Spanos looks to maximize the Chargers

Los Angeles means wheeling and dealing with wealthy Democrats

November 25, 2015 — Matt Potter

Word that soon-to-retire Walt Disney Company chief executive Bob Iger is in line for similar duties with the Chargers if the organization is green-lighted by the NFL to head for Los Angeles marks yet another radical step away from the team’s longstanding Republican roots.

Back in the 1960s, former Richard Nixon press honcho and Union-Tribune editor Herb Klein took star quarterback Jack Kemp under the newspaper’s right wing and ultimately coached him to a GOP seat in Congress. Then came well-heeled apartment builder Alex Spanos of Stockton, who bought control of the team from Nixon Democrat Gene Klein in 1984. Spanos bankrolled Republican mayor Pete Wilson’s climb to the U.S. Senate and later financed GOP mayor Susan Golding’s Republican National Convention in 1996.

But these days Spanos, who turned 92 in September, is said to suffer from dementia, and his son Dean has assumed control of the family sports enterprise. Though he still backs Republican causes — including the recently ended presidential campaign of Texas governor Rick Perry and the PAC of congressman Darrell Issa — the younger Spanos is looking to maximize the value of his football team. In Los Angeles, that means wheeling and dealing with wealthy Democrats, among them Iger.

Campaign filings show that the Disney chieftain has so far this year given a total of $37,700 to Democrats, including $25,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and $2700 to the Hillary for America committee. During the previous campaign fundraising cycle, he kicked in $5000 for New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker’s senate race and $50,000 to the House Senate Victory Fund, which, combined with related contributions, brought the liberal mega-donor’s total to $149,000. In January of last year Iger and his wife, Willow Bay, an ex-model and TV reporter who is now director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, hosted a 2016 reelection fundraiser for Vermont senator Patrick Leahy.

“Fundraising early for favorite candidates has become a common practice among Hollywood studio chiefs,” said the Hollywood Reporter. “They figure an early show of force will scare off challengers.”

What to do with Qualcomm Stadium post-Chargers?

Hipsters are the perfect group to repurpose the ex-Murph

November 4, 2015 — DJ Stevens

Dear Hipster:

I am not a huge football fan. I will probably watch the Thanksgiving game, but only if someone else puts it on, and then only if I’m not already sleeping off my tryptophan coma in another room. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but notice the traffic jam caused by last weekend’s Oakland game, and it got me thinking, what will we do with Qualcomm Stadium if the Chargers leave town?? Knowing how creative you hipsters are with repurposing otherwise useless junk, I leave it in your capable, DIY hands to brainstorm the ultimate answer.

— Henry, Kensington

OMG. The ultimate answer!? Such responsibility! I feel like I need to consult with my hipster peers on this one, so I’ll be accepting applications through Thanksgiving for future members of the Hipster Qualcomm Reclamation Board (or the HQRB for short, and there will be six associate members, with yours truly acting as a first-among-equals chairman and seventh vote to avoid unseemly ties). Readers are encouraged to please send a personal statement (at least one complete sentence, and not to exceed 300 words) detailing your commitment to hipster values; along with a headshot or suitable Instagram photo of your legs on a beach, a sunset, cliffside yoga session, or really anything else that gives me a sense of how genuine you are.

Applications can be emailed directly to, otherwise calligraphed on paper made from not less than 80% reclaimed cotton fiber and sent to the San Diego Reader offices by bicycle messenger.

Even without a suitable committee to help me flesh out ideas, the possibilities for an unused Qualcomm are endless, especially after the Aztecs’ contract to play there expires in 2018.

Perhaps the most obvious plan of action would be constructing a 250m, Olympic-caliber velodrome within the Colosseumesque husk of the football stadium. That way, Tuesday Night Racing at the velodrome in Morley Field — ostensibly the most hipster-friendly spectator sport in town — could transcend its 200-person viewing limit. I see no obstacles to 70,000-strong crowds other than an entrenched bias against hipster sports.

Then again, how easy would it be to fill the stadium with multi-colored plastic balls? All right, it probably wouldn’t be that easy, but still…. The Guinness record for “world’s biggest ball pit” is, as far as I know, still held by a Chinese company who built a 15,000-square-foot ball pit in an ice arena. A regulation NFL football field is roughly 57,000 square feet, so clinching the record shouldn’t be a big deal. The rest of the stadium could be converted into luxury hotels, with their attendant slides down into the ball pit, for vacationers seeking a stress-reducing frolic in the new world’s biggest ball pit at the San Diego Hipsterdome.

Craft brewing hall of fame? Urban lumberjack center? A tiny, miniaturized Portland where San Diego’s hipster community (the non-hip will also be tolerated) can gather and experience Pacific NW life without having to actually “pull a Chargers” and move away from San Diego?

I could go on, but if I tip my hand too soon, Mission Valley’s notorious anti-hipster NIMBY brigade (which I’m sure exists) will be able to muster its stalwart defenses. The complete HQRB can curry favor with certain city-hall dignitaries, but only if we’re not thwarted before we begin.

The NFL will lie to you. Anytime. Anywhere.

Dog-and-pony show reeks of NFL ego

October 28, 2015 — Patrick Daugherty

Listen up. The NFL will host, “San Diego Chargers Public Hearing on Potential Relocation” on Wednesday, October 28, from 7 to 10 p.m.”

Which is hilarious.

The event will be produced at the Spreckels Theatre (121 Broadway) and is open to the public, sort of. It will also be livestreamed at

The NFL has gotten rich, rich, rich off of gouging the public. They gouge their fans from every conceivable angle, starting with the many hundreds of millions of dollars in stadium subsidies, infrastructure improvements, on down to ticket prices, season-ticket prices, personal seat licenses, parking fees, $10 beer, and way, way, all the way down to 14 NFL franchises billing the Defense Department $5.4 million as payment for staging patriotic events honoring U.S. troops in their stadiums. Breaking new ground here. The NFL is as rapacious as, say, Goldman Sachs.

But even Goldman Sachs doesn’t extort the nation’s largest cities in public. Demanding, and getting, the dumb public to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars like it’s some kind of pro football tithe is regarded as routine. If you think these thugs will give the slightest consideration to the opinions of San Diego Chargers fans, Bernie Madoff wants to talk to you.

Wednesday’s dog-and-pony show reeks of NFL ego and manipulation. In other words, it’s business-as-usual. This very much like hiring ex-FBI director Robert Mueller and having him conduct an “independent investigation,” overseen by two NFL owners, on the NFL’s handling of woman-beater Ray Rice. Mueller produced a laughable report whitewashing the NFL and commissioner Goodell. Repeat with Deflategate.

And now we have the following: according to the NFL, “The purpose of these hearings is to provide an opportunity for fans and others in the community to ask questions and express their views directly to the NFL before any decisions are made about potential relocation of a club or clubs from a current market.”

The NFL has learned that it doesn’t have to be believable, and this Chargers relocation show surely isn’t. What it is, is insulting and self-serving, but that, it turns out, is more than enough to get by.

One wonders... Who are Chargers fans going to express their opinions to? Nobody from the House of Spanos will be there. Goodell won’t be there. No owner from the NFL’s six-member Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities will be there. No president of CBS Sports, NBC Sports, FOX Sports, or ESPN, much less DraftKings, will be there. Instead, “...members of Commissioner Goodell’s executive staff will be in attendance to listen to comments and answer questions from the audience.”

How many hirelings are on Goodell’s executive staff? What do executive staff members do when they’re not listening to Chargers fans bitch about their team’s possible relocation? After the meeting will these executive staff members race back to the NFL offices in New York, storm into Goodell’s office, pound their fists on his desk and shout, “Listen up, Buster, San Diego fans don’t want their team to move!”?

You cannot find a bottom to NFL arrogance.

The NFL says, “The hearings are open to the public and a free entry pass is required to attend. Pre-registration to request an entry pass begins tomorrow....

“Entry passes will be reserved for season ticket members of each team on a first-come, first-serve basis. Members of the community who are not season ticket members will also have the opportunity to request an entry pass on a first-come, first-serve basis....

“Those interested in pre-registering to request an entry pass should visit the appropriate web page listed below.”

Okay, I went to the page and signed up. I’m pleased to report, “Audience members who have the opportunity to provide comments will be allotted three minutes in order to enable as many people as possible to have their voice heard.”

