On Wednesday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer will give his first State of the City address, and you should expect some kind of dorky civic surprise.
I bet, for example, County Supervisor Ron Roberts will make a cameo, as he has in the past, to announce that he and Faulconer have finally come up with a way for the city and county to work together to build a new Chargers stadium.
Whatever it turns out to be, the mayor will undoubtedly articulate something more ambitious than the basic “we have to keep the Chargers — they’re a regional asset” affirmation that we’ve gotten in all of these yearly speeches going back a decade. He may go so far as to call for the redevelopment of the Sports Arena and Qualcomm Stadium sites to free up money for a glitzy new building downtown that could do what both of them do, but better.
Whatever you think about the issue, we need to put several myths to rest. Every time I talk about this story, whether on the radio, at a party or on Twitter, the same simple responses come up. Here’s why we need to retire the most common ones.
Why don’t they get a bunch of private investors to pay for a new stadium?
This comes up all the time. Check out this U-T Facebook comment swarm, for instance. Inevitably the discussion of a stadium includes public money. People instinctively wonder why investors or the team won’t just build a stadium themselves.
They would if it made money.
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"The fans who care about football can pay for it" is not a myth, it's called free enterprise. The Chargers are a private corporation, it's not my responsibility to pay for your entertainment. Running the Spanos welfare queens out of San Diego will be the best possible outcome.
Say goodbye to professional sports in San Diego. Oh- I forgot. We have the Padres. A perennial afterthought. In retrospect, Petco should have been built to accommodate both baseball & football.
@Will Wurth Yeah, right. Just like Qualcomm
It seems like it boils down to the NFL allowing fans to acquire equity in the franchise. Besides the seat rights how about $1,000 to have a tile with your name on it at the entrance? A tailgating space named after you or your company. Your name randomly displayed on the scoreboard between plays. I know people who would pay $1,000 for something like that. All the better if the investment had a chance to grow with the value of the organization.
In my opinion city and county government should bend over backwards to facilitate zoning, transportation and permitting. Not a dime of taxpayer funds should be spent on land acquisition, construction or maintenance of the facility. The alternative of letting the Chargers move to LA is a good one. No more blackouts or traffic snarls and an easy relaxing train ride up there to watch a game once in a while.
There’s another myth worth mentioning:
Charger’s football is nowhere near as popular in San Diego as its cheerleaders want you to believe. There aren't enough Charger fans to put a ballot initiative over the top.
If you don’t believe me do the math:
Add the average number of people who watch or listen to games on radio and TV to all the individual people who attend home games and, if broadcast ratings and ticket reports are right, you fall far short of the two-thirds of the voters required to win a ballot, even including TV viewers of play-off games.
The fact is Chargers TV broadcasts are watched by just 15% to 25% of county households, depending on the game; play-off games attract about 35%. And all these broadcasts draw from the same pool of viewers, so it’s not like 25% of households watch one week and then a second and different 25% the following week, for a total of 50%. There is enormous overlap in viewers.
Same at the stadium: the people that show up for home games are likely the same people each week. Play around with the numbers and you can probably get away with saying a home season attracting say 560,000 fans, really means the same 70,000 people showed up eight times.
Add it all together, and even incorporating the TV industry standard estimate of three viewers per household, you get to maybe, and this is a stretch, 50% of eligible voters.
No wonder it’s taken 12 years to go nowhere. There is nowhere to go, at least with voters. That must be why our political and local business elite keep looking for ways around a vote.
According to Forb's, the only NFL team to lose money in 2012 was the detroit Lions. Only the other teams raked it in, The Cowboys made over $200 million and our dear Chargers made over $30 million. The teams can afford to build a stadium with that kind of annual income. They have just been spoiled!
See Page 45 of the draft FY-2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) linked below. Qualcomm Stadium is 166 Acres in size. 84 acres to the north is owned by the City of San Diego's General Fund. The remaining 82 acres towards the San Diego River is owned by the Water Utility Department. The City is trying to steal Qualcomm Stadium from taxpayers, and exchange Water Utility Department's 82 acres, for equivalent space anywhere. This would allow the City to bypass the required public vote to sell or change exceptionally large City properties greater than 80 acres in size.
