforcing the city's current contract.

Some task force members have said that enforcing the contract could be economically risky, because it would exacerbate the public's unhappiness with the Chargers and drive away fans. That likely would increase the city's ticket guarantee costs.

Several task force members support letting voters decide whether to raise the county sales tax to fund a new stadium, but others say two-thirds of county voters won't approve that.

Panel member Tim Considine compared it to driving the Chargers to a cliff, then wishing them good luck.

The City Council created the task force in July to respond to the Chargers' demand for a new stadium, asking the panel to examine ways to keep the team in San Diego in a fiscally responsible way the public could support.

Last week, the task force approved 20 principles to guide future talks with the Chargers.

Those principles include getting the team to eliminate the ticket guarantee and renegotiation clause in their current lease as negotiations begin; prohibiting the use of city general-fund money for stadium costs; and requiring a community park and riverfront park be built as part of any stadium project.

The task force also recommended that new taxes from developing part of the 166-acre Qualcomm site be limited to stadium-related improvements, such as roads, sewers and parks, or to pay off existing stadium bonds.

The task force also asked the city Ethics Commission to examine whether task force members can serve as city consultants on Charger matters or whether that presents a conflict of interest. The issue arose because the City Attorney's Office has talked to panel member Len Simon, a local attorney, about hiring his law firm.

Norberto Santana: (619) 718-5069; norberto.santana@uniontrib.com


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