Rally starts to keep Chargers from bolting


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Jan 22, 2006
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Rally starts to keep Chargers from bolting

By: JAY PARIS - Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO ---- Interested in keeping the Chargers in the San Diego area? Then remove that bumper sticker bragging about your child's academic achievements and clear June 23.

Business leaders, a politician and about 50 fans hoping to prevent the Chargers from heading elsewhere kicked off a drive Friday morning at Balboa Park's Hall of Champions. Sponsored by sports radio station the Mighty XX, the plan includes blanketing automobiles with Keep The Chargers bumper stickers and hosting a downtown rally on June 23.

The Chargers, upset over Qualcomm Stadium's condition, are in the market for a new venue. Starting Jan. 1, the team can speak with other cities about relocating. But its lease with the city of San Diego is expected to be amended soon, allowing them to converse with other San Diego County municipalities before Jan. 1.

And that was the two-hour session's focus: that the city and county of San Diego have less than seven months of exclusive negotiating rights before NFL-starved cities can flirt with the Bolts.

Preliminary interest has been shown by San Antonio and Las Vegas. Plus, the National Football League is eager to relocate at least one team to the Los Angeles area, with Anaheim and downtown Los Angeles among the leading contenders.

But there's a move afoot to do something before the Chargers possibly relocate ---- which, at the earliest, would be after the 2008 season.

"Now is the time to figure out if there are other options out there," said businessman Dan Shea, who founded The Fans Taxpayers and Business Alliance for NFL Football in San Diego.

Oceanside and Chula Vista have been mentioned as possible sites. But the interest from North County's largest city appears to be waning. Oceanside politicians joked about the prospect of building a stadium at Wednesday night's City Council meeting. On Tuesday, the Chula Vista City Council voted unanimously to form a group to meet with the team to explore the possibilities of bringing the team to the South Bay city.

If the Chargers do look outside the city, land near the Interstate 15-Highway 76 interchange has been pointed to as a possible site. Inside the city, there's available Navy land near the I-15-Highway 52 interchange, said county Supervisor Ron Roberts.

But no talks have advanced, because the city has yet to sign off on the lease amendment approved by the council on May 1 that lifts the restriction for the Chargers to explore opportunities outside San Diego.

Roberts, the lone elected official to participate Friday morning, didn't think Qualcomm Stadium should be omitted. He said that if a deal is structured in the proper manner, the Mission Valley site remains viable.

He also didn't discount the county getting involved if the city can't strike a deal.

"The county has been on the right side of this issue,'' said Roberts, who noted that the county was against the much-ridiculed ticket guarantee which cost the city millions and was eventually erased from the Chargers' lease agreement. "We're not afraid to say no if no is the right answer.''

What's the answer for keeping the Chargers?

Those in attendance Friday said Chargers backers and others interested in constructing a state-of-the-art facility must have their voices heard. Not only is it important to the Chargers, they said, but to San Diego State football and the Holiday and Poinsettia bowls, which call Qualcomm Stadium home.

Mighty XX owner John T. Lynch suggested an aggressive e-mail campaign to politicians. Among those people they could target is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He made news at a recent NFL owners meeting, asking for two teams in the Los Angeles region, while ignoring the Chargers' stadium plight.

Other stadium boosters mentioned the June 23 rally at downtown San Diego's Embarcadero Park to show naysayers that the pro-stadium contingent wants its say.

Roberts also touted downtown as a possible site, as he is reluctant to construct a stadium too far from San Diego State. The Aztecs play their home games at Qualcomm Stadium, and Roberts' concern was it's not prudent to have the stadium a significant distance from the campus.

Instead, he touted the team's current location in Mission Valley, which would include housing, retail shops and a hotel.

"I think people would like to see this happen,'' he said. "We tend to look at things as an investment opportunity: how to make something here, how do we create value, how do we get taxes back out of it so at the end of the day the citizens here have a good deal.''

Roberts said he would rather the Chargers stay within San Diego so it reaps the tourism benefits which accompany having an NFL team.

"If the shot from the blimp is over Oceanside and shows Oceanside, that doesn't help San Diego,'' Roberts said.

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