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?"

Chargers stadium task force "packed"

Financially strapped city and team owner, but, here come the experts

January 31, 2015 — Don Bauder

The U-T editorialized today (January 31) that the task force on the Chargers stadium is "packed with the right mix of expertise." Of course it is "packed" — just as all the other task forces and special committees are "packed" with corporate-welfare boosters. The task force's job is to shift as much of the burden as possible on to taxpayers and steer the profits to the private sector — socialization of the risk and privatization of the gain.

This time, though, the task force is looking at problems that appear insuperable. For example, San Diego is not only a small market (17th largest in the nation), it is a financially squeezed one.

In recent years, the National Football League's attendance focus has been on the affluent. Teams want to make their money on luxury suites and seats and personal seat licenses. The last time I checked, the Chargers had ditched the idea of personal seat licenses. There isn't the wealth in this market. Also, the team will not make the kind of money other teams do on luxury suites and seats. How many biotech executives will fete their friends in a Chargers box?

The Chargers claim that 30 percent of their revenue comes from Orange County and Los Angeles. If a team or two enters the Los Angeles market, the Chargers will be hurting severely, and the construction of a new stadium won't salve the pain, except perhaps for the first few years when the novelty effect may fill some seats. A strategy of cutting back seating (say, from 70,000 to 59,000) and then charging more for the seats and concessions may not work in the San Diego market. It hasn't worked for the Padres.

The task force may zero in on a domed stadium near Petco Park that would serve as a football field and an extension of the convention center. If the task force honestly checks experts in the convention center industry, it will find that this combination does not work, particularly when the facility is blocks away from the main center. Similarly, the plume under Qualcomm Stadium will thwart any development of that site for perhaps another decade. And does Mission Valley need more development?

If the task force does its job, it will try to determine how much money the Spanos family has. Forbes magazine says the family is worth $1.2 billion, and the Chargers account for about $1 billion of that. You can bet the Spanos family will not put $200 million into a stadium, as it claims it will, even if naming and advertising rights account for $100 million of the sum

I doubt the Chargers can move to Los Angeles unless the Spanos family sells at least half the team. Los Angeles, remember, won't put taxpayer money into a stadium. San Diego shouldn't either, particularly since its infrastructure is in such bad shape, but if the city deals with the Spanoses, it is doomed to putting at least 70 percent of the money into a structure.

The U-T says the task force is "a group that can get it done." I can name one member of the task force who didn't "get it done." He is Rod Dammeyer. He was chairman of the boards' audit committee of San Diego's biggest fraud, Peregrine Systems.

On June 3, 2002, when Peregrine was working to restate its earnings of the previous three years, and the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company, Dammeyer resigned "for personal reasons." Dammeyer has had much more success in other endeavors, but I doubt that he or anybody else on that task force can solve the big problem: neither San Diego nor the Spanos family can afford a new stadium.

Big money political players rule Chargers task force

Faulconer funders get front row seats on stadium panel

January 30, 2015 — Matt Potter

Though the fate of the San Diego Chargers and their long quest for a new taxpayer-subsidized stadium hangs in the balance, one thing is certain: the task force set up by mayor Kevin Faulconer to keep the team in town is a veritable vault stashed with big-money campaign donors and stadium-related special interests.

At the top of the list of nine is contractor Douglas Barnhart, who with his family and employees have supplied a combined $62,000 over the past decade or so to Faulconer, the GOP Lincoln Club, district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, city attorney Jan Goldsmith, ex–city attorney Casey Gwinn, city councilwoman Lori Zapf, and ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, to mention a few.

As reported here back in March 1997, the big-spending Barnhart is no stranger to city stadium deals and Chargers politics, having gotten a no-bid $125,000 city contract for turning over "schematic drawings explaining how the Cantilevered Seating" at Qualcomm Stadium "will operate."

Barnhart also got a $11.6 million deal to build the so-called Chargers Park, the elaborate training center that taxpayers furnished to the team free of charge as part of the city's 1997 deal to keep the football club in town.

Then there is Jason Hughes, the commercial real estate broker who played a major behind-the-scenes role in formulating the mayor's $91 million lease-purchase deal to buy Civic Center Plaza last week. That costly undertaking has drawn criticism from city budget analyst Andrea Tevlin for its hurry-up passage and lack of transparency.

Data from the city clerk's office shows Hughes has kicked in for Faulconer, Dumanis, Goldsmith, and city councilmembers Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman, Chris Cate, Sherri Lightner, and Lorie Zapf. Hughes also gave to fallen Democratic mayor Bob Filner and his GOP rival Carl DeMaio.

Another major money player on the panel by virtue of his employment by the Sycuan casino tribe is assistant tribal manager Adam Day. The tribe owns the U.S. Grant hotel downtown, which could benefit if the Faulconer panel recommends a downtown location for a new Chargers venue.

Over the past nine years, city records show, the tribe and its employees have come up with a total of $570,625 in campaign cash for various city political committees, including $130,000 for the Lincoln Club and $60,000 each for Lincoln Club–run campaign funds benefiting Republican councilmembers Zapf and Cate.

