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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Sports Council offers its plan for Qualcomm Stadium site

December 6, 2002

Abstract:
The group is also one of the high-profile backers of the ticket guarantee. The guarantee assures the Chargers will receive revenue equivalent to the sale of 60,000 tickets to each home game. Since 1997, the city has paid more than $25 million for the guarantee.

"This is the same group that told us that they were going to guarantee the ticket guarantee," said attorney Mike Aguirre, who sued the Chargers this week alleging unfair business practices. "They told us that in 1995, 1997, and it was never true. It would not be reasonable to rely on their representations now."

1 PIC; [Jim Bailey], standing in front of a concept drawing of the Qualcomm site, spoke about the San Diego International Sports Council's proposal for the property. The plan includes a new stadium. (B-4:1,7,8; B-6:1); Credit: K.C. Alfred / Union-Tribune

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Dec 6, 2002

Editions vary

For months, the debate over the Chargers' future in San Diego has been dominated by talk of lawsuits, triggers, phantom seats and the threat of the team moving.

But a group of prominent sports business entrepreneurs last night tried to shift the discussion, inviting people to dream about what could be done with the 166-acre site where Qualcomm Stadium sits.

Leaders from the San Diego International Sports Council unveiled their own stadium redevelopment proposal to the Citizens' Task Force on Chargers Issues.

"We felt it was more important to focus on potential solutions rather than history," said Sports Council board chairman Bill Allen.

The nonprofit group, which attempts to promote the region as a venue for large sporting events, has a board of directors representing fields -- such as travel, media and hotels -- with connections to sports.

Herb Klein, editor in chief of Copley Newspapers, is a board member.

The group is also one of the high-profile backers of the ticket guarantee. The guarantee assures the Chargers will receive revenue equivalent to the sale of 60,000 tickets to each home game. Since 1997, the city has paid more than $25 million for the guarantee.

During the approval process for the current city lease with the Chargers, the Sports Council agreed to help market tickets. Political leaders touted the commitment as a virtual guarantee against high payouts.

The stadium design proposal was initially commissioned by a group of North County businessmen led by Ron Fowler, a beer distributor with ties to the Sports Council.

But Allen said his group took over the concept because the "Sports Council is the right vehicle from a public perception point of view."

The group hired sports consultant Jim Bailey, a former Cleveland Browns executive.

Bailey said the idea for the stadium proposal is to make the project "self-sufficient" by including retail and housing developments alongside a stadium.

"This exercise is a way to show it all fits," Bailey said.

The group's project revolves around having the city giving or leasing the 166-acre site to a private developer. After building a stadium -- which would be managed by a private company -- the developer would turn profits by building the retail and housing aspects, Bailey said.

"It doesn't impact the general fund," Bailey said. "That's the key."

However, Bailey said the group's proposal has not been subjected to any environmental or traffic studies to gauge how much development the site could fit without large costs for infrastructure, such as street and sewer improvements.

The group also does not have a plan for how such a development would be financed in the interim, before the retail and housing developments netted profits. However, Bailey said there may be a need for some short-term financing, such as a bond.

Some said that given the Sports Council's lack of results on promises regarding the ticket guarantee, its redevelopment ideas should be met with skepticism.

"This is the same group that told us that they were going to guarantee the ticket guarantee," said attorney Mike Aguirre, who sued the Chargers this week alleging unfair business practices. "They told us that in 1995, 1997, and it was never true. It would not be reasonable to rely on their representations now."

Sports Council executive vice president Tory Nixon said the group made a significant effort to market tickets. It just wasn't very successful.

"The Sports Council made the effort to hire and have people out in the streets selling tickets," he said.

While Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said he had limited knowledge of the proposal, he said the idea was on the right track.

"It speaks to the whole community, not just football fans," he said.

Regarding the plan's lack of details, Fabiani added, "This is hard stuff. The Chargers are spending millions on their plan and it takes a great amount of community input."

Allen said the group's goal wasn't to figure everything out.

"This may not be the ultimate solution," he said. "But hopefully, it will jump-start the dialogue."

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



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