New Stadium Plan Would Be Higher Taxpayer Investment

Chargers Stadium

New Stadium Plan Would Be Bigger Taxpayer Investment in Football

Proposal for $200 million from the city and $150 million from the county would be more from the city than taxpayers spend now and a new step for the county.

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.

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.

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. 

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