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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Coalition formed to back new stadium for Chargers

March 4, 2003

Abstract:
A group of business leaders has formed a coalition to promote a new stadium for the Chargers, arguing that sports teams are as much a part of San Diego's cultural fabric as libraries, symphonies, art museums and the zoo.

Although the panel urged the city not to use the general fund to pay for a new stadium and recommended leasing the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site to the Chargers, it left open the possibility of using sales or other taxes such as the transient occupancy tax.

Nearly a dozen businesses founded the group, which organizers say was created to counter the "anti-Chargers rhetoric" fueled by the controversial 1997 contract that gave the Chargers a ticket guarantee funded by taxpayers.



Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Mar 4, 2003

A group of business leaders has formed a coalition to promote a new stadium for the Chargers, arguing that sports teams are as much a part of San Diego's cultural fabric as libraries, symphonies, art museums and the zoo.

The Fans, Taxpayers and Business Alliance describes itself as an advocacy group that also wants to be an objective news source on stadium issues. Most of its organizers also are members of the San Diego International Sports Council.

"We're going to advocate for a new stadium for the city of San Diego," said Adam Day, a public affairs director with the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and a founding member of the alliance.

"We're not advocating any solution, per se. What we're advocating is a dialogue on finding a fiscally responsible solution to the stadium question. We want to be an honest broker of factual information for proponents and opponents."

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani welcomed the group's effort saying, "The more people who are involved in the process, the more ideas that will be generated -- and that will benefit everyone."

Officials at the National Football League in the past year have expressed their frustrations to city and Chamber of Commerce officials about the lack of business advocacy behind a new stadium and the lack of luxury suite sales at Qualcomm Stadium.

After spending seven months studying the issue, a citizens task force recommended last week that the City council enter into immediate negotiations with the team. The council is scheduled to vote on the issue March 18.

Although the panel urged the city not to use the general fund to pay for a new stadium and recommended leasing the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site to the Chargers, it left open the possibility of using sales or other taxes such as the transient occupancy tax.

Day said the alliance already has gathered a thousand volunteers, set up a Web site and begun writing council members.

The group says a new stadium is a good investment because of the sports-related spending and the national and international exposure from hosting events such as the Super Bowl.

Nearly a dozen businesses founded the group, which organizers say was created to counter the "anti-Chargers rhetoric" fueled by the controversial 1997 contract that gave the Chargers a ticket guarantee funded by taxpayers.

Most of the alliance's main founders are board members of the San Diego International Sports Council, which promotes tourism-related sporting events and receives a portion of its budget through an annual public subsidy from hotel taxes.

The Sports Council was closely connected with the bid to support the last renegotiation of the team's city lease in 1997, which was then billed as a long-term solution for keeping the NFL in San Diego.

On its Web site, the group acknowledges that the last renegotiation did not work and contends it was only a "temporary solution to attract the Super Bowl to San Diego again."

Among the problems it did not resolve, the group says, are "inadequate bathrooms, poor sightlines, poor concession areas, an outdated sound system, narrow concourses, inferior premium seating facilities and outdated media facilities."

Before approving the 1997 deal, city leaders touted a commitment by the Sports Council to help market tickets so that taxpayers would not have to pick up the bill for unsold seats.

While the city gave the Sports Council money for a marketing program, and some board members purchased tickets themselves, the effort was not a success. At last count, taxpayers have been billed for more than $31 million under the ticket guarantee.

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



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