So, if I have this right, a civilian, a normal person who watches Chargers games on TV, would have to pre-register in order to obtain the privilege of requesting an entry pass. If his privilege is granted, that is, if he is allowed to request an entry pass, and if, after requesting an entry pass he actually is awarded an entry pass, the fan will get an e-mail with a barcode. Fan must carry barcode on his person in order to enter dog-and-pony show. The NFL may “...refuse admission to, or eject, any entry pass holder who is deemed to be disorderly...”

We don’t know who deems malcontents to be disorderly, or what standards deemer employs to judge deemee’s behavior. We do know the NFL will happily lie to you. Anytime. Anywhere.

Gate(s)way to excitement!

Star tight end's first game of 2015 heralds team's return to form

October 23, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Comment by Dick Danepa, special to SD on the QT

Forget about the wins. They're going to come in a Chargers season. When you've got a quarterback like Philip Rivers, that's a simple fact: there will be wins. Just enough to make you wonder. Sometimes enough to sneak into the playoffs. Never enough to bring home the trophy, of course. But that's okay. This isn't about the wins. And it isn't about Philip Rivers.

This is about Antonio Gates. And it's about the losses. Antonio Gates sat out the first four games of the 2015 season. Suspended. For using a banned substance. During that time, the Chargers won two games. They also lost two: a 31-14 stomping from the Minnesota Vikings, and a 24-19 disappointment at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, they hurt — when you've only got 17 games, every loss looms large. But they weren't real Chargers losses. The kind that break your heart, then kick your teeth in for good measure. The Bengals game wasn't as close as it looked. As soon as Keenan fumbled that punt on Cincinnati's opening drive, you knew how things were going to end. Rivers' 4th-quarter interception was written on the wind.

But then Gates came back. And boy, did he bring the heartbreak. He lit up the Steelers for two scores, so that Le'Veon Bell had to bull his way to the end zone in the final seconds in order to beat us. And even that bit of bad juju relied on a stellar set-up run from Michael Vick. Up until then, Vick seemed to have forgotten he was a quarterback, let alone one of the most mobile in the league. Suddenly, we knew: Gates was back. And so were the losses.

We knew, but just in case we didn't, we had the following week against the Packers. Rivers threw the game of his life. Over 500 yards. And on that final drive, with under two minutes to play, who was there to make a one-handed grab and move things downfield? That's right: Antonio Gates. Thrilling. But also telling. Because we knew what was coming, even before it came: a batted pass with 15 seconds left to kill our hopes. Just like always. A classic Chargers crusher.

Welcome back, Antonio. We lose with you, but we're lost without you.

Mayor Faulconer accuses Chargers of failing to give city's stadium proposal due consideration


August 23, 2015 — Walter Mencken

"The City of San Diego has acted in good faith with the San Diego Chargers," cried Mayor Faulconer at today's press conference, his plastic bib flopping about as he flailed his arms. "We sped up the environmental impact report and the funding proposal, just to meet their arbitrary timeline. We offered tax-based incentives that would make the Koch brothers blush. We sat up and begged like good little doggies. We let USC come in and eat UCSD's funding lunch on Alzheimer's research, just to placate the pro-L.A. crowd. But despite all that, the organization continues to press forward with its Carson proposal. It's outrageous, I tell you! And I won't stand for it very much longer!" At that point, Faulconer put his oversized pacifier back into his mouth and sucked angrily, while City Attorney Jan Goldsmith uttered a stream of unintelligible quacking sounds.

Heading to Carson? Check out these hot spots

August 19, 2015 — Patrick Daugherty

Here is your invitation to join the San Diego Chargers in their new home city, 19 square miles of paradise, Carson, California! Clap your hands and give a big shout-out to 91,000 sports-loving Carsonites who would like nothing better than to make your visit unforgettable.

From Qualcomm Stadium it’s an easy-peasy 113 traffic-free miles up the I-5/405 to Carson. You already waste two hours a day driving to work and back, so don’t bitch about a leisurely motor trip up the glorious California coast a lousy eight times a year.

Put the gun down.

Okay, all right, no driving, got it. But that need not be an impediment. The new Chargers home city is only 14 miles from LAX. Ring up Carson Helicopter Charters (CHC) and reserve your executive charter chopper for the season. Know this: CHC and its affiliates “can provide discreet private charters for political figures, lawmakers, corporate executives, and celebrities with your flight details kept completely confidential without drawing the paparazzi’s attention.”

This is so important when attending a Bolts game, because celebrities, movie stars, sports stars, tycoons, TV stars, podcast stars, roller-derby stars, video-game stars, and people who eat insects always attend Chargers games. Paparazzi overload is guaranteed.

After you thrill to a Chargers game, why not stay on for a magical evening out? lists four things to do in Carson. Number one is to visit Home Depot Center. “A nice venue” writes a July 2015 reviewer. Sadly, Home Depot Center is no longer Home Depot Center, it is StubHub Center; the switch took place in June 2013. Yes, money changed hands, but in the excitement it’s no wonder our reviewer was confused.

Home Depot/StubHub not your cup of tea? Okay, here’s the number-two thing to do in Carson — Go Kart World!

Too sporty? Check number three, the International Printing Museum. “Enchanting,” writes the last reviewer (November 2013). “It is completely invisible, found by address only.”

After a long day at a museum you’ll be ready for some rowdy nightlife. No problem there — the number-four thing to do in Carson has no reviewers, so I’m assuming this listing was chosen by unanimous vote. Go ahead, Chargers fan, and get down with your bad self at the Suave Nightclub.

Over at, the Suave has been transformed, or, at least, shares the same address with SOL Venue. “Featuring live music, SOL Venue is a club and lounge that serves specialty mixed drinks. The stage has a dance area in front of it for its patrons. Touring bands and DJs often perform here.”

Don’t, by any means, overlook Blue Zoo Aquatics. “Aquarium enthusiasts from all over the country go to Blue Zoo Aquatics to furnish the homes of their fish. The store offers items such as cultured coral, colored mushrooms, sea slugs, and a variety of polyps.”

Go for the polyps, stay for the sea slugs! Count me in!

The Chargers or their paid mouthpiece or a blogger or the guy at the bar — somebody — said one-third of current Chargers season-ticket owners will drive to Carson. I have no doubt that’s true; therefore, the Box considers it a public duty to arm these loyalists with a Carson fun itinerary.

Follows is a list of hot spots known only to longtime residents, entertainment opportunities that drive-throughs and out-of-towners like you would never find.

IHOP, 21716 Avalon Boulevard, open 24 hours Friday and Saturday. Jack in the Box at 939 East Carson. McDonald’s, 21830 South Avalon Boulevard. Starbucks, 20810 South Avalon Boulevard. Subway, 880 East Carson. Chuck E Cheese’s, Denny’s, Jack in the Box 2, McDonald’s 2, Pizza Hut, Sizzler, and so much more.

If you are one of the many who have wondered all your life where California State University Dominguez Hills is, wonder no more. Carson is its home. Fun facts about CSDH include famous alumni, particularly, as noted on their web page, “Rodney Allen Rippy (BS, ’95), actor, best known as boy in Jack in the Box commercial in the ’70s.” The university shares its campus with a professional soccer team, the L.A. Galaxy, and yet, in the midst of all this action, finds room to sport a 4 percent four-year graduation rate.

Fun facts about Carson: according to, “About half of its land is taken up by factories, refineries, and other industrial structures.” “Real Estate Made Easy,” says Carson is the tenth most boring city in California. I would quibble with that, but when one looks at the top five (Lakewood, Lancaster, West Covina, Victorville, Merced), you have to admit the competition is first-rate.

P.S. Don’t forget to visit the Goodyear Blimp landing pad.

<em>U-T</em> finally concedes what everybody knows

Chargers prefer Los Angeles

August 9, 2015 — Don Bauder

The Union-Tribune this morning (August 9) conceded on its editorial page something all but the most rabid Chargers fans already know: the team wants to get to Los Angeles, and its highly publicized attempts to find a home in San Diego were never credible. There is nothing San Diego can say to the National Football League (NFL) tomorrow (August 10) to keep the team in San Diego.

Jill Lieber Steeg, a distinguished writer and wife of Jim Steeg, former National Football League and Chargers executive, states the obvious: the Chargers desperately want to move to Los Angeles. Further, she states something that was only obvious to a few people: "For the past decade or so, the Chargers have talked about nine stadium 'concepts' [in San Diego] but none of them were full-blown proposals with legitimate financing plans and completed environmental studies. The Chargers never saw any of the nine through to fruition. All were dropped, tossed to the side or outright abandoned by the team, but always blamed on other people or things."

