GOODBYE, AND GOOD RIDDANCE
The Greeks have a word for it: “money.” In this case it’s “follow the money.” That’s exactly what the Spanos family did in moving the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles.
To heck with 56 years of city subsidies for wealthy team owners and later the NFL monopoly of billionaires. Even more deplorable is the sudden abandonment of thousands of Charger fans who have endured season after season of disappointing game results but remained loyal to the home team.
It’s clear that Los Angeles does not want the Chargers. So who will fill the temporary small stadium called the Sub Hub where they will play until the grand palace in Inglewood is completed as the home for the Los Angeles Rams? San Diego fans say no way will they trudge up there. As one sports writer wrote, Dean Spanos can sit in a half-full stadium occupied by fans of the opposing team.
That was his choice because he knows the franchise will increase in value in the larger media market. Perhaps he expects to get a bigger share of the lucrative TV fees that the NFL doles out to keep members captive to their dictatorial control.
Get it? Follow the money!
Spano’s is willing to pay $550 million to the NFL as a transfer fee, but he was unwilling to put up any substantial funds for a new stadium in San Diego. Yes, some of the failed plans for financing a new stadium showed $350 million coming from the Chargers. That was not Spano’s money but the funds that he expected to collect from well-heeled fans paying for rights to the luxury boxes and season ticket renewals. That scheme never seemed feasible.
As a franchise owner in the 32-team NFL club, Spanos is one of the multi-billionaires who are on “public assistance,” one disgruntled fan wrote in a letter to the editor.
When it became possible that the Chargers would move to Los Angeles, it was amazing how the sports columnists turned on the team like vicious dogs. The frustration of failed meetings between Spano’s and city officials, the two defeated ballot initiatives to fund the stadium and the general lack of effort to compromise finally undermined the hopeful media support to keep the team in San Diego.
So what are the options for the use of the Qualcomm Stadium and the Mission Valley site? Is there a need to keep or rebuild a stadium that large that presently seats 71,500 fans? Can the site be shared with San Diego State University as an extension campus?
These are just of the few ideas already under discussion. Before leaping into a redevelopment plan, here is some history of what we presently have to work with.
The original stadium was built for 53,000 seats 50 years ago and was expanded another 8,000 seats in 1984. When the NFL and city leaders wanted to conform the stadium for the Super Bowl, an additional 10,000 seats were added in 1997 for a total of 71,500.
The financial status of the city-owned property and stadium records a $38 million debt for the improvements of which $19.5 million is due from the Chargers for breaking the lease. There are other leases for the holiday bowls and the Aztec football team remaining to 2018.
During the past several decades, there has been an annual average operating cost for taxpayers of $11 million because of the Chargers’ “sweetheart” lease deal. A survey by a team of architects and construction experts reports that the stadium currently has $90 million of deferred maintenance. Estimates to raze Qualcomm Stadium are about $70 million.
If the present structure is to be preserved and upgraded, there are several options available to reduce the number of seats and to make the stadium more adaptable to college football and soccer. The goal would be to remove some of the unneeded additions that were done in prior years on the cheap to reduce seating capacity of 61,000 or perhaps 40,000.
The naming rights granted to Qualcomm Corporation 20 years ago expire this year and would be available as a fundraiser for the renovations that experts predict could be done for around $500 million.
These are all fine ideas for those who want to have a stadium at a minimal cost. However, the teams that will play there and their fans favor a smaller new facility with all the bells and whistles but expect the citizens of San Diego to pay for it.
Other NFL towns have refurbished old stadiums despite pressure from the billionaire team owners club for the host city to put a lot of skin in the game. San Diego taxpayers are not buying into this scheme while our infrastructure is deteriorating, the homeless population grows and the city pension fund is underfunded.
At posting time an ambitious proposal for redevelopment of the Qualcomm site was announced by a private equity firm. The scheme includes a smaller stadium for a major league soccer team and a partnership with San Diego State University for housing.
More on this as the details are announced.