This post has been updated.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s report touting a new stadium proposal for the Chargers claimed it as “an opportunity to get a better deal for taxpayers” than what we already lose on Qualcomm Stadium.

But it did not say the plan would cost taxpayers less than what we’re losing. If it is accepted and implemented, it will cost taxpayers more.

And adding to public exposure, the county of San Diego — whose taxpayers have enjoyed the Chargers without sacrificing general fund dollars for the team — will now have its own payments to absorb.


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Importantly, though, it would cap the public contribution so there wouldn’t be any unexpected hits to the budget in the future.

Key facts:

• The city’s proposed $200 million contribution to building a new stadium works out to an annual loan repayment of $13 million a year for the next three decades, according to city financial officials. This year, we’re losing $14.1 million operating and maintaining the old Qualcomm stadium. So the new deal already calls for us to spend basically what we do now.

Nowhere in the new stadium plan does it mention the money we still owe on the last Qualcomm renovation. No matter what happens, we’re paying $4.8 million a year through 2027. This means we have roughly a decade of $18 million annual payments toward football stadiums – money that would otherwise go to police, fire, roads and other general city services.

On top of this, we’d add $150 million in cash from the county’s general fund. This is money that could otherwise go toward county services, like its libraries and parks.

Monday’s plan does make three key assumptions that are necessary to keep the deal from being worse for taxpayers. It says that the Chargers should be on the hook for:

Operating and maintaining the stadium, which is a huge loss for city taxpayers now at Qualcomm.

Any cost overruns on the construction of the new stadium.

Any failure of $188 million in personal seat license sales pegged toward stadium construction to meet projections.

Faulconer and other leaders described the split between the NFL and Chargers and taxpayer contribution to the projected $1.1 billion stadium as two private dollars for every public dollar. This is true, and it’s the reason why there’s lots of chatter about the deal being unacceptable to the team.

The new stadium plan will cost taxpayers more than we lose on the Q, but a few provisions help stem the bleeding.

But make no mistake: This plan is a major taxpayer investment – one larger than city and county taxpayers are already making on football now.

One other point. This shows how much land sales and development rights matters in this deal. City and county leaders took development dollars off the table for legal reasons when they decided to do a quick environmental review for the project. If land sales were still available, another quarter-billion dollars would go a long way toward reducing the direct taxpayer subsidy and potentially make the team happier, too.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the city’s total subsidy to the stadium this year was $12.8 million, which left out some capital costs. We’ve also clarified the sections of the post related to the county’s share of the project and the existing Qualcomm debt. 

    This article relates to: Chargers Stadium, Corrections, Land Use, Must Reads

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

    30 comments
    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    Like most readers, I oppose a new stadium substantially paid for by taxpers, regardless of where the dough comes from.  But the operating costs of Qualcomm will continue as long as it's sitting there being used for something (e.g., Aztec games).  the only wayu to limit the cost to existing debt service is top scrape the damn thing.

    Where do the Aztecs play then? 

    Richard Gardiol
    Richard Gardiol

    @Bill Bradshaw 


    Good point. Qualcomm has lost monster trucks, motocross, and concerts to Petco and is about to lose the Chargers to LA. What's left but RV sales in the parking lot and Aztec football ( Go Aztecs ! ).  Maybe if the City put in an effort to book more events into Qualcomm it wouldn't stand empty a good deal of the time and need to be subsidized.


    Richard Gardiol
    Richard Gardiol

    San Diego City officials are trying to operate our city as if it were a amusement park whose existence depends on thrilling tourists and residents with entertainment opportunities. Sea World, Chargers, Petco Park, microbreweries, and Comic Con are just a few of the inane attractions that City Hall supports with give aways and special privileges.

    This has got to stop and be replaced with an emphasis on sustainability and improving our natural assets. The reliance on never ending growth to pay for todays expenses will spoil San Diego's future. Sustainability means a stable population and infrastructure improvements paid for with current tax revenues. Sustainability means a bright future for San Diego.


    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    Thank goodness the Chargers wont negotiate with San Diego.  The September deadline will pass, there wont be an election and the Chargers will be moving to LA in less than 6 months.

    Next step after the Chargers leave is having the city get the stadium condemned.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @David Benz  --We agree on one thing--the Chargers will be leaving.  But San Diego will be in no hurry to knock down the Q.