When the Chargers tell the league they have been rebuffed in efforts to find a home in San Diego, they will be telling a fat fib.

Steeg doesn't mention it, but through those years, Chargers critic Bruce Henderson was stating that these phony stadium proposals were "intellectually insulting."

On October 4, 2002, my column in the Union-Tribune stated, "The Chargers are going down two tracks. They would like to move to the lucrative Los Angeles market if the opportunity arises, but if it doesn't, they want to get a new stadium commitment from San Diego." I have stressed that position ever since, in the U-T and the Reader.

Steeg also points out something that Henderson has been saying for some time: the Chargers tried to strike a deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group, which at the time wanted to build a stadium in downtown L.A. The deal would have been "in exchange for a portion of the team ownership. The Spanos family reportedly balked at at the ownership stake AEG demanded."

This brings up something I have been emphasizing. It is likely that the Chargers will have to sell themselves — or part of the team — to get to L.A. Steeg brings up another possibility: going deep into debt — supposedly worth it financially because the value of the team would triple. (I would argue the value would double, not triple. Also, the Spanos family is in a highly-leveraged business, real estate. It may not be able to take on that much more debt. The patriarch, in his 90s, has serious dementia. His wife may not want to sell part of the team while her husband is alive. There are a lot of children and grandchildren. Would they approve of a huge debt burden?)

Steeg ends up telling San Diego that "if you continue to stay focused on the end goal of building a new stadium, the NFL may one day give you another look." She seems to be saying that San Diego should do what St. Louis and Tampa Bay did: build the stadium without a team to play in it. I can't think of worse advice.

Jim Steeg, the husband of Jill Lieber Steeg, worked for the NFL for 35 years and the Chargers for six years. Was Jim Steeg looking over his wife's shoulder when she penned this piece? Was she doing it at the direction of the Chargers? We don't know. We do know that most of her points are sound ones.

Fat arena subsidy good news for Qualcomm chief

Sacramento billboard law "carve-outs" to keep Kings ruled legal by judge

July 27, 2015 — Matt Potter

If Kevin Faulconer's Mission Valley stadium environmental impact report case ever gets to court, the mayor may want to consider having it heard in Sacramento.

Those still following the Republican's tortured struggle with the Chargers to keep the football team in town will know that team special counsel Mark Fabiani doesn't think much of Faulconer's plan to run a $2.1 million environmental quick play.

Paid for by funds from the city’s already-stretched public kitty, the costly environmental assessment is the mayor's key pawn in a hurry-up plan to spend millions more in taxpayer money to build a new home for the NFL at the present Qualcomm site.

“The Chargers will have no part in the city’s misbegotten, doomed legal strategy,” Fabiani told the L.A. Times last week. “And if the Chargers aren’t participating, why are some politicians proposing to waste the taxpayers’ money?”

As if on cue, a 34-page letter dated July 20 arrived at city hall from Douglas Carstens of the Hermosa Beach law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens LLP.

"We write to express our concern about, and objections to, the process that appears to be taking shape for hasty approval of a football stadium and associated mixed use development in Mission Valley that would involve demolition of the historic Qualcomm Stadium (formerly San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium)," the missive begins.

"The stadium, designed by Gary Allen, is one of the last remaining mid-century multi-purpose stadiums left in the United States."

The letter goes on to call out a number of what it says are numerous legal omissions in the city's so-called notice of preparation of the environmental review, and provides a lengthy list of environmental concerns, including the site's well-known record of wet-year inundations.

"Will flood control infrastructure be required to protect the site from flooding, and if so, what are the implications for other issues areas (biological resources, visual resources, etc.)?"

Adds Carstens, "We helped oppose special exemptions for football stadium proposals in the Cities of Industry and Los Angeles (Farmers Field), and continue to be opposed to public agencies providing special treatment or unique processes for sports stadiums."

Meanwhile, as the GOP mayor of San Diego twists slowly in the legal wind, Sacramento's basketball team — a big chunk of which is owned by the children of La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs — has just beaten back a court challenge to its arena deal with the city.

As reported here last month, Sacramento and the Kings operation, of which Qualcomm executive chairman Paul Jacobs and his wealthy brothers Jeff and Hal are vice chairmen, were hit by a lawsuit asserting that a giveaway of billboard rights by the city to secretly subsidize the team was illegal.

"In total, the plaintiffs’ group estimates the city gave the Kings up to $200 million more in value than the publicized $255 million investment," reported the Sacramento Bee..

"The legal carve-out allows the Kings to offer team sponsors prime advertising space in front of hundreds of thousands of eyes daily on freeways throughout the city," according to a May 15, 2014, Bee story.

On July 24, superior court judge Timothy Frawley held that the billboard deal wasn't really a subsidy as alleged, and ruled it legal.

“To the Kings, the additional value might be used to ensure the long-term viability of the team,” said Frawley's ruling, according to the Sacramento Business Journal.

“But the City didn’t provide additional value to subsidize the team; it provided it to make the Arena deal happen.”

Fate of Chargers predicted

Worst case: they fail to relocate and have to return home

July 12, 2015 — Don Bauder

Sam Farmer, who has followed the NFL drama in Los Angeles for the LA Times, has some predictions in today's (July 12) edition. Writes Farmer, "Think of L.A. as a game of musical chairs, with three participants [St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders] and a maximum of two chairs. The worst-case scenario for the league would be to have one of those three teams lose a vote and be forced to return to a city it tried to leave."

I have been saying this about the Chargers, and now Farmer says it about the Rams and Raiders, too. The teams hoping to leave have already created enough ill will that it might be fatal for the prodigal sons to return. Farmer doesn't say this, but I suspect that sales of teams, or a large percentage of teams, might be one way to mitigate local hostility for a team failing to get to L.A. In the case of the Chargers, I suspect that a sale may also be necessary to get to L.A.

Farmer makes some predictions. There will be no major developments at the August 11 NFL meeting, he says. The NFL will have signed leases with one or two temporary stadiums by the end of the year, Farmer says. The Chargers quietly "got far down the road" in negotiating with the L.A. Coliseum last year, Farmer says.

If the Chargers return to San Diego they might play two games a year in London, Farmer writes.

He also predicts the NFL will begin counting potential L.A. season-ticket holders this fall, and possibly take refundable deposits on season tickets. He thinks the NFL will start having serious civic meetings in San Diego, St. Louis, and Oakland "in the coming months."

Meanwhile, comedian John Oliver has done a satire on billionaires getting the public to pay for stadiums.

Do secret Jacobs subsidies presage Chargers deal?

Sons of La Jolla's Qualcomm billionaire benefit from Sacramento billboard giveaways

June 23, 2015 — Matt Potter

As San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and county supervisor Ron Roberts run up the public's tab in their frantic bid to keep the Chargers in San Diego, a trial in Sacramento is revealing the kind of massive hidden costs taxpayers here may ultimately find themselves on the hook for.

The Republican mayor began his campaign of back-door public subsidies to the new stadium effort in January by announcing that his so-called Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group, populated with key Faulconer political donors, would not require any tax money, and therefore could conduct its business behind closed doors, keeping the public in the dark about its doings.

The shadowy arrangement drew the attention of, among others, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani, who questioned the role of lobbyist Jason Roe, a private political consultant to Faulconer, in the group's decisions.

"What legal and ethical issues are raised by Mr. Roe's dual role as an apparent de facto Task Force member and as a registered lobbyist for the Delaware North company, which is bidding to become the new concessionaire at Qualcomm Stadium and, potentially, at any new stadium in San Diego?" he wrote in a February 17 letter to Faulconer.

Backers argued that Roe was contributing his services to the task force free of charge, and hence was actually benefiting the public, but Fabiani had another take.

"Putting the legal and ethical issues aside for a moment, what sense does it make to have someone who is your chief advisor on political matters, and who advises a potential stadium vendor on business matters, play any sort of role with the 'independent' Task Force?"

Faulconer’s no-tax-money pledge ended in April with the announcement by the mayor and county supervisor Roberts that they would require $500,000 in public funds to hire a gaggle of lawyers and consultants to carry on their crusade.

Matt Awbrey, a Faulconer PR aide, maintained that the infusion of public funding did not represent a flip-flop by the mayor because the hired hands "do not report to the Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group. These experts will vet the financial recommendations the group makes when they are released in May."

