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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Task force `eager' for talks with Chargers

December 16, 2002

Abstract:
A 60-day window opened Dec. 1 in which Chargers officials can begin shopping the team to other cities or force a renegotiation of the lease once they notify city officials they have activated a clause often referred to as the "trigger." The trigger clause can be used once during any four-year period. It is a formula tied to a ratio comparing Chargers player salaries against league-wide revenues.

Chargers officials have said previously they wanted to get rid of the trigger because its short deadlines make a mutually favorable agreement nearly impossible. Once the Chargers activate the trigger, both sides have 90 days to negotiate a way to offset the impact. If they can't agree, an 18-month window then opens where the team can seek offers from other cities, with San Diego retaining a 90-day window to match offers.

Another downside to the trigger is the public relations backlash it may create. Chargers officials say fans and the broader public may interpret the trigger as proof the team intends to leave. That potentially could affect season ticket sales for next year and create a huge payout under the ticket guarantee.



Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Dec 16, 2002

If the Chargers still have ideas on revising the city's lease with the team, such as getting rid of the controversial ticket guarantee, the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues wants to hear them.

Last week, San Diego City Council members rebuffed an offer from team officials to negotiate privately with city staff on their occupancy agreement at Qualcomm Stadium.

Several council members instead advised the team to keep talking to the 15-member panel established last summer. The group is charged with finding a fiscally responsible way of keeping the team in San Diego that also would win public support.

Friday, task force leaders quickly sought to fill the vacuum left by the city's refusal to meet in private.

Task Force Chairman David Watson, Vice Chairwoman Nikki Clay and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Saathoff sent a letter to team officials that said, "The Task Force members remain committed to continuing our work and are eager to review and consider any information, development or lease proposal you wish to discuss with us."

They told the Chargers they would schedule an emergency meeting before their next scheduled meeting, Jan. 9, if necessary.

"People were worried that with the council voting the way they did, who are the Chargers going to talk to?" Watson said. "I wanted to make sure they know they can talk to us."

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said he had not yet seen the task force's letter but he emphasized the team's frustration at City Hall's rejection of private talks.

"The City Council did not leave the team with many options when the council refused to speak us, and we are now in the process of evaluating those limited options," Fabiani said.

A 60-day window opened Dec. 1 in which Chargers officials can begin shopping the team to other cities or force a renegotiation of the lease once they notify city officials they have activated a clause often referred to as the "trigger." The trigger clause can be used once during any four-year period. It is a formula tied to a ratio comparing Chargers player salaries against league-wide revenues.

The Chargers say that threshold has been met.

"The team has completed its trigger calculations," Fabiani said. "There is no doubt that the team is eligible to trigger the out clause in the lease if it decides to do so."

Before last week's council vote, some task force members predicted that a refusal by the city to meet privately with team officials would be met instantly with the trigger notice.

Yet since Tuesday's 5-4 vote against private negotiations, no trigger notice has been sent.

Chargers officials have said previously they wanted to get rid of the trigger because its short deadlines make a mutually favorable agreement nearly impossible. Once the Chargers activate the trigger, both sides have 90 days to negotiate a way to offset the impact. If they can't agree, an 18-month window then opens where the team can seek offers from other cities, with San Diego retaining a 90-day window to match offers.

Another downside to the trigger is the public relations backlash it may create. Chargers officials say fans and the broader public may interpret the trigger as proof the team intends to leave. That potentially could affect season ticket sales for next year and create a huge payout under the ticket guarantee.

Under that provision in the 1995 lease, the city guarantees the team revenue equal to the sale of 60,000 general admission tickets for each home game until 2007. At the start of this season, the city already had paid $25 million for the guarantee.

Chargers officials said they sought private talks with city officials to strip the guarantee and the trigger, in order to enable them to have a better shot at a ballot initiative for a new stadium in 2004.

However, the Chargers' goal for an interim lease would allow the team to leave San Diego if such an initiative lost. That goal left several council members skeptical.

Others reminded the Chargers that when council members sought to renegotiate the ticket guarantee several years ago, team officials told them "a deal is a deal."

Although the task force is not a negotiating body, Watson said the panel could review any proposal in public and quickly forward it to the City Council with recommendations.

Watson also took issue with the claims of some skeptics that such complicated negotiations need to be held in private.

"Developers and applicants negotiate all the time with community planning groups, planning commissions," he said. "I've negotiated lease agreements on the San Diego City Council floor."

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



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