O.C. Stadium Could Cost Chargers Big Bucks

Could rival's move to Industry stampede Bolts?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    The developers planning to build an NFL stadium in Orange County now have a clear playing field, one that is alarmingly close to the Chargers' home turf.

    Will it prompt the Bolts to bolt San Diego before other teams pick their pockets?

    Thursday morning, in the City of Industry, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law waiving environmental regulations that could have hamstrung the stadium project there.

    "The importance of this project goes way beyond football and sports," the governor told an enthusiastic throng of politicians and civic officials from Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, "because it creates more than 18,000 jobs when we really need the jobs here in this area."

    The concern in San Diego is that the stadium might move the jobs of the Chargers organization not only out of town but to a four-county "market" from which the Bolts currently draw about 30 percent of their so-called "premium product."

    According to the Chargers' front office, the income from luxury boxes, club seats, advertising, corporate sponsorships and signage runs into the "tens of millions" of dollars per season. It's money the Chargers don't have to share with other teams.

    But once a stadium is built in Industry, if the Bolts don't see an opportunity there, they run the risk of some rival franchise moving in and cutting into San Diego's "premium product" revenue stream.

    "It would be financially catastrophic for the Chargers," the team's special counsel, Mark Fabiani, said in an interview Thursday. "We're in a bad financial situation now; we'd be in a much worse situation if there were a team in Los Angeles."

    Fabiani said the Chargers could not expect a payment of impact fees -- which are recognized in other professional sports leagues --when a team moves into a city that encroaches on another team's market.

    "In L.A.," Fabiana explained, "the National Football League has declared Los Angeles to be an NFL market. We would not have any right to say to the NFL, 'By the way, you owe us some money for putting a team there.' "

    Fabiani said San Diegans should not to jump to any conclusions yet, noting that the Industry project will get no public money and that $1billion is a lot to raise from the private sector, given its current shape.

    Even so, there's fat in the fire in Orange County now.