San Diego Union-Tribune
NORBERTO SANTANA JR.
Chargers offer to delay activating lease clause
December 17, 2002
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Dec 17, 2002
The Chargers offered yesterday to delay activating the renegotiation clause in their stadium lease with the city until a citizens task force has finished its work in March.
San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy and the task force chairman called the offer a positive sign, and the mayor said he would ask the City Council to consider it when the group meets again next month.
A critic of the city's lease with the Chargers saw the offer as proof the team wants to avoid making the financial disclosures required if it triggers the renegotiation clause.
Under the city's 1995 lease with the Chargers, the team can issue the trigger notice once during four-year blocks until 2020. The notice is tied to a formula based on player salaries as a percentage of leaguewide revenue. This year, a 60-day window opened Dec. 1, when the Chargers can notify the city the team has met the trigger threshold.
After triggering, a 90-day negotiation window would open where the two sides would have to find a way to offset the impact and the Chargers could start talking to other cities. If no agreement were reached, the team would have an 18-month window to shop itself to other cities, with San Diego retaining a 90-day window to match offers.
Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, issued a statement yesterday offering to extend the deadline for giving notice from Dec. 1 to March 1.
"We trust that this extension will allow the Mayor's Task Force sufficient time to complete its work," Fabiani's statement said. "Once the task force has had the opportunity to complete its work, the team's decision to trigger will allow the Chargers and the city to begin formal negotiations over the future of the Chargers in San Diego."
In response, Murphy said in a statement, "I believe this is a positive action by the Chargers. I support extending the trigger deadline so the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues has time to finish its job. I believe the City should support it as well."
The offer is similar to the trigger postponement offered to the team earlier this month by Murphy and Councilmen Scott Peters and Ralph Inzunza.
The Chargers initially rejected the trigger delay, saying it was more important to talk about their offer to revise the team's 1995 lease to eliminate the trigger and a ticket guarantee that requires the city to pay for unsold seats at home games.
"Our top priority was to get rid of the trigger and ticket guarantee," Fabiani said yesterday. "We were taking our best shot at making that happen."
A decision on issuing the trigger notice will depend on the task force's deliberations and the council's reaction to the panel's final report, now expected at the end of February, Fabiani said.
Task force Chairman David Watson said he expects to convene the task force, possibly Dec. 23, to consider the Chargers' proposal.
"I'm going to take this as a good faith step," Watson said. "I'm sure the pros and cons of this will be discussed at the task force and the City Council when we send our recommendations."
Last week, the City Council voted 5-4 to reject a Chargers' bid to engage in direct talks to revise the 1995 lease, instead pointing the team to the task force.
Attorney Michael Aguirre, who has sued the Chargers alleging the team has not met the financial conditions to trigger, said the team's latest offer is a proof of weakness.
"They get the benefit of triggering without the disadvantage of proving it," Aguirre said. "It puts the city in a position of not knowing the Chargers' financial situation. They're trying to solve a problem that may not exist."
Fabiani said there is "no doubt" the team exceeded the threshold required to trigger.
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