This Tuesday, the city's legal team was reportedly in New York pitching the NFL on Faulconer's plan to run a hurry-up environmental analysis prior to calling a quickie public vote sometime in December or January, an approach earlier rejected by Fabiani.

Meantime, in Sacramento, officials are being questioned about that city's Kings basketball arena, set to cost the public at least $255 million, and maybe much more, reports the Sacramento Bee.

A group of citizens has sued the city, charging that Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and staff concealed the true cost to taxpayers of the arena, including parking and the giveaway of coveted rights to build six giant digital billboards alongside local freeways.

"The plaintiffs contend the city quietly and fraudulently added those assets and others as deal sweeteners to compensate the Kings’ investor group for overpaying for the team," according to the Bee’s account.

"In total, the plaintiffs’ group estimates the city gave the Kings up to $200 million more in value than the publicized $255 million investment."

Last year, Sacramento changed its billboard ordinance to accommodate the sign portion of the giveaway.

"The legal carve-out allows the Kings to offer team sponsors prime advertising space in front of hundreds of thousands of eyes daily on freeways throughout the city," noted a May 15, 2014, story in the Bee.

"City leaders said the city is not abandoning its efforts to keep a lid on the number of billboards in the city," the report continued. "The city ordinance will continue to require other companies to take down at least one billboard for every new billboard."

With the Kings’ arena scheduled for completion in October of next year, most observers believe it's unlikely the case against Sacramento Democrat Johnson will significantly disrupt the project, key financial beneficiaries of which are the three sons of La Jolla's Qualcomm billionaire and Democratic funder Irwin Jacobs.

As reported here in May 2013, Qualcomm chairman Paul Jacobs and his wealthy brothers Jeff and Hal acquired a big chunk of the team in a group headed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Vivek Ranadivé.

The new Kings owners then funded a political action committee that hired none other than Chris Lehane, the longtime business partner of the Chargers’ Fabiani, to head off a referendum drive to put the proposed basketball arena on the ballot.

Superior court judge Timothy Frawley, who is also hearing the current case against the arena subsidy, held in February 2014 that the petition had not been properly drafted and struck down the election effort.

The Faulcon can absolutely hear the Faulconer

And the center, Chris Watt, can most certainly hold

June 12, 2015 — Walter Mencken

What was expected to be a standard meeting of the San Diego City Council on Monday, June 8, took a turn for the dramatic when Mayor Faulconer made an unscheduled appearance and statement regarding his negotiations with the San Diego Chargers to build a new stadium and to keep the team in San Diego. Reportedly wild-eyed and unkempt, the normally composed Mayor waved his arms and hopped up and down as he shouted his address to the Council:

"I, Faulconer, beheld a great serpent, and its name was Spanos, and such was its length that while its head was still in San Diego, its tail stretched north to the city of Carson, where it dug into the soil and held fast to the promise of the land. And when the serpent beheld the wealth of all the cities of the earth, presented as an offering, it opened up its jaws and swallowed whole the LArgest pile, and forgot the city of its youth and the expansion of its dwelling in the bowls of the earth. And all the people tore their jerseys and covered themselves with blue bodypaint and cried out, 'Save our bolts! Preserve them in this place, lest we become a byword among the cities of the earth, a desolate place where the Rivers no longer runs, or even passes.' And lo, even as the serpent turned to slither into the fetid north, a great bird, a falcon of surpassing cunning and power, descended from the sky and snatched up the serpent and carried it aloft. The serpent writhed and twisted in the wind, and called out to the League of National Footballs for deliverance, but the falcon would not surrender. It carried the serpent to the Charger place, and ensnared it in the lines of power. Whereupon it burst into flames and was consumed, scorching all the land about the place, so that nothing good remained. I, Faulconer, have seen these things. Take heed, O Spanos!"

Amazingly, the very next day, June 9th, a bird with a snake in its talons flew into a Sorrento Valley power line and sparked a four-acre blaze.

Speaking from his ivory tower at the top of the Geisel Library at UCSD, Professor of Old-Timey Things Arthur C. Codswallup offered this perspective on the remarkable event.

"The image of a bird with a snake has been associated with prophecy ever since the ancient Greeks. In Homer's epic poem The Iliad, an eagle appears in the sky with a snake in its talons just before the Trojan army is supposed to attack the Achaeans. The prophet Polydamas interprets the sight as an evil portent, warning the Trojan champion Hector that he should call off his plan to move his troops. Hector ignores the warning, and ultimately pays for the mistake with his life. I hate football, and I don't even own a television, but I have to side with the Mayor on this one. Together with his highly significant name, the fact that the fire was caused by the bird's collision with electrical lines, lines which carry an electrical charge — as in Charger — seems too fitting to ignore."

Not everyone was convinced, however.

"Bah!" snorted former mayor Bob Filner from his filthy underground mudhole. "The party of bastards has been using religious hogwash to influence the masses since God was a nonexistent boy. This is about money, pure and simple — the stuff Jesus said to render unto Caesar. Faulconer doesn't have enough liquidity to just buy the team's loyalty outright, and so he wants the people to back his play through an election. And if you want the great unwashed on your team, you better make sure you've got Jesus on your side. Or the divine birdy or whatever."

(Faulconer has in fact stated that the City is prepared to hold a special election in December 2015 to seek voter approval for a new stadium.)

Personal seat licenses explained

CSAG report outlines benefits of costly new season-ticket feature

June 1, 2015 — Walter Mencken

From CSAG Stadium Report Appendix C: Personal Seat Licenses

Look, it's not complicated. You want to buy a season ticket. But so does some other schnook. You buy a PSL, you get the option to buy the ticket, and the other guy has to wait and see. Plus, we'll make sure that your seat gets taken care of. Things happen to seats, you know? Hinges break, birds poop on 'em,…things. This way, you don't have to worry. And you don't have to pay it all up front. You can take care of it in monthly installments. We'll even send a guy 'round to pick up the dough. Cash is good. But don't get any funny ideas about backing out, okay? It's hard to cheer for the Chargers with your jaw wired shut, or so I'm told.

Famed architect unveils design for new Chargers venue


May 31, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Dan Meis, FAIA, founder of MEIS Stadium Planning, Construction, and Renovation, Inc.:

"San Diego is not a ponderous monument to America's industrial glory days, like Cincinatti. There, I build a stadium solid enough to withstand my own renovation efforts, just 15 years after it opened. Nor is San Diego a glorious supercity like Los Angeles, where I built the Staples Center as a monument to the idea that sports are essentially show business. No, San Diego is a fragile collection of largely unrelated segments, held together by only the flimsiest threads of geographical proximity and fondness for tacos and sunshine. I needed a design that reflected that fragile, almost gossamer sense of connection. I found it in the support system for the stadium's roof canopy: a network of cables that work together almost invisibly to keep everyone in relative comfort. It's not a masterpiece or anything, but then, this is San Diego. Who would know if it was?"

Are you a Chargers fan?

Take this simple quiz to find out!

May 29, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Question one (of one): What is your reaction to this post on the Facebook group page, "You Know You're a Chargers Fan When"?

a) Beleaguered, miserable acceptance

b) Blind, bloodthirsty rage

c) Bleary resignation

d) Bizarre hopefulness

If you answered a, c, or d, congratulations! You're a true Chargers fan! If you answered b, shame on you. You're a provincial fan of the city where you live, not a bold and brave devotee of the team that has brought you so much excitement and passion over the past 54 years. It's not surprising to find such a fair-weather fan in a town known for its mild climate. But seriously, the Bolts are better off without you.

Quiz brought to you by Spanos Research Council, Inc.

Chargers camp urges promises "thorough examination" of CSAG report

"Just let us savor the moment for a bit, okay?"

May 23, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Chargers' head of business affairs A. G. Spanos:

We are grateful to San Diego's Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group for putting in the extra effort required to get us a report by our arbitrarily shortened deadline. It shows good faith. Now we want to return the favor by taking a long and careful look at their proposal for a new stadium in San Diego. It's too early to make any kind of official statement, but I will say this: my initial impressions are extremely positive. I mean, this shit is high-larious. Just one example: under "revenue streams," we read that "In San Diego, the stadium would be expected to host: …Monster Truck Jams…Rodeos…Film showings…Bar Mitzvahs.'" That last one is what makes it perfect. I can't wait to take a closer look. Bar Mitzvahs!

