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San Diego Union-Tribune

Chargers' deal frustrates all around

November 27, 2002

Abstract:
Will the Chargers surprises never end? First, it's revealed that a third of their skyboxes are unsold, which should give us an idea how vital the corporate community thinks the Chargers are, and how effective owner Alex Spanos is in marketing his product.

Those who feel the community would be better served without the Chargers need a lesson in both civic pride and economics. National Football League teams generate tremendous revenue for a city, well beyond the eight regular season games played. They afford chambers of commerce an avenue to showcase the area. The Chargers also fuel the Aztecs and Holiday Bowl. Without the Chargers, the city would have turn over Qualcomm to a developer, leaving both programs without a place to play.

[Donna Frye] should know that, due to a previous politician's hapless negotiations, the city got itself into the ticket guarantee mess. Don't blame the Spanos family for being greedy -- blame the city and its politicians for being naive and incompetent negotiators. Spanos was merely accepting a deal that no businessman worth his salt would would have refused. Imagine the surprise the Chargers must have felt when even pre-season games were included in the ticket guarantee!

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Nov 27, 2002

Re: "Flap with Chargers frustrates S.D. council" (B-1, Nov. 24):

Will the Chargers surprises never end? First, it's revealed that a third of their skyboxes are unsold, which should give us an idea how vital the corporate community thinks the Chargers are, and how effective owner Alex Spanos is in marketing his product.

Next, we're paying for phantom seats . . . Or are we? This should give us an idea about the effectiveness and attentiveness of the city bureaucracy.

But the most important news is the revelation that what Spanos really wants is a redevelopment project at the current site, presumably with rights to build and own buildings just like John Moores got for the Padres.

There are a couple of problems with this. First is the obvious fact that the Qualcomm Stadium site is worth a fortune -- $2 billion, according to Sol Price, who ought to know -- so giving Spanos rights there would make the ticket guarantee small potatoes. Better the city develop or lease the land not including a stadium.

Second is the fact that we are talking about 10 football games a year, not 82 baseball games. Does it make sense that the city have the responsibility to find something to do with the stadium the remaining 355 days?

How about this idea, which I'll call the Dodger Stadium model: Find Spanos a piece of land, maybe in the area of the Miramar landfill, sell it to him for a song, pay for some access improvements and let him build and operate his own stadium. The city costs would be finite, not ongoing and open ended.

Spanos couldn't then come back and demand more improvements a few years down the road and the stadium would be on the tax rolls. Most important, the Chargers would have to find events to fill the stadium, not the city, and we share in their success through various taxes and fees.

If Spanos won't go for a deal like that, let him walk if he can find a spot. BILL BRADSHAW San Diego

It is interesting, from at least a historical perspective, to note that in late 1960 when the Los Angeles Chargers were negotiating with San Diego about a possible move of the franchise here, one of the inducements offered by the city was "free rent" at Balboa Stadium.

Barron Hilton, then owner of the Chargers, rejected the offer because he believed the team's public relations would suffer with potential fans, and that the free-rent offer would impair possible future negotiations with the city regarding stadium improvements. What revolutionary thinking!

What a shame that such prescience is no longer in vogue. I guess it's true that you can't go back. Too bad. LESTER LAND Loma Portal

It's difficult to understand that we have a mayor and City Council with no knowledge as to what's going on in the city. The mayor's chief of staff meets with Chargers executives, wherein the team offers to negotiate a deal to end the ticket guarantee. The chief of staff relays this information to the mayor, who makes the unilateral decision to keep it to himself.

