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Sports Council Returning to Its Roots

The San Diego International Sports Council was formed to attract a National Football League team.

Now, the council is trying to help keep the NFL team it attracted some 45 years ago by getting a new football stadium in San Diego.

Formerly the Greater San Diego Sports Association, the sports council is committed to promoting the San Diego-Tijuana area as the preferred region for sporting events and activities that benefit the community, economically and socially, according to its mission statement.

Well, one of the best ways to generate big bucks is by bringing a Super Bowl to your town.

Without the San Diego Chargers, there will be no more Super Bowls in America’s Finest City, and without a new stadium, there will be no Chargers here.

“The (NFL) commissioner has stated that we will not have another Super Bowl in San Diego until there’s a new facility,” said Joe Moeller, who started as the sports council president in February. “It’s certainly important to keep the Chargers here. But I think also, to be a world-class city, and I think people look at San Diego as America’s finest city, you need not only a great stadium in your city, a great arena in your city it’s important to our city.”

The economic impact of a Super Bowl on a host city has been widely debated.

However, $300 million seems to be the figure most folks who study these things can live with.

Even if the world’s biggest one-day sporting event generates half that amount for San Diego, it seems like a noble venture to bring the game here.

If it costs half a billion dollars or so to build a stadium and that facility hosts a few Super Bowls (a virtual guarantee since the NFL loves coming to San Diego), then we win, right?

Founded in 1960, the council tries to keep the local sports teams and organizers of local events happy, as well as bring or create new competitions to the area, Moeller said.

However, the group is hampered by a lack of funds and inadequate facilities, he added.

Two years ago, the council received $200,000 in transient occupancy tax money from the city. This year, that figure is $160,000 , all of which is used to make bids to try to lure events, Moeller said. While the council collects $160,000, its competitors could have $3 million or $4 million, he added. Given the dire financial picture the city is facing, that money could disappear soon.

Thanks to an annual fund-raiser that generates about $100,000 and contributions from board members, this year’s budget for the not-for-profit group is $600,000, he said.

It is well known that Qualcomm Stadium and the San Diego Sports Arena are anything but state-of-the-art venues.

These issues make it difficult for the council to convince sports event organizers to come here, said Moeller, a former senior associate athletic director for San Diego State University.

At one time, only the major cities had sports associations. Now, the suburbs of major cities have them , and they’re often backed by “huge dollars” from city coffers, according to Moeller. That money is used to pay organizers to bring their events to those towns.

“ConVis (the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau) and the Convention Center work to bring conventions to town to put heads in beds,” said Moeller, a 35-year-old Carmel Valley resident. “What we do at the sports council is do the same thing except we try to bring sporting events to town, which ultimately brings fans, friends and hopefully people to our town to enjoy the sporting events.”

So, what has the sports council done for San Diego, besides help bring the Chargers here?

Sports council groups created the Holiday Bowl college football game and the Buick Invitational golf tournament; hosted three Super Bowls, Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game and the America’s Cup; and brought the X Games extreme sports event to San Diego, Moeller said.

Enticing those competitions to come to San Diego has helped generate an economic impact of more than $1 billion, according to the council.

Now, the association is focused on the San Diego Slam men’s college basketball event , a competition it created in partnership with SDSU.

The first Slam will include a kickoff event called Slam Jam (details are still being worked out, but the evening will feature food and possibly interactive competitions among athletes, coaches and fans) on Dec. 10 at the Town and Country Resort. On Dec. 11 at SDSU’s Cox Arena, the Aztecs will take on UC Berkeley, while the University of San Diego will square off against the University of Southern California. Earlier in the day, Slam Fest will feature bands, food and interactive games for children.

“It’s gonna be really fun; San Diego’s gonna enjoy it,” an excited Moeller said. “We’re hoping that it will be similar to the success that people have enjoyed with the Buick Open (at the Torrey Pines Golf Course) on an annual basis and the Holiday Bowl. We’re hoping that this becomes another event that people, as soon as they hear the date, will put it on their calendar and plan on attending.”

Events that the council is trying to attract include the Breeders’ Cup, the biggest one-day event in horse racing, baseball’s All-Star Game and another extreme sports type of competition, Moeller said.

One of the big reasons for the council’s success is its impressive board of directors, according to the group’s president.

Among the 70 directors are: Dick Freeman, the president of the San Diego Padres; Bob Breitbard, founder of the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum; builder Douglas Barnhart; Cush Automotive Group President Steve Cushman; and Ernie Hahn, the general manager of the San Diego Sports Arena.

This year’s chairman of the sports council, Dan Novak, said the panel’s 70 board members understand the value of sports to a community.

“They have a real passion for sports and the economic, cultural and social development it brings,” said Novak, the vice president and general manager of Channel 4 San Diego. “We really believe that sports brings a significant benefit to the region.”

In terms of helping to get the Chargers a new stadium, Novak said the council would support an extensive dialogue between the team and the region.

If meaningful talks don’t materialize, be prepared to say goodbye to the Bolts, the Super Bowl and the economic benefits they offer.


Brad Sondak is the deputy editor of the San Diego Business Journal.

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