This Chargers stadium proposal? Watch it.

Is city really on solid financial footing? What about the plume?

May 18, 2015 — Don Bauder

The Citizens' Stadium Advisory Group today, May 18, offered a plan for a new, municipally owned Chargers Mission Valley stadium that supposedly does not raise taxes and therefore averts any two-thirds public vote.

The plan is based on a dubious assumption: "The city and county are on solid financial footing," says the proposal. Oh? There is a $2 billion infrastructure deficit that is realistically double that. The possibility of a severe, long-lasting drought suggests tax money will have to be spent on providing more water, and water bills will also go up. There is a big pension deficit. The convention center is in financial trouble. And other problems loom.

Cocked eyebrows should greet this report. The plan does not rely on tax revenues from development, boasts the task force, but transient occupancy (hotel) taxes will contribute as a result of the building of a new hotel. Also, 75 acres will be sold to a developer. The task force is counting on $84.7 million coming in from a ticket surcharge and $26 million from a parking surcharge — both over 30 years. At least, a surcharge is paid by someone who is using the facility.

The task force boasts that it has "heard from numerous developers and private investors who want to fund all or part of the Mission Valley project." Oh? Where were those developers and investors earlier when the Chargers proposed developing Mission Valley? Is there enough water for the new development? Chargers spokesperson Mark Fabiani has pointed out that current Mission Valley residents are opposed to another development, and there is still a controversy about whether a plume under the stadium is a problem.

The city and county will each contribute $121 million, and supposedly the money will not come from a general fund.

The stadium will host non-football events, supposedly: monster truck jams, concerts, music festivals, soccer games, film showings, movie and TV shoots, religious events, rodeos — the list goes on. Petco was also going to bring in such events, and that has been a disappointment.

The Chargers will contribute $300 million, according to the plan. Previously, the team has been talking about putting in about $200 million. Forbes magazine estimates that the Spanos family is worth $1.26 billion, and almost $1 billion of that represents the value of the Chargers. Patriarch Alex Spanos is in his 90s and reportedly has severe dementia. Will three generations want to contribute this much of the family's wealth? The task force says that $135 million to $165 million will go to the Chargers from naming rights over 20 years. That would be subtracted from the $300 million, as would $15 million of naming rights remaining at Qualcomm, $25 million a year from "other," and $60 million from personal seat licenses (half of a total of $120 million).

If the team got $25 a year from the mysterious "other," the Spanos family might not be contributing anything, and would enjoy a huge boost in the value of the franchise. But can these be counted on? Doubtful. For example, the $120 million in personal seat licenses can be scratched right now. (Personal seat licenses are paid licenses to the holders to buy rights to a certain seat for a season.) Fabiani told me in 2011, "We do not anticipate selling [personal seat licenses] in any significant numbers in this marketplace." He has said the same thing on other occasions several times since then.

I agree. The cost of living in San Diego is 35 percent higher than the national average, but the median personal income is only 19 percent higher, according to Kelly Cunningham of the National University System Institute for Policy Research. Think of all the times citizens worried about a TV blackout because a game wasn't selling out. Erik Bruvold, head of the National University institute, believes the personal seat-license figure is doable, but I don't think he will find many agreeing.

The total cost of the stadium, including land, would be $1.3 billion. Bruvold has said that the six most recent NFL stadiums built or under construction would cost $1.5 billion in Southern California. But four of those stadiums are extravagant, says the task force.

The National Football League is committed to contributing $200 million. I presume that would be a low- or no-interest rate loan, but I would think it has to be paid back someday by somebody.

Another important point: Fabiani on March 16 on KPBS noted that 25 percent of the Chargerss’ economic support now comes from Orange County and Los Angeles County. Previously, numbers above 30 percent have surfaced. Logically, one must conclude that the Chargers would lose that support if a team or teams occupy the Los Angeles market, as seems probable now. The Chargers would be losing a lot of revenue — enough to make one wonder if building a San Diego stadium would be worth it.

Apparently, the city and county will hire consultants to vet the task force's work. But so-called consultants generally give the answers that the people paying their bills want to hear. Watch that one.

Watch one other thing: there could be a lawsuit against any proposal that goes forward. Such a suit or suits could delay construction and possibly raise construction costs.

This proposal is based on a lot of hopes and dreams. The mayor should come out and admit: taxpayers will have to pay for any new stadium — at least 65 percent.

While she was at Harvard, Judith Grant Long, now an associate professor at the University of Michigan, said in 2010 that, on average, taxpayers pay 78 percent and the team 22 percent of a stadium. The original estimates are always understated because the cities do not take such things as lost tax revenue into account.

Chargers trade quarterback Philip Rivers' soul to New England Patriots


May 14, 2015 — Walter Mencken

"Philip Rivers is a very good quarterback," says Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. "On some Sundays, he's almost a great quarterback. But one thing he isn't is a Super Bowl champion quarterback, let alone a four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback. So if you had asked me three weeks ago if [Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady needed anything from Philip Rivers, I'd have laughed in your face. Live and learn, I guess."

McCoy was referring to this week's blockbuster news that the Chargers had agreed to trade Philip Rivers' immortal soul to the Patriots, in the hopes that it will help Tom Brady overcome his current predicament. Brady was suspended for four games of the 2015 NFL season for his involvement in Deflategate: the intentional deflation of footballs during the Patriots' game against the Indianapolis Colts in last season's NFC Championship game. (Deflating footballs makes them softer and easier to catch.) The Patriots won, and went on to win the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. An NFL investigation into the matter concluded that Brady was almost certainly aware of the deflation, and quickly punished the handsome star for his cheating ways.

"All of a sudden, it looked like Tom Brady could stand a little of the ol' Rivers Rectitude," laughs McCoy. "I called [Patriot's Head Coach and Chief Necromancer Bill] Belichick, and we had a deal hammered out in two hours."

"Philip has always been an extremely decent person, both on and off the field," explains McCoy. "For years, we've tried to figure out a way to turn that bone-deep goodness into playoff victories, without success. Now, his virtue has proven to be just the asset we needed to gain access to the most prized strategic stash in all of sports: Belichick's bag of dirty tricks. Illegal videotaping of opponents, deflating footballs, you name it. The thing is bottomless, so you never have to use the same trick twice. I can hardly wait. Oh, and we'll get a couple of players, too. In the end, you gotta have players. But those dirty tricks…"

McCoy stressed that the Rivers-Brady soul transference would not be a soul-swap. "Frankly, Philip values his reputation as a Christian and a family man too much to allow a handsome devil — and I do mean devil — like Tom Brady to run amuck in his body. For the time being, we'll be using the soul of [newly acquired Chargers backup quarterback] Kellen Clemens to animate Philip's body on game days. The Patriots will retain full control of Brady's spirit — though what they're going to do with it, I shudder to think."

Leaked memo from Chargers insider: "Marcus Mariota is the future of the Chargers Choke."

Ol' Man River(s), He Jes' Keeps Throwin'…

April 26, 2015 — Walter Mencken

When the San Diego Chargers started paying attention to Heisman Trophy winner and former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, SD on the QT started paying attention to the Chargers. The result is this excerpt from a memo accidentally left in the Cheetah's Velvet VIP Couch Room last Thursday night by an as-yet-unidentified Charger official:

"We have to take seriously the possibility of a late-career surge from [current quarterback Philip] Rivers. John Elway didn't win his first Super Bowl until he was 37, and then he won a second one at 38. Rivers is 33. His numbers aren't too far from Elway's, and he has to be thinking about his legacy. It's just possible that he'll somehow manage to pick up a ring in the next couple of years. And if the Chargers are going to protect their legacy of postseason disappointment, they can't afford let him do it here. After Mariota failed so spectacularly to bring home the national championship for Oregon, we feel confident that he can provide the right mix of true talent and disappointing results that we value in our organization. Just because we're moving to Los Angeles doesn't mean that we have to change who we are."

Local reservation to serve as location for new San Diego football stadium


April 4, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Viejas spokesman Sam Runningback:

"Thanks to certain provisions within the U.S. tax code with regard to Indian gaming, we believe we can operate the San Diego Chargers on Mr. Spanos's behalf and avoid paying any taxes on revenue generated by the team, simply by designating it as part of our casino. Legally, games played at the stadium will be no different from games played at blackjack tables or slot machines. Really, it's just synergy: so much of the American interest in football revolves around betting already. This just formalizes that relationship. And the prospect of all that tax-free cash should make it easy for Mr. Spanos to find interested private investors. San Diego keeps the Chargers, Mr. Spanos gets even richer, and the Kumeyaay get the satisfaction of giving back to the community. We have just one condition: that the team be renamed the San Diego Indigenous. Take that, Redskins."