Search for the word " Qualcomm " in the document where the City of San Diego somehow failed to renew the annual $15 dollar Master Lease to Qualcomm Stadium the Water Utilities Department Enterprise Fund for the last 10 years [2005 - 2015]. In 1965 a Regional County-wide Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was created between the San Diego Stadium Authority (SDSA), the City of San Diego, the County of San Diego, and the Water Utilities Department.
To solve the problem of not paying immaterial lease payments, the City of San Diego's General Fund (GF) can pay the Water Utilities Department $150 dollars immediately. Problem solved. Or the City could reduce the annual fee to $1 dollar, for a total of $15 dollar to the Water Department. The lease agreement is between the City itself. Half the Qualcomm Stadium building footprint is owned by the City's General Fund. The other southern half is owned by the Water Utilities Department.
Page 45 of the FY-2014 CAFR documents the latest SanDiego Long Con, where Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council are going to try to steal our public lands greater than 80 acres without a public vote of the people as required under City Charter Section 221.
"Management is currently examining options to either enter into a new, market value lease of the Water Utilities parcel or to exchange the Water Utility Department parcel for a General Fund parcel of similar value."
"Section 221: Sale of Real Property.
Real property owned by The City of San Diego consisting of eighty (80) contiguous acres or more, whether or not in separate parcels, shall not be sold or exchanged unless such sale or exchange shall have first been authorized by ordinance of the Council and thereafter ratified by the electors of The City of San Diego. The foregoing shall not apply to the sale or exchange of real property to a governmental agency for bona fide governmental purposes which sale or exchange was duly authorized by ordinance of the Council, nor shall it apply to properties previously authorized for disposition by the electors of The City of San Diego."
The City's new City Charter Review Committee plans on erasing and deleted City Charter Section 221, so that the City Council and Mayor Faulconer can get around stealing our public property for private gain, based upon a ruse.
@La Playa Heritage --You had to know the city would try anything (legal or otherwise) to avoid the electorate as far as a new stadium for the Chargers is concerned.
@David Crossley Former Mayor Jerry Sanders tried to give away the full 166 acres of Qualcomm Stadium to @SDSU for student housing. City Charter Section 221 stopped their raid. They dropped the devious plan.
@La Playa Heritage @David Crossley --SDSU apparently isn't done trying to get their hands on that land, as one of the proposals was for SDSU to purchase part or all of that property for that very thing. Would they get that property at below-market rate? And isn't that also illegal under Section 221 of the city charter?
@David Crossley Correct public land greater than 80 acres in size requires a public vote before sales or swapping land. However, the City Charter Review Committee already planned to delete City Charter Section 221. So far no Opposition.
The FY-2014 CAFR with the new evidence, just came out two days ago on January 12, 2014.
The City Council can at any time lease portions of Qualcomm Stadium to SDSU. Just No ministerial Sales or Trades.
Correct. City Council President @SherriLightner main goal is to dramatically change our 1931 City Charter. Sadly including getting rid of City Charter Section 221 which will allow the City Council authority to sell off Qualcomm Stadium and the Sports Arena is already part of the written plan. @David Crossley @La Playa Heritage @ToddGloria @Kevin_Faulconer @AlvarezSD
One thing I keep seeing written (including here) is the belief that a new stadium with public financing would require 2/3 approval from the voters. However, I think this is highly misleading; I can all but guarantee that Faulconer and the Chargers will attempt to devise a scheme that won't require such a high bar of approval.
In fact, I think the most recent proposal to sell the Sports Arena land is just such a scheme. Because it generates revenue from a property sale (rather than a new tax) I believe it would be exempt from the 2/3 rule established by Prop 13. Right?
All the commentary is fascinating but relies mostly on "logic". There is no logic here in the stadium process except the crudeness of taking public money for personal profit by the elites. To think the Mayor's speech will reflect anything different from this illogical process doesn't make sense. He was hand-pick by the the political/business cabal of the city to be mayor. Meanwhile we're short on fire stations, funded police slots not filled, a whole lot pot holes un-filled, sidewalks that resemble those in Baghdah..... Has anyone driven through the busiest intersection in San Diego, Rocescrans/Midway recently.... Remember reading about the Roman Circus in your World History classes?
San Diego taxpayers, not the Chargers, own Qualcomm Stadium and the sports arena sites. If the city ever decided to sell either of those sites off, why would it spend a dime of that money in the form of welfare for the billionaire owners of the Chargers, when it faces billions of dollars in debt for unmaintained infrastructure and pension liabilities? Pay those liabilities off first, before pretending that the city has surplus real estate sales revenue to throw at the Chargers.
