Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | A new audit paints a grim portrait of the city’s management and revenue practices for Qualcomm Stadium, whose operations the San Diego Auditor’s Office found to be “not self-sustaining” and largely dependent on money from city subsidies.
The audit raised serious concerns about the stadium’s administrative policies, its revenue-generating inefficiencies, and its capacity for long-term solvency, especially in light of looming uncertainty over just how much longer the Chargers plan on calling the stadium home.
One of its most prominent findings concerned the stadium’s growing reliance on public funds to cover its operating costs. Drops in revenue from stadium operations have forced the city to divert money from other parts of its budget to cover the deficit. Another finding warns that San Diego, because of stipulations in the city’s current agreement with the Chargers, will be on the hook for a $21.4 million bond debt obligation should the team choose to vacate the stadium after 2010.
Overall the audit depicts a facility facing increasing costs and dwindling revenue as city and stadium officials have struggled to lease out the venue, failed to develop a comprehensive business strategy and properly maintain billing records, and been constrained in their revenue-earning potential by stipulations and legal settlements that have granted the Chargers substantial monetary concessions.
The audit also proposed several recommendations for mitigating the drain on city coffers posed, now and in the future, by short-sighted management of the facility. It highlights the claims by some team and city officials that the city could be better off financially if the Chargers got the new stadium they’ve been seeking since 2002.
“One of our primary arguments on the need for a new stadium has been that taxpayers have a very bad deal on Qualcomm Stadium right now. They have an aging facility that they’re required to support, it generates generally no money for taxpayers,” said Mark Fabiani, the team’s special counsel. “I think the audit proves that.”