    Patrick McBride
    Patrick McBride

    So, just out of curiosity, how much of the value of the U-T is associated with having a local football team to write about. It would seem that 18+ weeks of football coverage for a rabid fan-base has some value. Are the circulation numbers broken out enough to compare?

    richard brick
    richard brick subscribermember

    I love it when the mayor and his minions claim that there will be no new taxes. What that means is that there will be no new taxes this year or until a stadium deal is signed. Once it is signed and within two years the mayor all of a sudden will claim that due to the stadium deal and unexpected costs the city will need to raise taxes. 

    KIm Carpender
    KIm Carpender subscriber

    No, just no.  We should not be spending public money to fund sports unless it is fields for local citizens to play on. This is a terrible deal for the citizens of San Diego.  


    All the talk of "economic development" is a lie.  Research shows this over and over again.  There are many things that could be done to create economic growth in the area around the stadium, but building a new stadium is NOT one of them.  The best idea I have seen is using that land to expand SDSU.

    Mystic Traveler
    Mystic Traveler subscriber

    Sports stadiums are boondoggles. Scams that bilk taxpayers. Subsidies that benefit a few wealthy club owners and NFL officials.  Free money to people that use it to make more money off of die-hard sports fans.

    San Diego residents have wised up and are firmly and clearly saying no to a new stadium.  Corrupt politicians like Falkner are not listening.  We'll remember this the next election.

    Richard Gardiol
    Richard Gardiol

    Dear Mr. Mayor Faulkner,

    San Diegans elected you to manage City Government for the benefit of it's ordinary citizens. Yet you have spent your time in office chasing a billionaire with a big bag of our money. We need you to focus on improving our neighborhoods and the reform of the City Departments that have run amok under your slack leadership.

    We don't need to be the "Microbrewery Capitol of the World", or a "National Football Big League City" half as much as we need a responsible government that makes the real needs of our citizens the highest priority.

    Mr. Mayor, billionaire businessmen and the purveyors of alcoholic beverages should not receive special privileges, land, tax breaks and exemptions from the Municipal Code in order to locate in our city. If they don't want to be here; then we are better city without them.

    Joshua Brant
    Joshua Brant subscriber

    - SPOILER ALERT - There will be no new Chargers stadium in San Diego. Fabiani spit on this proposal as soon as it came out. The majority of San Diegans cannot stomach this deal either.

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    I would like to know where the hell the money came from to commission this design?!  we heard about money for the EIR but I don't recall seeing anything about the cost to have this concept design done?  What other money is Faulconer sinking into this boondoogle that we have not heard about?  The mayor is playing with Monopoly money that is backed by our taxes.

    uaplumber
    uaplumber subscribermember

    Did WE hit the lottery or what? I am still waiting for the CITY to do repairs on the pool in Morley Field and it has been empty all summer and way before and nothing is being done to fix it. WE need to address OUR prioities and keep America's Finest City fine by fixing all the stuff that needs fixing that already exists and leave the BUSINESS of football for  the TEAMS to worry about.

    Tommy Wright
    Tommy Wright

    Love the work Liam - keep it up!  That said, you guys have been great at pointing out the opportunity costs associated with funds going to the stadium (instead of fire, library, etc.), so I am puzzled that land sales would be characterized as "reducing the taxpayer subsidy"? Selling land owned by taxpayers in order to pay for the stadium is a direct subsidy, no?


    Liam Dillon
    Liam Dillon memberadministrator

    @Tommy Wright Thanks for the kind words, Tommy. The money proposed in this plan could otherwise go directly toward libraries, fire, etc. if not spent on the stadium. City-owned land is a bit different, especially if it kickstarts a development that wouldn't otherwise be there or take longer to occur. But yes, land sales would be another subsidy. 

    Tommy Wright
    Tommy Wright

    @Liam Dillon  Fair point Liam. In theory, tax receipts from developments that otherwise would not have occurred would offset some of the overall cost to taxpayers if land sales were a part of the deal. Makes sense - thx for the clarification.

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    @Tommy Wright Selling city owned land for a stadium is absolutely a direct taxpayer subsidy.  Obviously, developers will line up to pay fair market value for the stadium site.  That's prime real estate, there is zero need for a stadium to kickstart any development in Mission Valley.

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    This could all be a fake towards a downtown deal.


    Since no one would like the economics at some point in time the bait and switch will turn towards downtown with most of the cost paid by visitors.


    If successful this is going to be the biggest con job in the history of SD.

