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Friday, Jul 19, 2024

San Diego Chargers More Than the Hometown Team, It’s an Asset That Serves the City as Well as Its Fans

We’ve mentioned on this page previously that a professional football team is as much a community asset as it is a business. And serving as home city for a pro team has benefits beyond bottom line dollars and cents.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre apparently has some different thoughts on the issue.

Aguirre threw together a news conference last week to ask the San Diego Chargers to start making the city’s bond payments on aging Qualcomm Stadium, or renegotiate their lease in favor of the city.

It seems that even though the Chargers had a stellar season, advancing into the playoffs and posting the NFL’s best regular-season record (14-2), the city lost millions in operating costs during the course of the highly successful campaign.

One city official said it cost $250,000 more to operate the stadium for each home game than it receives from the Chargers, even before throwing in the debt service, which totals $5.7 million a year.

The Chargers pay but $2.5 million annually for their lease, but it costs $16 million a year to operate the facility, including the debt service , a chunk of change when facing a $1 billion-plus pension deficit.

Ironically, the team used to pay rent based on ticket sales, but the city renegotiated the lease in 2004 in favor of the Chargers when the team wasn’t doing well and fan interest lagged.

Had the old lease been in effect, the Chargers would have paid a lot more to the city.

Perhaps a review of the lease is in order, perhaps not.

The fact of the matter is that the Chargers won’t be playing in Qualcomm for much longer, anyway.

The team owners have been looking at sites in the South Bay and Oceanside, where they can build a new state-of-the-art stadium, which means that Qualcomm’s deficits will grow larger.

Thus, we feel Aguirre is off target in asking the Chargers’ owners for more money.

A deal’s a deal, and the terms of the deal are spelled out in the existing contract.

Like the pension deficit, the deficits at Qualcomm can be laid squarely at the feet of a previous generation of city leaders who were not only shortsighted but financially challenged, if not irresponsible.

Of that, there’s no doubt.

Besides, before the city’s profits, or in this case, losses, are added up, elected city officials must look at the big picture.

The home games are worth tens of thousands of dollars to City Hall. The games fill up hotel rooms and crowd local bars and eateries, which, in turn, generate tens of thousands of dollars in tax revenues and fees that go straight to city coffers.

Let’s not blame the Chargers for the hemorrhaging taking place at Qualcomm.


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