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San Diego Union-Tribune

CAITLIN ROTHER

Chargers' request for new stadium has its supporters | Task force hears NFL adviser's view

September 14, 2002

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Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Sep 14, 2002

Rick Horrow, a consultant for the National Football League, presented a slew of charts and figures Thursday night to show how the Chargers' financial ranking has been falling as other teams have gotten new stadiums.

And it's going to get worse, he said.

He said the Chargers could only improve their ranking -- and likely their performance on the field as well -- with a new stadium. Qualcomm Stadium, he added, is "economically and physically obsolete."

"The Chargers will be economically uncompetitive without a new revenue-generating facility," Horrow told the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues, repeating what team officials have been saying for months.

The 15-member panel's third meeting in Balboa Park started with a raucous three-minute presentation from attorney Mike Aguirre, who accused the task force of so far accepting solely one-sided presentations, from the Chargers and the NFL.

Chairman David Watson denied the allegation. "Clearly, I offered everyone the opportunity to speak," he said.

Each of the panel members was allowed to ask Horrow one question after his presentation, jam-packed with revenue figures, stadium project costs and Super Bowl economic-impact numbers. Watson indicated Horrow might be invited back for a more intensive question- and-answer session.

Horrow repeated certain figures for emphasis.

One was that the average public contribution to new stadium building projects these days is 62 percent of the total cost, or $201.4 million. Private contributions, which include loans from the NFL, average only 38 percent, or $124 million.

Horrow presented a number of charts to illustrate the Chargers' ranking in terms of total local revenues -- dollars teams don't have to share with others in the league.

Task force member Bruce Henderson noted that taxpayers spent between $150 million and $200 million to renovate Qualcomm in 1997, to extend the trolley line there, and to pay for the controversial ticket guarantee.

Henderson was referring to a provision in the Qualcomm Stadium lease reached in 1995 that guarantees the Chargers revenue equivalent to 60,000 general admission seats per game for the first 10 years of the contract. So far, San Diego taxpayers have paid about $28.7 million to the Chargers for unsold tickets.

Henderson said the Chargers' financial ranking may have risen substantially after the $78 million Qualcomm renovation, but noted that it subsequently dropped sharply and has continued to decline ever since. He said there is no guarantee that trend would not repeat itself, even with a new stadium.

Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani has repeatedly said the team's financial ranking has fallen into the "bottom quartile" of total stadium revenues for the NFL's 32 teams.

Horrow's figures showed that the Chargers' local revenues ranked 24th of the 31 NFL teams playing in 2001. He said the Chargers were projected to fall to 27th this year, to 28th in 2003, and to 29th in 2004 and 2005.

The average amount of local revenues produced by the top eight teams is $53.7 million more than what the Chargers take in, he said.

Horrow would not release figures for any NFL team's total revenues because he said they are confidential, and he would not name those teams in the top 25%. He would only say they all had new stadiums.

According to the September 2002 issue of Forbes magazine, the Chargers took in total revenues of $131 million in 2001, as did the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. That means the three teams were tied for rankings of 19th, 20th and 21st out of the 31 teams playing in 2001. Forbes did not break out rankings for local revenues alone.

Since 1992, Horrow said, 26 football facilities have been developed or modernized at a cost of more than $7 billion, of which taxpayers paid $4.4 billion.

Of the 22 stadium projects that were recently built, are under construction or are being planned, the most expensive is a $590 million stadium project under way in Chicago. The public contribution, including $65 million from the state of Illinois, came to $390 million.

Next in line is a $518.7 million project under construction in Philadelphia. It includes $392 million for construction, $103.7 million for land acquisition and site development and $23 million for contingency costs. The public contribution is $188.7 million, including $85 million from the state of Pennsylvania.

Caitlin Rother: (619) 542-4567; caitlin.rother@uniontrib.com



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