COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JOHN PATRICK FORD

Stadium options narrow down

Will the Bolts bolt to L.A.? It’s a possibility.

Pressure to keep the Chargers in San Diego is heating up. The line is drawn between the advocates for a luxurious new stadium for the NFL team and those who oppose any public funds to support a sports venture owned by a billionaire.

Opponents are determined that any plan that makes millions of dollars for the owner and the NFL at taxpayer expense would not be justified.

Editorials, interviews with so-called experts and public opinion polls are filling up print and digital media, especially since the Chargers announced their intention to share a fancy new stadium with the Oakland Raiders in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the task force appointed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer is warding off criticism that its efforts are useless because there is no way to build a new stadium in San Diego without substantial public support. Various polls by news sources show that the public would not support a tax. Then why discuss a new stadium if it has to be financed with public funds?

The mayor headed off that hot question by announcing he will appoint a financial adviser to work out a plan that taxpayers would not vote down.

Another decision to quell some of the controversy was the announcement that the mayor’s task force selected Mission Valley as the preferred location for a new stadium. That took out many of the critics who opposed moving the stadium downtown.

Some of the letters to editors during the standoff have been revealing. Daily commentaries submitted by citizens to the media and editorials left little more to be said about a new stadium or even keeping a team here. I will cherry-pick some of the best observations from recent coverage.

My favorite was Ron Carrico’s observation that “Football causes brain damage, especially among politicians.”

Contributor Daniel Stewart, an architect and president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, made some strong points about restoring Qualcomm Stadium. He said its location and “great bones” of the award-winning design of 50 years ago are highly desirable.

He said that an upgrade is possible at less than half the cost of a new structure. Just the cost of demolition could be more than the $40 million it cost for the tearing down and mitigation of the South Bay power plant last year.

A practical comment claimed that professional football was meant for television. That may be a bit extreme, but compare the number of TV viewers to the number who go to the stadium.

Building a new stadium or moving the Chargers to Los Angeles would also affect other stakeholders in San Diego sports. San Diego State University’s award-winning football team needs a place to play. Other principal tenants are the Holiday Bowl games that bring a lot of tourist dollars to San Diego during a normally slow time for visitors.

Apparently these stadium tenants have memorialized their leases until 2018 to permit sponsors to promote their events. That’s another reason why replacing Qualcomm on site would require new construction while using the present facility.

Sports columnist Dan McSwain noted that “palatial” NFL stadiums are well worth the cost — if you own the team. That’s because the team gets most of the money spent by the fans, especially the big-ticket spenders in corporate skyboxes.

The rent paid by the team does not begin to cover the cost of maintenance. That means taxpayers already foot the bill.

The Chargers say they need 60 percent public financing for a new stadium in San Diego. Wouldn’t it be nice if other entertainment expenses — such as SeaWorld and Legoland — were subsidized by 60 percent taxpayer funding?

Bob Ottilie, who successfully led the 1996 drive to defeat the ticket guarantee for the Chargers funded by taxpayers, considers paying for a new stadium to be another private-interest subsidy.

The stadium issue now boils down to a location in Mission Valley, but should it be rebuilt or replaced? And the source of funding remains a sticking point, according to a report in U-T San Diego by Roger Showley. Redevelopment at the Mission Valley site would face serious environmental issues because of the underground petrol discharge from the nearby tank farm.

National attention is focused on the expensive tastes of team owners who believe they must have a luxurious facility with all the bells and whistles to stay in the game. Showley reported that 21 other NLF metro area teams received 65 percent public funding for a new stadium; this equates to $975 million from taxpayers for a stadium costing $1.5 billion.

The mayor’s financial adviser will be challenged to find a source for this amount of money without resorting to a ballot measure that would be doomed to fail.


Ford is a freelance writer in San Diego and can be reached at johnpatrick.ford@sddt.com.

User Response
0 UserComments