Wear, along with Warden and fellow city councilmember George Stevens, went down to defeat in the mayoral primary, in part, most observers agree, because they were closely linked to the Chargers deal. County supervisor Ron Roberts, who came out on top of the primary pack, followed by Superior Court judge Dick Murphy, has made opposition to the stadium lease a cornerstone of his campaign.
"The Chargers ticket guarantee is a bad deal for city taxpayers not just because it eliminated normal market forces in the sale of tickets, but also because it didn't accomplish its stated purpose, which was to keep the Chargers in San Diego through the year 2020," Roberts wrote in an April 4 op-ed piece for the Union-Tribune.
"As team owner Alex Spanos' recent statements demonstrated, the Chargers agreement with the city actually encourages the team to solicit offers from other cities beginning in the year 2002, and makes it all but certain that a future city council will face a Faustian choice between either building an expensive new stadium or losing the Chargers to another city."
The solution, Roberts maintains, is to put the stadium lease up for bid. "Owner Alex Spanos says he needs more revenue to remain competitive with other National Football League teams that have new stadiums. I say, more power to him. But if he wants more revenue, he, not San Diego taxpayers, should invest the capital and take the risk.
"A competitive-bidding process should be developed that allows the Chargers, and other prospective users of the property, to submit proposals to the city. One -- but not the only -- criterion in evaluating these proposals should be the desirability of keeping the Chargers in San Diego. But the bottom line should be to generate the best return for San Diego taxpayers."
But Bruce Henderson is skeptical. He doubts that Spanos could ever be induced to surrender the benefits he enjoys from his current deal with the city. "When Roberts makes a proposal like that, he fails to identify who would bid for Qualcomm Stadium. It's obvious the Padres aren't bidding for it. We don't have any reason to believe the Dallas Cowboys are going to bid for it. There isn't any reason to believe that the NFL is going to move a team here and leave Alex in limbo.
"You can go to Alex and say, 'Let's forget about the contract and let's engage in the following theoretical negotiations.' And Alex's response is going to be like any sane and normal person's: We can't forget about the contract. We entered into this contract and here is the way these negotiations are supposed to proceed.
"That's the problem. You can come up with all sorts of suggestions for things you'd like to renegotiate, but if they benefit San Diego, they aren't going to have anything to do with the contract, nothing to do with reality. You're just talking because you like to see your lips move. It's a brutal contract from San Diego's point of view, sort of a contract from Hell.
"Alex Spanos would have to be a fairly foolish businessman not to go to other cities and obtain offers," Henderson concludes. "The only thing we don't know here is whether or not other cities will make offers."
So what to make of the city's $20,000-plus contract with sports consultant Barrett to negotiate with Spanos? Henderson speculates that Spanos may have already given the city notice, as required under the contract, that the Chargers have exceeded the NFL salary cap and he is therefore planning to move the team to another city unless the City of San Diego can make a suitable counter-offer.
"What I make of it is that Alex, under the contract, may have initiated negotiations to move the team to Los Angeles, so the city has to respond, but there isn't much to talk about," says Henderson. "So they hire a consultant who presumably, coming from the Los Angeles area, knows that market. Because this is all about waiting for the other shoe to drop -- or, I should say, the inevitable leaden boot to fall. What is there to negotiate? Alex has already laid out that he needs a new stadium and Qualcomm is unacceptable to him. I guess he could say to them, 'We can meet and go over point by point why I have problems with Qualcomm.' The only thing the city can do is give. They don't have any bargaining power.
"The question is, has Alex actually delivered to the city a Notice of Renegotiation, which is required in the contract to start the clock running? Of course, he doesn't have to do that right away. He could say to the city, 'I'm ready to give you a Notice of Renegotiation, but I won't do it yet if you'd like to have a little time to think about it; maybe you want to hire a negotiator. I just don't want it to come as a shock to you.'
"Part of the problem is, has a triggering event occurred? In other words, has the salary cap been exceeded? Under the contract, the first time that the city would hear for certain that a triggering event has occurred would be when Alex delivers the notice. If I were the city manager, and I had this extremely expensive contract with the San Diego Chargers, and I had this contract provision with this triggering event, I'd try to monitor it carefully to see if it happened. That would be the prudent thing to do.
"The manager has two choices, he can play the ostrich and put his head in the sand and say, 'If it's bad news I don't want to know it,' or he can take the position that forewarned is forearmed. If Alex starts implementing this provision, and the city doesn't hire a negotiator, and then suddenly they get a notice that the team is going to leave unless they match this $500 million offer, then the public is going to be terribly upset if the manager can't cover his what-not.