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San Diego Union-Tribune

Don't pull trigger | Chargers' move could destroy stadium review

November 26, 2002

Abstract:
Meanwhile, the citizens task force appointed by Mayor Dick Murphy and the City Council to find a fiscally responsible way to keep the Chargers continues to hold hearings, gather information and, ultimately, review options and make recommendations. In early January, the Chargers are expected to unveil to the task force a sweeping proposal to redevelop the 166-acre Qualcomm site. The plan will include not only a new stadium financed with a substantial contribution from the team and the NFL, but also a park, office buildings, other commercial projects and residences -- development which would generate millions of dollars a year in new city revenues.

The only problem is, the task force is not scheduled to issue its report until mid-February, which is after the 60-day trigger period expires. After Feb. 1, according to the lease, the Chargers cannot exercise their "out" clause again until Dec. 1, 2003. Spokesman Mark Fabiani says the team will decide on the matter after this season ends. This has led to rampant speculation that the Chargers, in order to keep their options open, will pull the trigger right after the Jan. 26 Super Bowl here.


Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Nov 26, 2002

The city and the Chargers have reached a critical turn in their uneasy search for a new stadium to keep NFL football in San Diego.

With the team's ruinous ticket guarantee fomenting fresh discord, once again incensing the City Council and taxpayers, a key deadline is just days away. Dec. 1 marks the opening of a 60-day window during which the Chargers, under their 25-year lease with the city, can serve notice of their intent to shop the franchise to other cities, including NFL-starved Los Angeles.

This so-called trigger can be exercised only if the team meets certain financial criteria. But most analysts believe those conditions already have been met. If the trigger is pulled, the contract provides that the city and the Chargers would have a scant 90 days to reach a new deal to keep the team in San Diego. Considering that such an agreement likely would have to encompass exceedingly complex negotiations on a new stadium, the prospects of success would be very slim.

Meanwhile, the citizens task force appointed by Mayor Dick Murphy and the City Council to find a fiscally responsible way to keep the Chargers continues to hold hearings, gather information and, ultimately, review options and make recommendations. In early January, the Chargers are expected to unveil to the task force a sweeping proposal to redevelop the 166-acre Qualcomm site. The plan will include not only a new stadium financed with a substantial contribution from the team and the NFL, but also a park, office buildings, other commercial projects and residences -- development which would generate millions of dollars a year in new city revenues.

The only problem is, the task force is not scheduled to issue its report until mid-February, which is after the 60-day trigger period expires. After Feb. 1, according to the lease, the Chargers cannot exercise their "out" clause again until Dec. 1, 2003. Spokesman Mark Fabiani says the team will decide on the matter after this season ends. This has led to rampant speculation that the Chargers, in order to keep their options open, will pull the trigger right after the Jan. 26 Super Bowl here.

To put it bluntly, that would be a mistake of colossal proportions.

The trigger is, politically speaking, a thermonuclear response that would obliterate everything in sight. By serving notice that they want to get a more lucrative deal in Los Angeles or some other city, the Chargers would be seen as strong-arming San Diego at a highly delicate moment in the stadium deliberations.

Regardless of the team's intent, the taxpayers no doubt would view this as nothing short of extortion. Members of the City Council would line up at press conferences to denounce the Chargers' bullying tactics. And the citizens task force, which already has strained ties with the team, likely would respond in an equally hostile fashion. The entire effort to find a fiscally responsible way to keep the team here could collapse.

Rather than detonate the atomic trigger, the Chargers should hold their fire and give the stadium review process established by the city a chance to succeed. This is a moment for all sides to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and work together in good faith to reach a deal.

In our view, a full-scale redevelopment plan for Qualcomm Stadium holds great promise for both the team and the city. Fostering goodwill by deferring the trigger for a year serves the Chargers' own self-interests. The alternative -- a bitter political and legal battle between the team and the city -- is too ugly to contemplate.

 



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