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The U-T has a story today (January 20) with the headline: "Chargers should follow Lucchino's trail." The gist is that if the Chargers had a hustler like Larry Lucchino, a former Padres president (1995–2001), the football team could get a new stadium.

The U-T may not know that Lucchino has completely changed his tune. When he was in Baltimore and San Diego, he believed the only way to save a team was to have taxpayers build a new ballpark. But when he showed up with the Boston Red Sox early in the 2000s, he switched completely.

In 2012, Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox (of which he is president) had its 100th year. Lucchino celebrated the decision to fix the old park and not beg taxpayers for a new one. In 2010, Lucchino was quoted in the Wall Street Journal boasting that Red Sox fans would get their century-old stadium without taking "a dime of public money."

As the Journal pointed out how illogical public funding of privately owned stadiums is, Lucchino said, "We knew the perils of asking for public money." He went on to say that fans "get annoyed when teams ask taxpayers to build a stadium, and then raise ticket and concession prices on the very people who paid for it." The Padres did just that.

The intellect of the Boston Brahmins must have rubbed off on Lucchino. On February 18 of 2011, Lucchino bragged that the Red Sox finished ten years of improvements to Fenway Park, spending $285 million of their own money. Fenway Park would last another 40 to 50 years, engineers told Lucchino. In 2012, he was quoted saying how excited he was to see Fenway Park hit age 100.

Maybe if he were back in San Diego, Lucchino would realize the truth: neither San Diego nor the Spanos family can afford to contribute a dime to a new stadium.

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Comments

Brian Peterson Jan. 21, 2015 @ 4:42 p.m.

Coincidentally, in 2009, speaking to a meeting of Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform, Stanford economics professor Roger Noll singled out Fenway Park as the only sports stadium in the United States that is an economic benefit to its city. Among his reasons were: Fenway has a small footprint--about one city block, and concessions are offsite. So, surrounding businesses are able to gain some income from Fenway, not just the team owners. In comparison, he noted modern sports stadiums are self-contained, like a shopping mall. Concessions are on-site and controlled by the team owners.

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Don Bauder Jan. 21, 2015 @ 8:19 p.m.

Brian Peterson: Excellent point. In fact, Noll told me that one time when I was interviewing him. The saloons around Fenway do very well, I am told. So do some other businesses.

It is amazing how quickly Lucchino changed his tune. Almost immediately upon leaving the Padres and joining the Red Sox management, he was singing exactly the opposite tune as he sang in San Diego and Baltimore. Obviously, he had to wise up; he had to sing the same tune as the owner, his boss, was singing. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark Jan. 21, 2015 @ 9:48 p.m.

Don: I can attest to the popularity of some of the saloons around Fenway. They do VERY well. One concession the Red Sox got from the city of Boston was the Red Sox gaining control of one block of Yawkey Way. All the shops across the street from the ballpark in that block are controlled by the Red Sox. For that matter, Yawkey Way is closed to traffic on game days and is actually considered part of the interior of the ballpark. It is a very small park, but it works very well thanks to all of the public transportation in the Boston area.

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2015 @ 7:01 a.m.

aardvark: I have never seen Fenway Park, but I have attended many games at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Wrigley is similar to Fenway in that it is revered as an historical landmark. In both Boston and Chicago, intelligent decisions were made: update and rehabilitate the stadium, rather than tear it down for a new one.

That is the solution for Qualcomm, which is nowhere near as old as Fenway and Wrigley. Back n 2011, it was said that it could be repaired for $80 million. The City of San Diego could possibly afford that.

Another point about Boston: the Patriots' ownership, the Kraft family, demanded taxpayer money for a new stadium. The governments stood firm and said no. Kraft even threatened to move the team to Hartford, Connecticut -- an utterly absurd proposal, because Hartford has neither the population nor wealth to support a NFL team. Ultimately, the Krafts capitulated and built the stadium, although governments chipped in to pay for part of the infrastructure. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark Jan. 22, 2015 @ 9:13 a.m.

Don: I have been to both. I am concerned as to what is being done to Wrigley, but it may turn out just fine (but maybe not so much for the apartment dwellers and rooftops across the streets from Wrigley). The Red Sox added seats and standing room sections pretty much wherever they could (and even places where you didn't think it was possible), and they made it work. The only problem I can see at Fenway is after the game, it's hard to get out of the place. I guess that happens when everyone stays until the end of games. But they spent $285 million (I think) in 10 years to fix the place up, and I think with the shear size of the Q versus Fenway Park, it would be at least that much to fix up the Q. Then you always have the Chargers--would they even accept that idea? If they want to stay in San Diego, they may have no choice.