There is a very serious flaw with point #1 which Scott will never admit. Stadiums are losers because we allow them to be. Look no further than the Doug Marrone - Buffalo deal that allowed a coach to walk away from the last year of a contract while still getting paid. Why not choose to get paid for doing nothing or to get paid once by your former team and once more by your new team? Look no further than the Norv Turner - Chargers deal where the team fired him for a lousy job but still had to pay him. If teams paid for stadiums, do you honestly think that they would enter into those kinds of asinine deals? Yet Scott keeps telling us that the NFL owns the taxpayers, and that we have no choice but to continue to allow the legalized extortion, therefore it must be true! The bottom line is that until taxpayers revolt everywhere and refuse to pay for stadiums, nothing will change. Owners will continue to throw money at coaches and players as though there is an endless amount of it. Why should they worry about whether a stadium can make money? Oh and let's not forget about the unions that force many cities and developers to pay exorbitant labor costs in order to avoid costly lawsuits. Obviously there is nothing that can be done until taxpayers/voters change the way that they vote. Until then, the extortion continues!
Let's cut the cross off Mt Soledad, melt it down, use the steel to build a big platform, dump it onto the La Jolla Children's Pool and build a new stadium on top of that. Solves all our problems at once.
Absolutely one of the best articles on this sham. The stadiums almost NEVER make money for the host cities (except maybe Green Bay because there is nothing else to do there in Winter and they have a huge cultural fan base and sold part of the team?). See this for more info on the studies: http://mandybear44.wix.com/goawaychargers
My sentiments parallel yours, Scott, but I’d like to add a couple more “myths” for your consideration, not necessarily about the stadium, but about the situation:
Myth 1: The Chargers have a huge, rabid fan base. Well, there are a fair number of Charger “fanatics”, but the evidence of it’s huge size is non-existent. Why else would we have so many blackouts? And a lot of the “fanatics” regularly sell their tickets to fans of the opposing team, with the result that it’s hard to determine the “home” team. Dean Spanos now admits that a third of his fan base lives in L.A. county!
Myth 2: The Spanos family are strong owners. Actually, they are just the opposite; weak, indecisive, terrible at P.R and totally lacking in “gravitas”. The best thing the taxpayers could hope for would be a sale to a stronger owner. E.g., I have two friends who gave up their season tickets in disgust after the taxpayer funded remake of Qualcomm, because their seats were moved to less desirable locations and, of course, the prices increased as well. When they complained, they were given the “tough s--t” treatment.
You may recall the feckless handling of the Bobby Ross firing, the inexplicable Marty Schottenheimer termination after going 14-2, the A J Smith incompetence demonstrated early and often and allowed to continue for several years after his exposure as a lightweight following a couple of good drafts. And the list of former Chargers very productive on other teams keeps growing.
Anyone else tired of the constant stadium whine? No wonder; it started only a few years after the stadium was expanded, damaging it for baseball during the Golding mayoralty! Now we still have huge unpaid debt for renovation of a stadium called unusable a few years after it was upgraded! Where were the Spanos‘ when it was being designed, presumably to their specifications?
What would you give for an owner like Bob Kraft of the Patriots, the Rooneys in Pittsburgh or even that egomaniac in Dallas?
Can we expect that Voice will pull no punches after tonight's State of the City when Mayor Faulconer will inevitably claim that they're looking at ways to build the stadium "that make sense for the taxpayers"?
@Kathy S @Andy Kopp The group of "civic leaders" will most likely come from groups that have an economic incentive in pushing for a new stadium-- in other words, they have a vested interest in the outcome. Pretty much the definition of "conflict-of-interest".
Who won't be represented? The people who won't see a dime from having a new stadium built.
Love watching the "government should stay out of business" crowd trip all over themselves as they try to date government, without committing to government (self regulated, self imposed taxes and fees). Sort of like watching a kid ice skate for the first time.
I suspect some how, some way, the power players are going to try and manipulate the process into a no public vote strategy. The two thirds threshold is going to be a very tough sell.