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    @Dean Plassaras  --They are not staying.  They could move to LA, St Louis, or San Antonio, but they aren't staying here.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    @Dean Plassaras If you've tried to navigate toward Pertco Park by auto lately, with the somewhat higher average attendance the Pads are drawing, think how it would be for Chargers' games, which normally draw over twice as many fans.

    shawn fox
    shawn fox subscriber

    Is there any evidence that this stadium will last 30 years?  The St. Louis Rams stadium was brand new back during the time that I lived in St. Louis which was in the late 1990s.  That certainly wasn't 30 years ago and yet they already want a new one.  If we think that a Stadium can only last for x number of years, then the bonds need to be payed off before that because it will probably not actually last x number of years.  It is good that they are trying to at least fix the cost upfront for taxpayers as much as possible.  As much as I like NFL football, the truth is that other cities subsidize teams to some degree which frees up money for the team owners to buy players.  Everybody always wants the best deal for themselves, which is understandable but it isn't clear to me if this would really be bad for the team's ability to pay a winning team or if the team owner just wants to bluff to some degree and get the best financial deal possible for his own benefit.  

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    @shawn fox Any stadium immediately depreciates and becomes a "fixer upper" pretty quickly.  Those buildings are very expensive to maintain.  The Padres are responsible for maintenance at Petco but in that case the city paid for most of the original construction cost.  Here, the city is asking the Chargers to foot the bill for 2/3rds of the building costs plus all overruns and to pay for all maintenance..  Don't know what "x" would be but it probably will arrive sooner rather than later.  Most likely the Chargers aren't thrilled with that deal, even if the EIR issue was irrelevant.

    Kathleen Van Buren
    Kathleen Van Buren

    @shawn fox  Remember there's massive TV money and a salary cap in the NFL. Even if the Chargers plan to reinvest new stadium-related revenue into the team, it would go to coaching staff, front office personnel, etc. No one has claimed that the Chargers are losing money on operations.


    FWIW, a properly maintained stadium should last far longer than 30 years, just like any other steel and concrete structure. And while that maintenance is expensive, it is cheaper over the long run than new construction every 30 years. The more the Chargers have invested in the stadium, the less likely they are to push for a replacement down the line.


    In Carson, they propose to pay for the entire costs. Kroenke proposes the same in Inglewood. As is the case with Dodger stadium, whichever stadium is actually built will be maintained and renovated for many, many years before ownership even considers replacement.

    Bob Gardner
    Bob Gardner subscriber

    It really would be nice if our politicians would quit trying to pad the pockets of the super rich.


    If we truly want to be a first class city, how about fixing Balboa Park, repaving our streets, stopping sewer and water lines from breaking, or spending money reconfiguring stop lights that stop traffic for no reason.


    Tis time for the city to tell professional sports teams that we are not buying into their game any longer.  Enough is enough.

    Phillip Franklin
    Phillip Franklin subscriber

    Faulconer and his cohorts will be coming up with more and more schemes in order to fool the taxpayers of not only the city, but the county to hand over what will eventually billion dollar plus subsidy to the Spanos family and the NFL.  But what is somewhat humorous is that the Spanos family is already getting a huge subsidy from this city, but they still want more.  However they really want their ticket punched by the NFL brass so that they can move to Los Angeles whereby the market value of the team doubles overnight.  That is basically what has been driving them to this point.  


    My best guess is that the NFL will not quickly punch their ticket for such a move.  So Kevin Faulconer and company will simply put more and more of the tax payers money on the table to make them happy.  And that could in the end cost the taxpayers even more than the billion plus they would plan on spending.  I wouldn't be surprised to see another one of those ticket guarantees thrown in.  Only this time it will be a PSL guarantee.  You see to Kevin Faulconer it's not his money.  What he is seeking is political fame and fortune in his owned diabolical mind.  And that is simply scary.  But this is how cities such as San Diego go to hell in a hand bag. These politicians will simply do anything and everything in their power to turn tax payer money into more of their power.  Trust me on this.  This how things go from bad to worse.  This is why some people see folks such as Donald Trump as their only salvation.  I could not make this up in a hundred years of fiction writing.  But this is the honest truth. This is how we got here and as we keep going in this direction it only gets worse if not more humorous and crazy.  As they say crazy doesn't just happen.  People drive to it by their own stupidity and weak minds.

    Phillip Franklin
    Phillip Franklin subscriber

    @David Crossley The Spanos family are only interested in more and more right now.  They see Los Angeles as a huge windfall in order to sell the team.  In the meantime Faulconer and the city officials will give them this entire city and every dime attached to it.  He is as desperate in keeping them here with unlimited amount of tax payer money as the Spanos clan are to get the ticket punched to move where they can get a cool billion plus in hard cash without having to wait many years of slowly stealing it from this city.