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2015 @ 9:29 a.m.

aardvark: I feel that if the Chargers choose to stay in San Diego, they have no choice but to accept a rehabilitation of Qualcomm. As I have been saying, Forbes says the family is worth $1.2 billion. But the Chargers alone are worth $1 billion. And the Spanoses are going to put their last $200 million into a new stadium? They would be crazy to do so.

Frankly, I do not believe the Spanos family can afford to move anyplace, particularly Los Angeles, without selling at least half of the team. The City of San Diego, with its massive infrastructure deficit, cannot afford to put money in a new stadium. It might be able to afford a minor rehabilitation of Qualcomm, if the stadium truly needs one. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark Jan. 22, 2015 @ 10:26 a.m.

Don: Their only other option would be moving to San Antonio. Texas is just football-crazy enough to build the Chargers a new stadium while they play in the Alamodome, and Spanos wouldn't have to give up any ownership in the club.

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2015 @ 11:22 a.m.

aardvark: San Antonio has 2.2 million people in its market. San Diego has 3.2 million. Real (inflation-adjusted) median household income in San Diego is $61,426. In San Antonio it's $51,716. Yes, Texas is football-crazy, but would that make up for the lower population and income? Keep in mind that the 50% drop in the price of oil is causing problems in Texas.

Also, there are two pro teams in Texas -- Houston and Dallas. Would those owners block a team moving to San Antonio? There is no question the Chargers could play in the Alamo Dome while waiting for San Antonio to build them a free stadium.

Increasingly, pro football has turned into a rich person's game. Teams make their money off luxury seats and suites and personal seat licenses. Las Vegas is loaded with some superrich folks. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark Jan. 22, 2015 @ 11:44 a.m.

Don: JMO, but an NFL team would be much more successful in San Antonio than in Las Vegas. Also, there are reports that SA already has a spot picked out for a new stadium. They would just be crazy enough to do it. And Austin (and it's close to 1.9 mil metro population) is only 75 miles north of San Antonio. Yes, the Longhorns play there, but I think some of the Austin folks would make the trek south for an NFL game or 2.

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2015 @ 2:03 p.m.

aardvark: No doubt a San Antonio team would attract some fans from Austin. The most important factor is whether San Antonio games would be televised in Austin. Firming up the TV contract would be essential to any deal in San Antonio.

San Antonio might be stupid enough to build a stadium -- gratis -- for the Chargers or another NFL team. That is just about the only way the Chargers could afford to move. The same may hold true for the Raiders. Best, Don Bauder

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aardvark Jan. 22, 2015 @ 2:23 p.m.

Don: Remember, this is Texas, home of the $60 million high school stadium that seats 18,000 with a HD videoboard that is currently closed--2 years after opening--due to cracks (that are still growing) in the stadium concourse areas.

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2015 @ 5:31 p.m.

LOCAL LAWYER WANTS PROS, NOT TASK FORCE. THE LAST TIME THAT HAPPENED, THE PROS WERE FIRED. Len Simon, a lawyer who was on a Chargers task force in 2003, wrote an op-ed for the Union-Tribune yesterday (January 21). Simon said a task force of local citizens meeting occasionally on the Chargers stadium won't work. "San Diego needs to hire a first-class team of paid professionals working eight, 10, or 12 hours a day to analyze the issues, look for solutions, discuss the matter with local officials," quoth Simon.

Sorry, Len. San Diego tried that once. In January of 1998, the city, then negotiating with the Padres over the stadium, hired Paul Jacobs, the attorney for the Colorado Rockies when that team's ballpark was built, and Steve Lebovitz, who had negotiated for the downtown basketball and hockey arena in Atlanta, to negotiate the deal on the Padres ballpark.

They were told to negotiate a good deal for the city. But on June 25, 1998, John Moores and Larry Lucchino of the Padres wrote a letter to then-Mayor Susan Golding and the city council. Their complaint: the Padres were being asked to put far too much money in the pot for the new ballpark. The team would be drained monetarily and uncompetitive on the field, they wailed. "The City's decision-makers have not been at the table during the negotiations," they complained. "We need to change the process." That is, they wanted the experts gone.

The experts were axed. On September 21, 1999, Jack McGrory, the city manager who had spearheaded the subsequent negotiations, was named executive vice president of the Padres, in charge of the ballpark and development plans downtown.

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Don Bauder Jan. 22, 2015 @ 9:56 p.m.

aardvark: High school football is taken very seriously in Texas. That fits the Texas personality. Best, Don Bauder

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