Chargers in Inglewood? Looks like it

Could all or part of the team be sold?

March 27, 2015 — Don Bauder

Channel 10 is reporting tonight that the plans for Stan Kroenke's stadium in Inglewood have separate locker rooms for two home teams and two separate owners' boxes. Ergo, two National Football League teams will occupy the stadium. (The Giants and Jets share a New Jersey stadium.)

A source told Channel 10 that the two teams will be the St. Louis Rams (owned by Kroenke) and the Chargers.

This makes sense. The behavior of Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani has suggested for some time that the team is doing its best to get out of San Diego, if it has the funds to do so.

A question is whether the Spanos family has the money that Kroenke would likely demand for a second team occupying his stadium.

There are several ways this problem could be solved. The Chargers — or a significant percentage of the team — could be sold. After all, the value of the franchise will rise sharply if it moves into the juicy Los Angeles market. If the Los Angeles Clippers are worth $2 billion, what would a percentage (or all) of the Chargers be worth? Or the Chargers may permit Kroenke to take a large chunk of revenue from luxury seats, boxes, seat licenses, ad and naming rights, and the like. And there could be other avenues.

If the two-team Inglewood scenario is likely, there are more questions: 1. Has the joint task force been informed of this? 2. Has it suspected it? 3. Are there some moneybags waiting to grab rich acreage in San Diego that was supposed to go for a football stadium?

Chargers reach deal with city; fans rejoice


March 22, 2015 — Walter Mencken

KISSING THE ASPHALT OF THE QUALCOMM PARKING LOT, MISSION VALLEY — In a welcome surprise development, Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani today announced that the team had finally reached a deal with the City of San Diego concerning the team's future.

"After years of research, planning, and collaboration," said Fabiani, "we are pleased to report that the Chargers will in fact be moving to Carson. However, the City has agreed that, even after the eventual demolition of [current Charger home] Qualcomm Stadium, the facility's parking lot will remain open for tailgating through at least 2050. Also, as a token of appreciation for everyone who has cheered for their San Diego Chargers, we're leaving you guys the Charger Girls to help keep you cheering. We are confident that this deal will prove satisfactory both to team management, which desperately needs to make some money, and Charger fans throughout the San Diego region, who desperately need somewhere to commune on Sunday now that God is dead.

"In the end," explains Fabiani. "it was just a matter of paying attention to San Diego's most ardent Chargers fans: the men, women, and occasionally children who routinely crowd the Qualcomm parking lot on game day to host epic tailgates. They arrive as early as six o'clock in the morning — some in RVs, some in specially equipped buses, but many in ordinary trucks and cars — and set up what amounts to a supersized, high-tech, pop-up vacation campground. Shade canopies cover living spaces outfitted with comfortable seating, temperature control, and frequently, top-quality audio-visual equipment. Many setups include satellite television, so fans can watch football all day long. Vast quantities of excellent food are prepared and served: tacos, burgers, steaks, you name it. An unspoken, friendly competition seems to take place every Sunday to see who can grill and lay out the most extraordinary spread. Heroic quantities of alcohol are drunk: kegs, cocktails, wine… and unless some loudmouth wanders through wearing the wrong jersey, the drinking serves to heighten fellow-feeling and celebration. Extended families gather. Strangers make friends with their neighbors. Everyone has a wonderful time, regardless of whether or not the Chargers win. Heck, many tailgaters don't even enter the stadium. And that's when it hit us: the game doesn't matter to these people. The party does. As long as they've got their tailgate, they don't care if the Chargers play in Mission Valley, or Carson, or Timbuktu.

"Everybody wins," concluded Fabiani. "The City can collect revenue by selling reservations for parking spaces. The Chargers can collect revenue by selling luxury boxes in its new stadium. And the fans get what they really want, whether they know it or not. It's such a relief to be done with this; throwing in the Girls seemed like the least we could do."

Say it ain’t so

Entertainers comment on the idea of a Chargers-Raiders stadium in Carson

March 11, 2015 — Dave Good

In February, the San Diego Chargers dropped a bomb when they announced plans to build their own stadium in Carson, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. This, in the midst of ongoing negotiations with the hometown government to fund construction of a new stadium here. But if that wasn’t enough, the real kicker came when the team announced their choice of business partners: arch enemies the Oakland Raiders.

With all the media pundits and prognosticators mouthing off about what they think should or could happen, we wondered what other local entertainers think.

“The Raiders and the Chargers sharing a stadium in Carson,” says bassist John Osmon, “makes about as much sense as Sarah Palin moving in with Kim Kardashian.”

Jonathan Savage of the Red Not Chili Peppers feels like hometown fans are at the bottom of some kind of pyramid scheme. “San Diego has built the entity that is the Chargers through an emotional and financial investment that has lasted nearly half a century. To think that the Chargers could be sold without the people of San Diego having final word is what makes any deal most upsetting.”

Sam Lopez specializes in doom guitar and lives in the vicinity of the Chargers’ current stadium, Qualcomm. “It’s unfortunate that San Diegans will lose jobs because of this. Why are they moving? They want a better stadium? What’s wrong with the one we have?”

The Truckee Brothers’ Christopher Hoffee: “My memories of the Chargers are of tailgate parties with friends and family. Playing that awful ‘San Diego Super Chargers’ song all the way down from North County. We would play Nerf football in the lot, eat barbecue, and make frozen margaritas and bring them into the game in plastic water bottles. I can only remember the feelings, not the scores. The cannon that went off after every touchdown. The red-headed girl I met playing touch football. The nachos with double jalapeños. Wearing the Kellen Winslow jersey. The point I am making is that the Chargers are the Chargers because they are the ‘San Diego’ Chargers. Our town. Our people. Our family. They are nothing to me without that.”

“Oh man, it’s the end of an era,” says Tori Roze, who fronts soul-rock band the Hot Mess. “I could’ve told you I saw this coming. It’s just so sad that it’s even on the table for discussion.”

Blackout Party’s Brian Holwerda grew up in the Bay Area and follows the Niners. Not a Bolts fan. “But I feel bad for friends who have supported the Chargers over the years. I do think sharing a stadium with the Raiders would lead to some interesting parking-lot dynamics; i.e., stabbings.”

“It makes me sad to see so many of my pals who are lifelong, diehard fans feel so betrayed and irrelevant,” says jazz-radio deejay Claudia Russell. “Fandom is a thankless business.”

Chargers fan offers backyard for stadium site

"The best way to pay for it is to have other people pay for it"

March 3, 2015 — Dave Rice

Thousands of San Diegans showed up to party, tailgate, and generally show their support for the city's football team before a Monday-evening public forum put on by a new stadium advisory group organized by mayor Kevin Faulconer. The information-gathering session itself, however, failed to capture the enthusiasm of much of the crowd, and concluded a half-hour short of its advertised three-hour run time.

Fans crowded the parking lot well before the meeting's 6 p.m. start time, breaking out barbecues, coolers full of beer and lawn chairs, tailgating as if preparing for a Monday-night football game in March. Chants of "Save Our Bolts!" broke out across the lot, led at one point by recently retired Chargers center Nick Hardwick. The slogan has become local football fans' rallying cry and has spawned a website of the same name run by fans dedicated to drumming up support for a new stadium.

Seating capacity in the lounge where the meeting took place was limited to the first 400 through the gates — it filled within minutes. A line snaked around the side of the stadium and eventually grew to include over 250 people by the time 5:30 approached. The game-day atmosphere continued inside, as security guards did pat-down inspections before allowing attendees through the turnstiles, where they were met by radio-station promotional booths and a long line to purchase $9 burritos from a food truck parked by an escalator.

With the meeting room packed, overflow crowds in excess of 2000 packed into general seating areas, where the cheers and chants continued, frequently drowning out parts of the testimony of speakers. The volume initially increased as additional sections of seating were opened near the west end zone for the particularly boisterous late arrivals who'd waited too long to get through security.

The meeting was to be conducted as an information-gathering session — advisory group members did not field questions but asked specifically for input on preferred locations for a new stadium and potential financing plans. Each topic was to be given 90 minutes' consideration, with each speaker getting a maximum 90-second allotment.