What else has been hidden from the public? Such unilateral representation of this city by the mayor cannot be tolerated. Without communication, an "air of distrust," as Councilman George Stevens put it, within the council. PETER J. DiRENZA San Diego

If the ticket guarantee can be amended to benefit Spanos, perhaps it could be deleted altogether. Spanos should agree to "waive" the provision if he really wants to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

That would generate some good will, and let the council out of a terribly bad and embarrassing contract provision. As things stand now, there is no way that this council can "give" Spanos anything more. If he wants a new stadium, he is going to have to find another city to build it for him. The San Diego City Council has been burned so badly by him that it can't endorse the deal he wants. DAN STEVENSON San Diego

It's hard to understand why San Diego is struggling to reach a compromise with the Chargers. The city should stop the finger- pointing and move forward to keep the team here.

Those who feel the community would be better served without the Chargers need a lesson in both civic pride and economics. National Football League teams generate tremendous revenue for a city, well beyond the eight regular season games played. They afford chambers of commerce an avenue to showcase the area. The Chargers also fuel the Aztecs and Holiday Bowl. Without the Chargers, the city would have turn over Qualcomm to a developer, leaving both programs without a place to play.

A pro franchise provides a level of credibility to a region that is difficult to generate from any other source. Woman's soccer and a third-class arena football team do not have the same effect. A major league franchise proves that we are more than a sleepy Navy town stuck between Mexico and Los Angeles. THOMAS BIEBERS Vista

Why not just let the Chargers leave town and relocate in Los Angeles, since the NFL must have a Super Bowl in the southwest, and let it pay for a new stadium? Then we could market our city as "the place to stay for the Super Bowl" or "We're not L.A.," using the fact that's it's easier to get to a Los Angeles stadium from San Diego than from downtown Los Angeles.

Then our stadium would be free for events that actually pay the city rent, like concerts and monster truck shows. Just imagine how much the city could have made if the Rolling Stones had done two 70,000-seat shows at the Q instead of one at the puny 15,000-seat Sports Arena. BARIK DEMASI La Mesa

To be a world-class city, we need world-class attractions. I'm not a classical music expert, but I appreciate the great value of the symphony to San Diego. I believe the arts are important, even though I would have a hard time quantifying exactly what they mean to the economy.

Likewise, we should all appreciate that the great cities of the world have modern sports complexes -- and that a city like San Diego will continue to be fortunate to host Super Bowls if we have the foresight to invest in a state-of-the-art stadium. If we want to be a world-class city, these are investments that we can't afford not to make. S.G. SHEA Rancho Santa Fe

The flap over ticket guarantees and charges for nonexistent seats raises interesting questions and illustrate several principles.

First, the Chargers admit charging for these phantom seats while collecting $25.3 million in ticket guarantees from the city. How much more of this money collected is not justified?

The politicians seem more interested in positioning and egos rather than the city coffers. The principle illustrated is that no one is as concerned with spending others' money as they are with spending their own. The Chargers, since the money is their own, are much more concerned than the politicians with tax dollars. Comments such as "greed" and "testosterone" are the usual glib liberal expressions to cover their own inadequacy and lack of oversight. JIM REID San Diego

I read with disbelief the comments made by Councilwoman Donna Frye, saying that Spanos was motivated by "greed and testosterone" to the detriment of the public good. She went on to say, "They're taking up way too much of my time on whether or not we're going to give Alex Spanos a stadium."

Frye should know that, due to a previous politician's hapless negotiations, the city got itself into the ticket guarantee mess. Don't blame the Spanos family for being greedy -- blame the city and its politicians for being naive and incompetent negotiators. Spanos was merely accepting a deal that no businessman worth his salt would would have refused. Imagine the surprise the Chargers must have felt when even pre-season games were included in the ticket guarantee!

As far as this matter taking up to much of Frye's time, let me suggest that she should find the time to deal with it in a professional, thoughtful manner. FRED J. HESKE Alpine

It was so edifying to read your story and know that our council members are hard at work for their constituents by making inane remarks to newspaper reporters. Frye's statements were particularly offensive and sexist. Maybe the council could use some sensitivity training -- and, if they are so confused, maybe they shouldn't be where they are. ANITA J. DI PIETRO San Diego

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