Also, for arguments sake, let's say that downtown is the selected site for THE stadium. Recognize that one of the enjoyable aspects of the current game-day experience, is tailgating before the kick-off. Lots of County residents love their RVs and SUVs. Do you think they are going to like the idea of being funneled into downtown bars and restaurants for pre-game festivities? Sure, possible minor point; but, Charger tickets/fees are far more expensive than Padres tickets. I don't see the inland County fans embracing a downtown project.
Without the tailgating facet that would be eliminated by building downtown the stadium becomes a colossal loser rather than just a loser.
Tailgating aspect to this debate is huge.
Unfortunately that is true. The parking lot at Qualcomm is the of two venues here of their kind. Large open air paved area for events. Sports arena not as good but the swap meet is a popular venue
from car and R.V sales, the gearhead swap meet, police driver training and other events I think it would be a shame to lose it.
The best option, and the only one that really makes sense, is a swanky renovation of the existing stadium. Address the biggest issues fans have with The Q: Fill in the sideline area with a few more sections, upgrade the deplorable concessions and restrooms, do big upgrades on the club level, all while keeping the iconic midcentury facade and convenient central location.
In my opinion it is not the number of seats that's the problem. A new stadium might sell out for a couple of seasons, people who want to check out the newness, but adding more seats altogether run the risk of being more empty seats down the road. Other stadiums have played the renovation game to great success. Check out this article about our rival KC Chiefs stadium reno: http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/how-kansas-city-made-an-old-stadium-work-20140824
@StaciJackson It's not renovation that matters to the team owners, it is the ability to include luxury boxes that are not there now because the owners don't have to share that revenue with the NFL. The push for a new stadium is simply to bring in more revenue from big spenders that will go directly into the owner's pocket. They won't care about empty seats, that revenue is dwarfed by TV rights and the luxury boxes. They also know that one day soon, all of football will be pay-for-view.
Not one dime of public resources to the Spanos goofs, as LA Times columnist TJ Simers so aptly called them.
Nice article Scott. Another Myth: A stadium in LA will draw the Chargers there.
First, LA has the same issues getting a stadium built there as do we in San Diego. Any and every stadium idea that has been floated for LA includes one the these two thoughts:
1) Bringing their franchise to LA's bigger market. Makes sense for St Louis Rams or Oakland Raiders or almost any smaller market team.
2) Getting a stadium started and getting awarded a new franchise or trading stadium rights for part of an existing franchise. Given the value of an NFL franchise, plunking down 200 million to get the stadium financing started might make sense, if at the end of the process you get a coveted NFL team of your very own.
Unless and until the Chargers are working on a LA stadium plan themselves the LA threat is not much of one so let's get over that.
back in the 60s, a lot of thought and planning went into building the stadium on its current site. it is pretty geo-centric from all sectors of the county...so pretty hard to beat for location. also i would bet that there are plenty of teams that would love to play in san diego. if the chargers make good on their threat to leave, it shouldn't be too long before another team heads here for the surf and sand...and golf.
a new downtown structure will only make sense if the current site is put to enlightened use. how many would want to see the entire current qualcomm site papered over in condos and retail? or another mall? maybe a nice arts/cultural center coupled with outdoor markets with a Euro feel and other uses that have appeal. and what to do about the huge oil plume that pollutes the site? does that need to be addressed?
in any case, let's see what the Mayor says in his upcoming speech ... also we've already had 3 Superbowls played here, and i recall being told that the Washington Redskins did a ton of damage to the then Hyatt Islandia after winning it here in 1988...In 1998, Denver won it here and in 2003, Tampa Bay beat Oakland here. not sure how much immediate economic impact they had; but it certainly showcases our region to a large TV audience in the dead of winter...and probably does help with tourism a bit.
bottom line.... the NFL is a $50 billion business ... McDonalds grosses about half of the annually ... new stadiums should be a joint venture between the team owners and the league... i believe the league has put up a lot of funds for other recent new stadiums. the city can give generous lease terms for the land to keep the Chargers or attract a new team.
let's cut to the chase and be honest about why the chargers are pressing for a new building...isn't it about adding more skyboxes and generating more revenue for the owners? and can anyone hazard a guess how much ticket prices would increase with a new ball park? it certainly happened at Petco.
@jdv 333 If the Chargers leave, the only team that will come to SD to replace them will be in the Arena League. No other NFL team will come here. It doesn't matter how much sun, sand and golf we have. And any team would have to think about the fact that they would have to compete with at least one and maybe two LA teams for sponsors and season ticket holders. Once the Chargers are gone, so is the NFL.