Many of the speakers were less interested in responding to these questions than proclaiming their fanhood, however; many stated the number of years they'd been attending games or offered emotional anecdotes related to their affection for the team. Most of these stories were met with more loud cheers and applause in the overflow section.

"Put it in my backyard if you want, as long as we don't have to share it with the Raiders," offered one fan, a popular sentiment among the off-topic commenters and most of the crowd.

Of the attendees who did speak on the location issue, most were convinced that the existing stadium site in Mission Valley was the best location for a new stadium. They repeatedly emphasized the importance of tailgating, which would be lost by moving the stadium downtown, the only other proposed site that has been getting significant consideration. Qualcomm Stadium’s 100-acre parking lot is a huge selling point for fans.

"If you build downtown, you're not going to have the parking or accessibility we have down there," said Ken Chandler, vice president of the Charger Backers fan club. "I've been a season ticket holder for 32 years, a lot of them bad years — the only thing that kept me coming back is the eight or ten times a year I've been able to tailgate with my friends."

“Tailgating is where it's at! You took away [legal alcohol consumption at] the beach; don't take away our tailgating," pleaded a young fan following Chandler.

What none of the existing-site backers mentioned with regard to the tailgating issue is the fact that most of the plans put forth for the Mission Valley site include removing most of the on-site parking and replacing it with new construction, including the one officially endorsed by the Chargers in 2006.

Several speakers who claimed to have inside knowledge indicated that the team's strong preference is to focus instead on a site downtown, despite opposition from hoteliers and other convention-center-expansion backers who believe a proposal to link a new stadium to expanded convention space is a non-starter due to its placement several blocks from the existing center and news from the Metropolitan Transit System that it could take five to seven years to vacate the site near Petco Park that's being eyed for a new facility.

"I've been in direct communication with the Chargers on a regular basis," said Dan McLellan, communications director with Save Our Bolts. "I can tell you with absolute certainty that their preference is downtown, and they have a financially feasible plan that would be outstanding for the city of San Diego."

McLellan didn't go into specifics but suggested the plan revolved around raising hotel taxes as a revenue source for the city to fund construction. He also pledged his group's support in pushing through any ballot initiative that might be put before voters.

"When you come up with a plan that's feasible, we'll become the campaign backers to make sure that it passes."

As the meeting passed the 30-minute mark, some late-comers continued to make their way inside, though a steady stream of fans departing outnumbered them by a five-to-one margin. A check on the parking lot found a steady stream of cars heading for the exits, while others resumed their tailgating (or never stopped, following the pre-meeting rally).

Re-convening at 7:30 after a short break, the remaining commenters were more focused on the topics at hand, sometimes revisiting the location issue but generally sticking to either that or the matter of financing a new stadium. Just a few hundred attendees returned to the overflow sections.

A host of ideas was floated, including auctioning off portions of the old stadium as memorabilia and selling commemorative bricks to be installed at the new site (as was done at Petco). A person suggested placing donation boxes around town for stadium supporters to drop off their loose change as a feasible fundraising mechanism.

Addressing more practical issues were speakers asking for money from San Diego State University, whose Aztecs also would likely continue to use the facility for their home games. Some urged serious consideration of a proposal from county supervisor Ron Roberts for the county to issue a bridge loan to the city to cover construction costs. It was suggested that a portion of the loan could be repaid by the Chargers instead of the full liability falling on the city.

Many speakers from outside the city's boundaries also spoke up, insisting that a stadium initiative should be, at least in part, a countywide issue, with residents in neighboring communities voting to foot a share of the bill. “Personal seat licenses” — a surcharge to ticket-holders the Chargers say could be a significant revenue source if they move to Los Angeles but would at the same time be impossible to sell locally — were also brought up, with several fans offering to write checks for them on the spot. The favorite plan, though, seemed to be tied to an increase in transient occupancy tax rates paid by hotel guests as a way to provide the lion's share of cash.

"The best way to pay for it is to have other people pay for it when they visit our city," said an individual, drawing one of the larger rounds of applause from the dwindling crowd.

As the meeting wore on, an organizer circulated through the overflow area, offering speaker slips and a coveted lounge seat to anyone willing to appear before the panel.

"A lot of people left," he explained. "They sent me to come down here and pull people if anyone's interested."

With few takers, the meeting wound down and was called to an end around 8:30, by which time the stands and parking lot had largely cleared.

Qualcomm offers $50 million to pull name from Mission Valley stadium

"Q" for "Questionable Investment"?

March 1, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Qualcomm public relations director Chip Speed:

"As the debate over the Chargers' future stadium intensifies, one thing becomes increasingly clear: their current stadium, the one that has borne our name since 1997, is thoroughly unsatisfactory. Even if the Chargers do stay in San Diego, and even if they wind up playing the 2015 season at The Stadium Formerly Known as Qualcomm, it's an edifice that is now synonymous in the public imagination with decrepitude, outdatedness, and general lack-of-features undesirability. Pretty much exactly the opposite of the way you'd want someone to think of your technology company. It's like having a food poisoning outbreak at Heinz Field, or poor cell phone reception in AT&T Stadium. It's bad enough that the Chargers have proven unable to close the deal, as it were, for so many years. Some of the boys in marketing think that's why we lost Samsung for the Galaxy S6: we're starting to be thought of as good, but not quite good enough. Maybe Jack in the Box could take over; they know a thing or two about image rehabilitation."

Chargers-Raiders shared stadium proposal includes "brawl cage"

Not pent up, but still penned in

February 28, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Statement from Los Angeles Stadium designer Gruenwelt Schadenfreude:

"Brawls seem to be an inevitable, even integral part of the Chargers-Raiders football experience. Sharing a stadium will almost certainly lead to increased levels of contact between drunken fans in the stadium parking lot, which in turn will lead to increased levels of trash talking and, eventually, violence. Our hope is to apply the same system of contained expression employed by the government when dealing with certain types of protestors: you accept that they're going to do their thing, but you make sure they don't ruin the fun for everyone else by rounding them up and sticking them in a cage. There was some concern about how you could possibly make someone dumb and/or drunk enough to fight over which mediocre football program was more mediocre take his grievance to a designated space, but early testing shows that angry dudes are actually eager to "take it to the cage." We couldn't be more excited."

A reading from the Book of Spanos

A disaster of Biblical proportions?

February 26, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Then the Almighty Dollar came to Spanos a second time: "Go to the great city of San Diego and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Spanos obeyed the word of the Dollar and went to San Diego. Now San Diego was a very small market; it could not even sell out its home games. So, Spanos began by going a day’s journey north to Carson, proclaiming, “One season more and the Chargers will be in this town." The San Diegans believed Spanos. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth over their officially licensed NFL jerseys.

When Spanos's warning reached the Mayor of San Diego, he rose from his comfy desk chair, took off his navy blue suit, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust that used to be the lawns of Balboa Park. This is the proclamation he issued in San Diego: “By the decree of the Mayor: over the last 54 years, the Chargers have been a source of civic pride and inspiration to San Diegans. The people of San Diego are working in good faith to develop a plan that, if approved by the voters, will provide a home for the Chargers for generations to come. San Diego remains fully committed to working with the Chargers to keep the team in their rightful home, San Diego. Let the people give up their lukewarm fannery and their endless yammering about infrastructure. Who knows? Spanos may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce greed so that we will not lose our precious, precious football.”

When Spanos saw what the Mayor did and how he turned from his complaint about breaches of good faith, he shrugged and said, "Pony up, or you can bet your sweet butt I'll bring on you the destruction I have threatened."

Chargers departure could hit <em>U-T</em> where it hurts

Paper's commercial viability threatened by team's relocation to L.A.?

February 20, 2015 — Matt Potter

Ever since the Chargers arrived here from Los Angeles in 1961, the football team has had a godfather in what used to be known as the Union-Tribune, and before that the morning Union and the Evening Tribune.

Owned by Jim Copley, the papers heavily promoted construction of San Diego Stadium in Mission Valley, the name of which was subsequently changed to Jack Murphy Stadium, in honor of the Union’s sports writer’s role in the development.

When it later became necessary for the city to sell the stadium's naming rights to raise cash for an expansion demanded by the team, Copley's widow Helen quickly signaled support for replacing the dead scribe's name with that of mobile phone giant Qualcomm.

