Bolts Charge Toward Taxpayer Subsidies - NBC 7 San Diego

Bolts Charge Toward Taxpayer Subsidies

Stadium funding reversal sparks debate, opposition



    Bolts Charge Toward Taxpayer Subsidies
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    The team says the sour economy is to blame for poor ticket sales this year.

    The Chargers' revised game plan for bankrolling a new stadium has touched off a blitz of debate and opposition.

    After several years of vowing to finance the project privately, the team is now lobbying for public subsidies for the project, whose bottom line has been projected as high as $800 million.

    The recession and other factors have forced the Bolts to give up the ghost of bypassing the taxpayers, but are there ways to keep subsidies to a minimum and prospective investors they haven't considered? 

    While the East Village target site is in a redevelopment zone, rich with property tax potential, the Chargers said many millions could come from other sources, such as naming rights.

    "The Qualcomm [Stadium] site is worth a lot of money," observes Mark Fabiani, the team's special counsel. "The city could sell it and devote some of that money to the [East Village] site.... The city now spends $15 million a year to keep the Qualcomm site up and running -- that money could be used [for the project]."

    San Diegans who don't call themselves Chargers fans see the use of taxpayer money for the project as an outrage.

    "Obviously, if you're not a sports fan, why would you have to pay for something that you're not even interested in, or get involved with it?" wondered Milton Aguilar, rhetorically. "That's definitely something that the owners of the football team should be paying for."
    "I would say that I pay for parks that I don't go to," retorted Liz Eason, a longtime Bolts-backer who loves wearing the team's gear. "I pay for a lot of roads that I don't travel. So it'll balance out, like everything else."

    Noting that the developer of the proposed stadium site in the city of Industry won't build that structure unless he gets a big stake in whatever team would play there, a local online newspaper columnist suggested that the Chargers reserve a stake for the city of San Diego or its citizens.

    "Why not offer people the chance to invest in the team itself?" said Scott Lewis, who floated the idea in a recent political blog posting on the "I think the reason they would say they don't want to do that is perhaps they don't want to open their books or don't want to do something else that would make other NFL owners uncomfortable."

    Meantime, former city attorney Mike Aguirre -- the Chargers' longtime nemesis -- will also weigh in on the team's reversal of strategy. He has scheduled a news conference next week to "discuss the due diligence needed to protect the taxpayers, and the legal requirement that a public vote be taken on any publicly funded stadium"

    Game on.