Henderson says the city's deal with the Chargers is wacko. For example, the city says it will guarantee sales of 60,000 tickets a game, but the Chargers set the price of the tickets. "That gives the Chargers a cost-plus contract," he says, permitting them to pay excessive player salaries and pass the risk to the city.
Also, the Chargers after 2003 will have options every four years to shop the team to another city as long as they pay San Diego 60 percent of the amount necessary to redeem the outstanding debt on stadium construction.
McGrory denounces these criticisms and claims that under the new contract, the Chargers will pay the city $6.3 million a year, up from $3 million. "That is the best municipal lease in the National Football League," he says.
January 9, 1997
San Diego Reader
As an army of bulldozers, pile drivers, and concrete- cutting machines massed outside the gates of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium a week ago Monday night, the City Attorney, city manager, and a few lucky members of the city council were preparing to celebrate. As soon as the Holiday Bowl was over that night, the wrecking crew was poised to begin tearing down crucial parts of the 32-year-old stadium in preparation for the council's controversial $80 million-plus expansion plan.
Although the ostensible occasion was the Holiday Bowl, at least one of the city officials eating cake and sipping champagne inside the city's stadium press-level luxury skybox acknowledged that the real reason for their merriment was the impending start of the expansion project.
"They're having a great time of it in there," said one city council aide who scurried from the box just as the cake and bubbly were being wheeled through the box's closely guarded door from an adjoining hallway. "No one is going to stop them from taking down this stadium now. And once it's down, the taxpayers will be forced to pay to put it back together again, referendum or no referendum."
A jubilant Councilman Byron Wear, who exited the box with his wife during the second quarter, echoed the theme. Asked what the council was going to do about the referendum petition, which backers say contains more than 50,000 signatures gathered in a little more than two weeks and seeks a vote on stadium financing and expansion issues, Wear replied: "Nothing. Everything's going forward in terms of the expansion, per our previous decisions."
As Wear left the box for the movies with his wife, City Manager Jack McGrory, widely viewed as the chief architect of the stadium-expansion deal, arrived with his spouse to join the closed-door celebration. A lusty cheer could be heard as he entered the box. Others spotted sitting in the front rows of the box included councilmembers Harry Mathis and Barbara Warden, as well as City Attorney Casey Gwinn. All have been big backers of the stadium-expansion without a vote, and McGrory and Gwinn are two of the three directors of a so-called joint powers authority, which technically owns the stadium and leases it back to city taxpayers.
During the evening, the party in the city box hosted a succession of visitors, including Union-Tribune editor in chief Herb Klein, the ex-Nixon staffer and self-professed sports aficionado whose paper has supported expanding the stadium without a public vote.
January 9, 1997
San Diego Reader
The battle over whether San Diego voters will get a say in approval of that stadium-expansion deal with the Chargers is getting hotter, and local lawyers and campaign consultants are said to be lining up for a piece of the action. Already attorney Leo Sullivan, representing the San Diego International Sports Council, has challenged the validity of some of the 50,000-plus signatures gathered by the Stadium on the Ballot Committee, claiming that some were gathered by interlopers from Los Angeles and that others were improperly dated. A Sports Council affiliate currently runs the exclusive, members-only stadium club, scheduled for a multimillion-dollar facelift as part of the expansion plan.
January 28, 1997
San Diego Union-Tribune
Bruce Henderson has been called a liar, a loser, an obstructionist, and a doomsayer since he first dared challenge the orthodoxy about the Chargers lease.
The editorial page of the San Diego Union-Tribune urged him to leave town. The city threatened to sue.
"I've never seen such abuse," he said.
"Where is the man who's created this kind of havoc?" Chargers owner Alex Spanos asked with horror last week.
Clamor for a public vote on stadium expansion has snowballed for weeks as the cause swept up ex-mayors, newspaper columnists, talk-show hosts, and finally some 47,000 registered voters.
"Basically, it is a cost-plus contract," Henderson said. "The city is paying all the costs, plus guaranteeing the Chargers a profit. It is the best possible deal they could imagine, other than we give them the stadium. But I don't think they want the stadium. I think what they want to do is sell the team and leave town by 2004."
Not all of his allies hear those voices emanating from the contract. Nor do city officials, who hotly dispute his version. Nor the Spanoses, who deny any desire to leave town.
January 29, 1997
Letter to Chargers season-ticket holders from Chargers president Dean Spanos:
Don't let anyone doubt our commitment to this city. We signed this deal because of our commitment to San Diego. Only in the case of severe financial hardship for the team -- defined by very narrow, specific and confining conditions -- could we request to renegotiate with the City. Remember, San Diego is our home too.
The Chargers are honored to have been a part of the San Diego community for 36 years. We committed to a lease for another 25 years because we highly value our relationship with our fans, the organizations we support, and the city.
March 13, 1997
San Diego Reader
How does Susan Golding hope to become a U.S. senator? By raising millions from San Diego's biotech fat cats. That's part of a plan revealed by Golding handler and ex-boyfriend George Gorton in an interview with Roll Call magazine. "According to Gorton," the magazine wrote last week, "Golding has a file of about 7000 donors from her bids for local office and will make further inroads among the Westside Los Angeles Jewish community, the entertainment industry, and San Diego's flourishing biotechnology firms."