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San Diego Union-Tribune

NICK CANEPA

City should quit crying, start dealing

November 22, 2002

Abstract:
Mark Fabiani, the Chargers' point man on new stadium issues, isn't saying it, but after listening to him, there seems to be little doubt the Chargers will trigger the out clause in their stadium lease, probably on Jan. 27, after the Super Bowl. The city and the team then will have 90 days to come to some kind of common ground on a new stadium. Good luck.

The Chargers have told the mayor's office they're willing to tear up the existing lease, which would include the ticket guarantee and the trigger, and work a new two-year deal with the city. This would free everything up to put a new stadium and development of the Qualcomm site on the November 2004 ballot. If it failed, the team would be free to shop itself.

As Fabiani points out, if the Chargers trigger and look elsewhere, the city basically will be paying for the team to relocate through the ticket guarantee. If it were to accept a fixed rent from the team for two years, then the club would be paying its own way.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Nov 22, 2002

The time clearly has come for Mayor Murphy and his City Hall classmates to stop playing ring-around-the-rosy, cease with their sobbing over the Chargers ticket guarantee -- which the city concocted -- and sit down at the grown-ups table, where the football team is more than willing to break bread.

How much longer can the buck be passed, the football punted? They shouldn't want this thing to go into overtime.

The Chargers informally have offered Murphy a way out of this mess. He should jump at the chance, although thus far he has refused to leave his feet. Meanwhile, the situation gets more and more embarrassing for the lawmakers.

The latest ticket guarantee snafu was revealed in yesterday's Union-Tribune. The city has been billed for hundreds of nonexistent seats per game, according to the Chargers, seats that were removed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Who's complaining? The city, of course. Who's at fault? The city, of course.

Mark Fabiani, the Chargers' point man on new stadium issues, isn't saying it, but after listening to him, there seems to be little doubt the Chargers will trigger the out clause in their stadium lease, probably on Jan. 27, after the Super Bowl. The city and the team then will have 90 days to come to some kind of common ground on a new stadium. Good luck.

If no agreement is reached, the Chargers then would be free to move to another city after the 2003 season. Of course, there no doubt would be litigation that could be lengthy, but cities haven't been very successful keeping teams that want to leave.

What City Hall has to decide -- quickly -- is whether it wants pro football and future Super Bowls in San Diego, if it wants to leave Qualcomm sitting like a fossil. It has to make up its mind and then leave it up to the voters for the final verdict. Because shooing everything over to Murphy's task force, which moves like continental drift and probably won't come to a decision until February -- or after the out clause is triggered -- isn't working.

The Chargers have told the mayor's office they're willing to tear up the existing lease, which would include the ticket guarantee and the trigger, and work a new two-year deal with the city. This would free everything up to put a new stadium and development of the Qualcomm site on the November 2004 ballot. If it failed, the team would be free to shop itself.

Murphy's office refuses to do anything until it hears from the task force. But the mayor should take this idea out for a spin and see where it ends up.

You can say that, if the city were to tear up the lease and write up a new, two-year deal, it would be powerless following the 2004 season. But it could be powerless after the 2003 season if the Chargers pull the trigger and lawyering isn't enough to keep them in town.

If the trigger is pulled, this could become a lame-duck franchise. If efforts are made to keep the team here anyway, and people are staying away from games, the number of seats the city has eaten so far will be like hors d'oeuvres next to what could become a horrible main course.

Where's the Chargers' risk? Well, there's no guarantee another team isn't going to move into the Los Angeles market by 2004. And who can say L.A. will get anything accomplished?

The way Fabiani envisions it, a new stadium would cost something above $300 million, with the Chargers and the NFL supplying 50 percent of the cost. Cities that have built new stadiums, on average, have put up 63 percent. This isn't going to ruin this town.

The vision is for the city -- which drops as much as $10 million annually on the Qualcomm site, according to a task force subcommittee, a figure that will grow when the Padres vacate after the 2003 season -- to develop that property. Put in businesses. The city could use lease money and taxes on the land to recoup some of its money.

"This is an option that works," Fabiani says, "but nobody wants to address that option."

As Fabiani points out, if the Chargers trigger and look elsewhere, the city basically will be paying for the team to relocate through the ticket guarantee. If it were to accept a fixed rent from the team for two years, then the club would be paying its own way.

"Let's not operate under a time constraint," Fabiani says. "Let's avoid a trigger. Let's avoid last-minute negotiations. We want to get something done here."

Face it, the city made a bad deal and the Chargers have been public relations cretins. But the team wants to do something about it now. If it leaves, it leaves. I'm convinced its departure would be a horrible black eye for this town, and if those at City Hall think they'll be able to wash it away with a little soap and water, they had better do some rethinking.

Just once -- one time -- I'd like to see somebody downtown quit complaining about the sins of their predecessors and stand up and be counted. Get on with it.

Nick Canepa: (619) 293-1397; nick.canepa@uniontrib.com

 



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