GO CHARGERS- OR WILL THEY STAY?

 Well, here we go again. The Chargers are back in town, at least temporarily. Returning to the drawing board, the Mayor’s task force searches for a way to find a way to make Dean Spanos happy and to keep the Chargers in San Diego.

After the arrogant attitude towards any effort that San Diego leaders proposed for a new stadium, Spanos just went right ahead and committed himself to a new location in Carson. Now that he’s pushed back to San Diego by the NFL club of team owners, his response to finding a solution turned around about 180°.

At stake is the gorilla in the room: will San Diego voters approve paying $350 million towards new stadium in a location that Spanos will consider suitable? Throughout all of these negotiations and during the NFL sessions to pick a team for Los Angeles, there was no significant money offered by Spanos to add to the $1.1 billion pot

At least at the time of posting this commentary, the negotiating team for the Chargers has held out an olive branch and indicated it would negotiate in good faith. The best thing they did was to appoint a new point man, Fred Maas, highly regarded in the community for his expertise in land management.

However, the whole deal depends whether the voters will buy into the funding of a new stadium which in one way or another increases taxes. Showing the color of money from the NFL group and Spanos is a must.

The billionaire NFL owners show some arrogance when they require a smaller market, like San Diego, to put up at least 50% public funding for their benefit. They got away with this in other cities, principally in the Midwest. San Diego has other options for citizens to spend their time and money for recreation and entertainment.

A recent poll by The San Diego Union-Tribune indicated that 51% of the respondents were in favor of the Chargers plan to locate downtown. When questioned between the Mission Valley and downtown sites, they voted 36% for no difference.

Apparently there is strong support from San Diego businessmen in the hotel and tourist business to build a new stadium on the land that is now used by the ballpark for tailgate parties and a large storage yard for MTS buses. Somebody would have to pay for a new site, and it would delay construction finding a new location.

However JMI Realty, operated by John Moores, owns the land adjoining the potential downtown stadium site. Needless to say he would be anxious to build a new hotel for a stadium and an extension of the convention center.

So the drama goes on with two opposing teams, Mayor Faulconer’s group supporting Mission Valley and a limit of $350 million from public funds. The Chargers negotiating team is now headed by a less confrontational and well known San Diegan. On the sidelines are potential opponents to any stadium that is financed out of taxes. If the scheme is to put a surtax on hotel bills, that is rather discriminatory against the ordinary tourists who come to San Diego for reasons other than a football game.

If the Chargers leave town next year and join the NFL team in Los Angeles, there will still be major expenditures for future use of Qualcomm Stadium. Since it has cost the city $15 million a year for the Chargers to use the stadium, deferred maintenance for many years has accumulated. In addition there is still $29 million due on bonds from earlier construction.

It doesn’t look like there is an easy magic-kingdom solution to keep the Chargers in San Diego. Until there is a mutual agreement whether the Mission Valley or the downtown site is to be considered, and financing acceptable to the public, the situation will remain in limbo.

I won’t even begin to analyze the complex structure to finance of $1.1 billion stadium using a variety of bonds, and a NFL grant plus an additional loan, sales of seating rights to fans and corporate sponsors. There is also an option to tack on a room tax on hotel revenues to help finance the stadium or to provide funds for paying off the bonds.

The amount of money for each of these financing resources is incredible. For instance the $200 million estimate for “stadium builder licenses” from corporations and fans may be far-fetched.

In addition any effort to approve or put on the ballot issue will surely generate opposing litigation. The consummate ombudsman, Cory Briggs, is already gearing up for opposition and proposes his own ballot measure. Briggs previously won a case against the hotel industry assessing an additional room tax to assist in building a convention center extension.

It’s going to be a prize fight with taxpayers probably getting it on the chin

 

 

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