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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chargers Staying Put Next Season

Source: San Diego Tribune

Chargers home games will be at Qualcomm Stadium for at least one more season as the team tries to build support for a new venue in downtown San Diego.

The announcement that the team won’t trigger the termination clause in its lease this year came yesterday from Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani.

But Fabiani, who has spearheaded the team’s stadium search since 2002, said the team won’t commit to staying in San Diego beyond the 2010 season.

The team’s announcement comes the same week that the Centre City Development Corp., San Diego’s downtown redevelopment arm, considers launching a 15- to 18-month process to obtain the approvals to pump hundreds of millions of tax dollars into a stadium.

Fabiani said the Chargers’ focus in 2010 will be on assessing the political support for building an up to $800 million stadium, partly via public subsidy.

“What we expect to know during the next year is whether city elected officials, particularly the mayor and a majority of the City Council and a majority of the county Board of Supervisors, will support a downtown plan,” Fabiani said. “I think we can figure that out before the CCDC process is over.”

Fabiani called political support crucial for a project of this magnitude but said he doesn’t expect elected officials to get behind it unless a financing plan is in place that works for the city and team.

Under its contract, the team is able to quit Qualcomm Stadium between Feb. 1 and May 1 from now until the end of its lease in 2020. The team must notify city officials in writing of its intention and pay a termination fee.

That fee decreases annually. It’s set at $54.6 million this year and falls to $25.8 million in 2011.

City Hall observers have long speculated that if the team were to leave, it would not do so before the end of next season because of the drop in the termination fee.

Fabiani addressed that issue yesterday.

“I don’t want to be cavalier about $20 million or $30 million,” he said. “It’s a lot of money by any one standard, but in a billion-dollar deal, no one’s going to be making a decision based on $20 (million) or $30 million.”

Before focusing on the site east of Petco Park, the Chargers considered building a stadium in Chula Vista, Escondido, National City and Oceanside.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders broached the idea of a downtown stadium with Chargers President Dean Spanos last year. The team said in December that it would only be possible with downtown redevelopment money from the city of San Diego.

Such sums are usually raised by borrowing against future property tax revenues. In this case, the approach needs approval from a range of elected officials.

The public may be asked to vote on a new stadium in 2012.

The CCDC board of directors meets at its downtown offices at 9 a.m. tomorrow to consider asking the City Council to support seeking approval to use redevelopment revenue for a stadium and other downtown projects.

It will also discuss the downtown site’s financial viability with stadium finance expert Mitchell Ziets — his first public presentation since being hired for $160,000.