Lame-duck Chargers would leave co-tenants on the street


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Jan 22, 2006
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Lame-duck Chargers would leave co-tenants on the street

April 26, 2006

Who knows? Maybe a search committee will come up with a new stadium site in Imperial County, connected to San Diego by high-speed rail. Maybe they'll put it at Miramar. Or North Island. How about Mexico? Los Tijuana Cargadores de San Diego has a nice tone. The trolley runs to the border, sí?

Whatever, wherever or whenever, Mayor Jerry Sanders' decision last week to ask the City Council to amend its lease with the Chargers and allow them to seek new digs outside city limits but within the county could have damaging repercussions. The affected: not just the Chargers, but San Diego State's football program and the Holiday and Poinsettia bowls.

Consider. Starting in January, the Chargers will be allowed to talk to suitors from anywhere. If the team can't get a stadium deal at least in the works here by then and another town comes calling with an acceptable offer, the club will be free to move following the 2008 season.

Which means it would become a lame-duck franchise. And NFL lame ducks are nightmares, as we have seen in Houston, where the quacking Oilers played to nobody, or Cleveland, where they held candlelight vigils for the departing Browns and fans wept openly on the last day.

Consider. If the Chargers were to leave, it's doubtful the city could afford to keep Qualcomm Stadium standing very long. Dumping millions of dollars into a building hosting fewer than 10 football games a year would make no fiscal sense, and we all know the city already has no fiscal sense.

If Qualcomm were razed – and given its rotting insides, it will be one day, anyway – jobs would be lost, and it would leave the Aztecs and the bowl people without a place to play. There is no other suitable football site in San Diego County. SDSU couldn't possibly remain a Division I-A football school without a venue. State and the bowl games can't move to the L.A. Coliseum.

Consider. Even if the Chargers were to remain here, a new stadium, if outside city limits, wouldn't be close to the SDSU campus. It wouldn't affect the bowls, but it certainly might Aztecs attendance.

“In the event that they cannot work out a mutually satisfactory agreement, SDSU has a major issue to be addressed,” university President Stephen Weber says via e-mail. “If we do not have a stadium in which we can average at least 15,000 spectators per home game, we lose our Division I status. The Mountain West is a football conference. If we can't play football, we cannot be a member of the Mountain West.”

More on that in a minute. Let's get back to the lame-duck issue, which could happen, because it has happened elsewhere. And it isn't good. Once a city knows a team is leaving, interest wanes.

“We've studied stuff that happened in other cities,” says Mark Fabiani, who has studied just about everything since being named Chargers point man on new stadium plans. “The lame-duck factor is brutal. Houston was drawing 15,000-20,000 a game. We don't expect that to happen here, but I'd rather be in an inferior stadium (elsewhere) than lame duck in my own town.”

Jim Steeg, the Chargers COO, insists lame duck hasn't even been considered.

“I haven't had that feeling at all. I hope not,” says Steeg, who, as longtime NFL director of special events, has seen ducks. “Sales for suites and club seats are up. We're going forward. I don't even want to address that one.

“I've been around these things. It gets bad and always to the point where it really gets dark. Look at Indianapolis. A year ago the Colts were moving. Now they're 18 months from being in a new building.”

The Chargers aren't 18 months from being in a new building. They could remain here following 2008, even if they have an offer from out of town. If they leave after the 2008 season, they owe $57.7 million in bond payments. If they leave after the 2010 season, the bond debt is drastically reduced, to $24 million. That's not duck feed.

“Even if we struck a deal somewhere else in the county, we'd still probably have a couple years of litigation, and that puts you into '09,” Fabiani says. “Thirty-two months of construction takes you well past 2010.”

If the team were to leave for, say, Los Angeles, it always could play in one of L.A.'s venerated venues while a new one is being constructed. The Aztecs would have no such alternative – if Qualcomm were to be imploded. It's a genuine concern.

The Chargers had talked about providing SDSU low-income housing for professors and students – plus parking – on the Qualcomm site, which now is linked to campus via trolley. State's new trolley station also makes it easier for students to get to games. Going deep into the county makes football a more expensive proposition.

“I've always been a proponent of the Qualcomm site and I hope it hasn't been completely abandoned (Fabiani says it's all but dead),” Aztecs Athletic Director Jeff Schemmel says. “I'm trying to set up a meeting with the mayor. I hope we think of it as a football issue and not just a Chargers issue. It's incumbent on me to lead the charge. I have to figure out a solution that gives the Aztecs a home.”

We could become duck-watchers. No major football? We're in for one crazy ride.
What, there isn't a good junior college venue down there? What about high school. Come on! I bet even Kiwanis or Rotary or Lions have something down there. Or are they too busy with country clubs and casinos?
Rupert said:
What, there isn't a good junior college venue down there? What about high school. Come on! I bet even Kiwanis or Rotary or Lions have something down there. Or are they too busy with country clubs and casinos?
Rofl Rupert....I just liked the "lame duck chargers" line!! :p
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