Political alliances between the Chargers and Jim Copley, one of the first to befriend Dick Nixon's ill-starred career, also blossomed. Star quarterback Jack Kemp was virtually adopted by Union editor and Nixon PR man Herb Klein and molded into a Republican New York congressman from Buffalo.

This week the game changed.

News that the team is partnering with the Oakland Raiders on an L.A. stadium in case San Diego taxpayers don't come up with enough scratch for one here could spell the beginning of the end for the U-T, already struggling under the ownership of voluble real estate mogul Douglas Manchester.

Exactly how much Chargers coverage and related advertising contribute to the U-T’s bottom line is a tightly held secret, but is believed by some to be one of the operation's last dependable streams of cash.

Under Manchester and his once second-in-command John Lynch, a former NFL player, the paper has loaded up on Chargers news and promotion. Consequently, readership and revenue could take a significant hit if the team leaves town.

Already, the U-T’s chief operating officer Mike Hodges has departed to run an internet marketing company, leaving the paper’s management in the hands of editor Jeff Light.

And sharks are circling in the form of Malin Burnham and his yet-to-be-identified backers, who seek to obtain the paper from Manchester and operate it through a non-profit corporation.

One in particular who may have an interest in the fate of the once-proud GOP journal is Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs, the La Jolla Democratic billionaire who is rooting for Hillary Clinton in next year's presidential derby. He already has helped finance San Diego State University's public broadcasting operation and the non-profit Voice of San Diego news and opinion website.

A change of editorial posture by the paper, or its electronic successor under non-profit control, could shake up local politics in a post-Chargers era.

Like Burnham a supporter of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher for mayor in 2013, Jacobs is helping to stage what is billed as the first annual fundraiser for the California Young Democrats of the San Diego Region, featuring a galaxy of Democratic office holders and putative candidates.

According to an emailed invitation, politically ambitious San Diego school-district trustee Kevin Beiser heads the March 5 event at Hillcrest’s Bamboo Lounge. In addition to Jacobs, listed sponsors include Fletcher, city-council hopeful Barbara Bry, and Assembly speaker Toni Atkins.

Hosts include former council candidate Sarah Boot, port commissioner Rafael Castellanos, possible Bry council rival Joe LaCava, and Nancy Chase, a onetime top aide to Roger Hedgecock.

The fallen Republican mayor was a chief U-T adversary when the operation was owned by Helen Copley, who favored his rival and her close friend Maureen O'Connor.

No ballot tricks, Fabiani tells city

Two-thirds vote needed for public funding, Chargers counsel demands

February 16, 2015 — Matt Potter

As recently reported here, the San Diego City Council is grappling with how to pay $271 million in debt service for Petco Park, approved by the citizenry in a 1998 simple-majority "advisory" vote.

Sold to the public as a free lunch, the Padres’ playground is currently eating up a sizable annual chunk of taxpayer cash.

Now, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani says the football team doesn't want a repeat of that experience. Instead, he's demanding two-thirds majority voter approval of public financing for a new stadium.

"The Chargers have no interest in participating in another half-baked scheme to attempt to get around the two-thirds rule," says a February 16 letter by Fabiani to mayor Kevin Faulconer's stadium task force. 

"The City of San Diego has just wasted five years and many millions of taxpayer dollars trying to circumvent the two-thirds vote requirement with an illegal Convention Center expansion tax….

"With regard to a new stadium project, we are hearing rumblings of another ill-conceived scheme to avoid the two-thirds vote requirement: Two ballot measures, one that would raise a tax for a general purpose, and one that would be non-binding and would advise the City to spend some of the new money on a stadium. To be clear, we will not support any such effort to circumvent the State Constitution."

Adds the letter, posted on the team's website: "If the funding mechanisms that this Task Force considers cannot win two-thirds approval, when such approval is required by the California Constitution, then they should not be part of your final recommendations."

Fabiani seems to tacitly acknowledge such a super-majority might be hard to get.

"It might be that — despite the great effort that has been expended — there is at least at this time no publicly acceptable solution to the stadium issue in San Diego," he writes.

"If the facts lead you to this conclusion, we hope you will say so, even though you will be under tremendous political pressure to propose something — anything — just to show that the politicians are trying….

"Simply put, we have no intention of allowing the Chargers franchise to be manipulated for political cover — and we will call out any elected official who tries to do so."

Besides those swipes at the city's leadership, Fabiani says the team can't be expected to come up with the kind of cash that other teams have because it can't sell enough Preferred Seat Licenses to fat cats.

"Our studies — and the real world experience of the Padres — demonstrate that we cannot sell PSLs in any significant numbers here in San Diego. A Task Force recommendation that ignores this reality will be worthless….

"In addition," he adds, "some consultants have suggested that the stadium should be financed using revenue streams that, throughout the rest of the NFL, go to the teams. These revenue streams include naming rights, sponsorships, and the like.

“Of course, if the Chargers were to forego all of these revenues, then the team would fall even further behind the rest of the NFL than we are right now."

And no low-balling the stadium's ultimate cost, Fabiani warns.

"We have heard commentators say that the stadium could be built for $700 million, or even less," he writes. "These off-the-cuff estimates ignore the real world costs of stadiums now being built all around the country — from San Francisco to Minnesota to Atlanta. Looking around the country, new stadium costs are coming in at $1.2 to $1.5 billion."

Near the bottom of Fabiani’s letter comes a dire-sounding passage:

"We are keeping a close eye on developments in LA. We do not have a choice but to also monitor and evaluate our options there. Simply put, it would be irresponsible for the Chargers not to be taking every possible step to protect the future of the franchise."

Holy Ram nation, Mr. Spanos

Chargers' L.A. option may vanish if Inglewood council okays Kroenke stadium

February 13, 2015 — Don Bauder

According to two stories (February 9 and February 12), in the Los Angeles Times, the Inglewood City Council could vote as early as February 24 on developer Stan Kroenke's plan to build a $1.5 billion football stadium with a retractable roof at the former Hollywood Park racetrack. The developers have cooked up ways to bypass environmental reviews. There are more than enough signatures to put the matter on the June ballot, but it's likely the council will approve the plan for the 80,000-seat stadium outright. The stadium seems to have overwhelming public backing.

There are two other stadium proposals — one downtown — on the table, but Inglewood seems to have a big lead.

Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams, and commentators think he will try to move the team to Los Angeles. The Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. The team could not get satisfactory subsidies from a Southern California location and were able to move into a new indoor stadium in St. Louis for very little monetary outlay. Now, St. Louis is trying to put together plans for a subsidized $900 million stadium on the riverfront to keep the team.

The Times stories do not address the Chargers' situation. Management claims it gets 30 percent of its revenue from the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. Thus, if the estimate is true, the existence of one or two teams in L.A. would almost force the Chargers to move. They have not been able to work a deal in Los Angeles but may still be negotiating. One problem is that the Spanos family, owner of the Chargers, does not appear to have the funds of other National Football League owners — perhaps not enough to move to the Los Angeles area or contribute significant funds to a new St. Louis facility. But the Chargers could have the funds to occupy the current St. Louis stadium, which has been in use for only two decades.

San Diego is the 17th largest United States metropolitan area with a population of 3.2 million. St. Louis is 19th with a population of 2.8 million. However, both markets have the same problem: a shortage of extremely wealthy people who would occupy luxury suites and seats and buy personal seat licenses.

Nick's neck news

Longtime Charger center retires, citing desire to spend more time with functioning body.

February 5, 2015 — Walter Mencken

Confirming rumors that had circulated ever since a neck injury ended his 2014 season prematurely, longtime San Diego Charger Center Nick Hardwick announced his retirement from the NFL on February 3. During an emotional press conference, a substantially thinner Hardwick said his decision was motivated largely by his desire to spend more time with, as he put it, "a body that works and keeps me alive."

"I know there's conflicting evidence out there," explained Hardwick, "but when a bunch of Harvard scientists write that 'it appears that professional football players in both the United States and Canada have life expectancies in the mid- to late-50s,' it's hard not to do the math. I'm 33. That gives me about 25 more years. I'm not sure I want to spend any of that time maintaining an unnatural degree of muscle mass and slamming into brick walls masquerading as nosetackles. So yeah, 11 years on the line seems like enough. And also, I don't really want to live in a world where Tom Brady and the Patriots have four Super Bowl rings, let alone play in that league. I think everyone can understand that. So in closing, I just want to say that I will always look back on my time as a Los Angeles Charger with great fondness and gratitude. Wait, what?"

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