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San Diego Union-Tribune

DON BAUDER

Don't fall for this foolish stadium idea

December 7, 2002

Abstract:
The sports council uses the Enronesque argument that Qualcomm only cost $78 million and the economic impact of two Super Bowls -- through the wonders of the ripple effect -- has been $590 million. But, at least, [Jim Bailey] is aware of studies that show that the impact of a Super Bowl is actually one-tenth of what the National Football League claims.

Under the new plan, the Chargers and the NFL would supposedly kick in $130 million to $150 million. But the plan would also relieve the team of $140 million of rent liability it has at Qualcomm, says former San Diego City Councilman Bruce Henderson, a member of the city's Chargers task force.

Five years ago, the Chargers exulted that the revamped Qualcomm was state of the art. The NFL was enthusiastic, too. But 15 stadiums have been built or planned since then, and the Q is no longer state of the art, says Bailey.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Dec 7, 2002

Pie in the sky. Pie in the face.

That sums up the plan by the San Diego International Sports Council to provide a new stadium for the Chargers.

First, the backers say it will pay for itself, even though the city would be giving the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site to developers. The site is worth $300 million at minimum -- 10 times what has been lost on the infamous 60,000-seat guarantee.

Taxes from the development of retailing, housing, hotels and the like would theoretically finance the stadium -- although a "short term" loan from the city would be necessary -- and the general fund would not be tapped, the backers claim.

Pay for itself? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, call Sigmund Freud and get an appointment on the couch.

The $78 million Qualcomm re-make was supposed to pay for itself. That was before the 60,000-seat guarantee so rudely overturned that apple pie cart.

The downtown ballpark was to pay for itself: Remember all that Transient Occupancy Tax money that was to flow so bountifully from 2,200 hotel rooms? And the sales tax revenue that would gush from retail establishments? And the property taxes from the huge high- tech campus?

Now we have sharply altered plans for condos and scaled-down offices. Who knows where the tax revenue will come from.

At least Jim Bailey, consultant on the new proposal, admits that a pro football stadium financed by surrounding development would be a first among American cities.

And he realizes that selling such a concept to the San Diego public "would be a communications challenge."

He also is aware of "skepticism and negativity" about the Chargers and their intentions.

By their own actions, the Chargers have convinced San Diegans that the team really prefers Los Angeles. That city has the population, the wealth and -- most importantly -- the companies that could fill up the skyboxes and premium seats on which teams make so much money.

San Diego's business base is high-tech/biotech -- capital- intensive companies, and most of them have no business spending money on skyboxes, even with the generous tax break they get on them.

The sports council uses the Enronesque argument that Qualcomm only cost $78 million and the economic impact of two Super Bowls -- through the wonders of the ripple effect -- has been $590 million. But, at least, Bailey is aware of studies that show that the impact of a Super Bowl is actually one-tenth of what the National Football League claims.

Under the new plan, the Chargers and the NFL would supposedly kick in $130 million to $150 million. But the plan would also relieve the team of $140 million of rent liability it has at Qualcomm, says former San Diego City Councilman Bruce Henderson, a member of the city's Chargers task force.

"The Chargers will get generous lease terms," allows Bailey.

Five years ago, the Chargers exulted that the revamped Qualcomm was state of the art. The NFL was enthusiastic, too. But 15 stadiums have been built or planned since then, and the Q is no longer state of the art, says Bailey.

Do we have to build a state-of-the-art stadium every five years? Don't laugh. The Miami citizenry built a $53 million arena for the Miami Heat basketball team in 1988. Eight years later, pro sports had gone aristocratic: Skyboxes and martinis were the thing. The team demanded still another arena and, after spending $3.7 million on a "communications" (propaganda) campaign, got it.

So much for the pie in the sky. Now for the pie in the face. At the task force's meeting Thursday, chairman David Watson noted that a study by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce reveals that the city has a stunning infrastructural deficit of more than $20 billion. Nonetheless, the chamber supports this stadium proposal.

Jessie J. Knight Jr., president of the chamber, says that a study shows $20 billion is needed for transportation and housing. Add in such things as water, hospitals and informational technology, and we need $37.5 billion in infrastructure.

"The shortfall is $23.5 billion of that $37.5 billion," says Watson. He asked the chamber how its support "fits into the infrastructure shortfall."

"We are endorsing the project conceptually, because it is an all- inclusive redevelopment, one component of which happens to be a stadium," says Knight.

"Keep football in San Diego," says the sports council's brochure.

There's a far higher priority: Repair the schools, the sewers, storm drains, water delivery system, libraries. Giving away an asset worth more than $300 million won't forward that effort, particularly since the sports council's plan is just more vapor.

Don Bauder: (619) 293-1523; don.bauder@uniontrib.com

 



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