@jdv 333 I'm totally with you on this. A really nice renovation of the existing stadium is the best solution.
@David Crossley, I'd like to see that letter to believe it. Kindly show us an URL to it.
Here's another myth (or, perhaps, a self-inflected effect): that 30% of the Chargers revenue comes from LA and Orange County. Though this may be true, today, this wasn't always the case. Before Qualcomm stadium was expanded and while there were teams in Los Angeles, it's likely that 100% of the revenue came from San Diego County. In 1995 the city made the now infamous "ticket guarantee" with the Chargers, and the team basically stopped advertising ticket sales. At the time, the team was winning, and the city was covering the cost of any unsold tickets, so why bother spending any money on customer acquisition, right? Two years later the stadium went through it's second significant expansion. More seats, more luxury suites... and not enough people or big businesses to fill them, so they started focusing sales north of San Diego into Orange County and Los Angeles.
This is just the latest rallying cry from the team as a reason why they need to be more "competitive." How that is important in a league that is setup as a regional monopoly is anyone's guess. It's not like there is another team in the city that could snap away their customers. The NFL is setup as a regional monopoly and — with a salary cap in place — teams compete on the field, not in the board room. Why should it matter to a local fan base if their team is in the lower echelon — or even on the bottom — of the NFL's financial ladder. It's all just egotistical corporate chest pounding.
@johnpurlia --Regarding luxury suites; the suites at Qualcomm are in the process of being redone. I am still trying to find out who is paying for it. My feeling is it isn't the Chargers.
@johnpurlia @David Crossley Scroll down to last page of City Budget. The Chargers pay about $2.5 million and city $12 million of expenses. http://www.sandiego.gov/fm/annual/pdf/fy14/vol2/v2qualcomm.pdf No idea on Petco.
@johnpurlia To add to the myth count, there's also the "naming rights" issue. People seem to think that the amount received for naming rights will go directly to help pay for the stadium. Wrong. Fees generated from naming rights and sponsorships would go to the Chargers which in turn will use some of that money to fund their contribution. So naming rights are not in addition to what the Chargers, the NFL, and the public would put in, but they are in lieu of the Chargers contribution. And the NFL contribution is not a direct payment either, it's a loan.
@creanium @johnpurlia @David Crossley Excellent; that's what I thought. Imagine if the Chargers had taken a proactive role in making incremental improvements in the stadium (which, externally anyway, is a beautiful architectural structure) upon first acquiring the team in the mid 80's. Or, for that matter, had they begun making improvements in 2002 when Alex Spanos first publicly began complaining about the stadium. 14 years later they completely stonewall on any improvements (structurally, or those that would enhance their opportunity for in game advertising) claiming that they would be spending good money on a facility that it at it's end of life.
(Then again, I live in a house built in 1927)
@johnpurlia @creanium @David Crossley --The difference is (at least this might be the Charger's argument) they are only a tenant in the Q, where the Padres paid for roughly 1/3 the cost of the ballpark. Then again, the Padres were also a tenant at the Q (then Jack Murphy Stadium) when they put a new out-of-town scoreboard on the RF wall. Even before that, I believe they put the current scoreboards up in the stadium on the Padres dime as well. Guess the Chargers just don't have the money for that.
@David Crossley @Robert Cohen @johnpurlia all other stadiums/arenas that were partially funded by the teams get the right to sell the naming rights. Spanos is not about to write a 200 million dollar check out of petty cash, or risk the family investment by collateralizing the team for a loan to pay his share of the stadium cost. He has to shop around for a sponsor so he knows a solid source of income per year will be paid to him. That will allow him to make his contribution.
@David Crossley @johnpurlia Any idea who is paying for all the recent renovations at Petco (last year's dimension mods and this year's big video board)? Is it the city, or the Padres? By my nearest estimate, the Spanos family has never put a dime into the stadium since purchasing the team in 1984. If memory serves, I believe the city paid for the Chargers new offices and practice facility as part of the last stadium expansion.
@David Crossley @Robert Cohen @johnpurlia Anything is possible and I think it was SD that got Qualcomm to pony up the $18 million to expand what was then Jack Murphy Stadium but in general it's the teams that want to have control over who they associate with in regard to sponsors and naming partners.