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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Let Chargers develop site, task force says | Panel completes its report to council

February 28, 2003

Abstract:
The task force had three committees to examine the city's current contract with the Chargers, the condition of Qualcomm Stadium and the financial impact of the National Football League in San Diego.

The Chargers did not cooperate with information requests from the six-member Finance Committee, but city consultants did an economic impact analysis. The committee concluded the team is an asset to San Diego, generating an estimated $150 million in spending annually in addition to the benefits from hosting an occasional Super Bowl. The committee also found Qualcomm Stadium drains more than $10 million annually from the city's budget.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Feb 28, 2003

Editions vary | For date chart see end of text. | For Guiding principles chart see microfilm.

The city should lease the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site to the San Diego Chargers and make team owners carry the risk of building a stadium, a citizens task force decided at its final meeting last night.

The team could recoup its investment by developing the land not used for a stadium, under the recommendation approved unanimously by the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues.

"Potentially, it provides the Chargers with the revenue necessary to redevelop the property, including a new stadium, and provides the city with the incremental tax revenue generated by the redevelopment," panel member Ron Saatoff said.

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said the team is eager to begin negotiations, and said the leasing option was "an idea we would certainly be prepared to consider."

The 15 volunteers on the task force were asked to find a fiscally responsible way to keep the Chargers in San Diego. Last night the members voted 14-1 to approve a final report designed to provide the City Council a road map for negotiations with the team. Their report is due to the council Thursday.

"Our recommendations are a fiscally responsible way to keep the Chargers in San Diego," said task force Chairman David Watson.

The leasing concept provides the best chance at a "win-win" deal because it limited the use of public funds to items such as roads, sewers and parks and offered the Chargers a way to get a new stadium, Watson said.

While the panel members backed the leasing option, their final report gives the council the flexibility to apply other approaches, such as creating a redevelopment district or seeking a temporary sales-tax increase to pay for public improvements.

Former City Councilman Bruce Henderson, who supported the lease recommendation, cast the dissenting vote against the final report.

Henderson wants the council to enforce the existing contract with the Chargers.

By endorsing talks, he said, the task force may be supporting the Chargers' claims of financial hardship without making the team prove its case. Team officials provided revenue data to the task force but nothing on expenses.

Henderson said the glowing reviews for Qualcomm Stadium during last month's Super Bowl also validated his position that the stadium, while aging, still functions adequately to meet the team's needs, he said.

The City Council plans to hold a public hearing March 18 on the panel's final report, which encompasses the findings from seven months of meetings, presentations and reviews of documents.

The task force has endorsed immediate negotiations between the city and Chargers, but the council has not approved a negotiating team or strategy.

"In my opinion, the city should take no action until the council has heard the task force report on March 18," Mayor Dick Murphy said, via a spokeswoman, before last night's meeting.

Last week the task force approved a dozen guiding principles to govern negotiations between the city and team. Those concepts included prohibiting general funds from being used and having the Chargers carry the costs and risks of developing a stadium.

The task force had three committees to examine the city's current contract with the Chargers, the condition of Qualcomm Stadium and the financial impact of the National Football League in San Diego.

The five-member Contracts Committee, made up of attorneys, finished its report in December, when it appeared the Chargers would use a renegotiation clause in their lease called "the trigger."

The clause is an intricate formula that measures team salary payouts against leaguewide revenues. The Chargers say they can easily meet the threshold, which has become the focal point of their demand for a new stadium.

The committee report examined the city's legal arguments to challenge the trigger clause and other points that could be used in negotiations.

The 10-member Facilities & Redevelopment Committee examined the condition of Qualcomm Stadium. It concluded the facility is adequate but is showing its age. The panel found the stadium needs $3 million in immediate repairs and said deferred maintenance costs could range from $10 million to $50 million.

The committee developed a pro-con set of measures for four options. Those were leaving the stadium as is; undertaking a major stadium renovation; building a stadium with different leasing, park and development options; and building a stadium elsewhere in the city or county.

The Chargers did not cooperate with information requests from the six-member Finance Committee, but city consultants did an economic impact analysis. The committee concluded the team is an asset to San Diego, generating an estimated $150 million in spending annually in addition to the benefits from hosting an occasional Super Bowl. The committee also found Qualcomm Stadium drains more than $10 million annually from the city's budget.

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

Key Chargers task force dates

Thursday: Task force report due to City Council

March 18: City Council public hearing at 10 a.m. on report

All meeting are in the City Council Chambers, 12th Floor, City Administration Building, 202 C St.


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