In addition, in 2012 Sycuan gave $30,000 to a fund known as “Bonnie Dumanis for Mayor 2012, Sponsored by Airsam N492RM, LLC.” The committee’s other donor was a corporation controlled by José Susumo Azano Matsura, now awaiting trial in a federal money-laundering case.

After Day comes Rod Dammeyer, the charter-school champion, who has helped finance the campaigns of Faulconer, Demaio, Dumanis, Zapf, and Cate; and Dammeyer came up with $30,000 in December 2013 for the GOP Lincoln Club's campaign of take-no-prisoners hit pieces against city councilman David Alvarez's mayoral bid.

Dammeyer and Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs were financial allies in a costly but failed 2011 attempt to restructure the San Diego Unified School District board with unelected members.

A familiar corporate player on the panel is Sempra Energy executive vice president Jessie Knight; the company has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in local and state campaign contributions.

Aimee Faucett, chief operating officer of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, represents the interests of chamber head Jerry Sanders, the Republican ex-mayor who has molded Faulconer's agenda and provided hefty doses of campaign cash from the group's political action committee.

The other three members of the Faulconer task force are retired county administrator Walt Ekard, Urban Land Institute director for San Diego and Tijuana Mary Lydon, and Jim Steeg, former executive vice president and CEO of the Chargers.

"These expert volunteers will explore all possibilities to finance the project, with the clear direction from me that it must be a good and fair deal for San Diego taxpayers,” says the mayor's press release regarding the panel, expected to come up with a new stadium plan by fall.

"The group has been specifically tasked with conducting a thorough analysis on a new stadium at the current Qualcomm Stadium site and in the downtown’s East Village."

Jockstrap rant

Rumor: Chargers, Goldman Sachs to build L.A. stadium

January 24, 2015 — Don Bauder

Some jockstrap chat sites are running a rumor that the Chargers and Wall Street's Goldman Sachs will team up to build a stadium in Los Angeles.

The site ran a brief item on the rumor yesterday (January 23), attributing the story to Andy Strickland of CBS Sports. The Chargers' chief executive Dean Spanos "has a deal in place with Goldman Sachs to build a new stadium and the [National Football League] has asked him to hold off from announcing those plans," Strickland was quoted saying, citing St. Louis officials.

Stan Kroenke, multi-billionaire owner of the St. Louis Rams, has announced plans to build a stadium in the Los Angeles area and most scribes say he wants to move the Rams there.

Strickland mentioned that Spanos has locked up at least 9 NFL owners who would thumb down Kroenke's request to move the Rams to Los Angeles. To move the Rams, Kroenke would need the votes of 24 of 32 NFL owners. There is also a rumor that Kroenke would move the Rams without the league's permission. That could lead to all sorts of complications, including the Chargers suing the Rams, according to Strickland.

"Essentially, it seems like Spanos is putting all of he pieces in place to thwart the Rams' move," says rantsports.

In 2010, Alex Spanos — now suffering from severe dementia — hired Goldman Sachs to sell a minority interest in the Chargers. It's not clear if that ever happened.

Mark Fabiani's San Diego takedown

Gloria blasted as powerful lobbies collide, leaving blood on the floor

January 16, 2015 — Matt Potter

Ex–car dealer and real estate magnate Steve Cushman is a powerful member of the local Republican establishment who has left his fingerprints on everything from the Mission Valley master plan to the costly 1996 taxpayer-backed GOP convention.

Now he can count another distinction: a political bull’s-eye on his back placed by Mark Fabiani, Bill Clinton’s one-time master of disaster and longtime lobbyist for the Chargers and a new stadium.

"Over the entire time we have been working with Mayor Faulconer and his staff, we have only ever asked for one thing – and we asked for it at the very first meeting we had with the Mayor’s staff: ‘Please do not assign Steve Cushman to work on this issue; instead let’s try to find some new voices and fresh perspectives to add to this 13-year-long process, '" says Fabiani in an interview posted on the team's website.

"So hopefully the community will understand our disappointment when the one and only specific stadium initiative the Mayor announced in his State of the City speech was the appointment of Steve Cushman to be in charge of devising a financing plan."

Argues Fabiani, "If you were going to line up the people in San Diego who have done the most to block a new stadium over the years, there is no doubt that Steve Cushman would be near the head of that line….

"When the Chargers were exploring a joint-use stadium/convention center facility downtown, Cushman again told the Chargers to stay away because of the contiguous convention center expansion plan. Again, under Cushman’s leadership, the courts decisively invalidated the financing plan for the convention center project.

"And when some in the community wanted to explore Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal as a stadium location, Cushman pushed through a ban on everyone at the Port of San Diego from even so much as discussing the issue," Fabiani says.

"The fact that Mayor Faulconer has now assigned Steve Cushman — the architect of so many of San Diego’s civic failures — to work on the stadium is discouraging."

In a forest of speculation about the motives of the Chargers-owning Republican Spanos clan — and whether they may have already decided to pull the plug on the team's location here — the roots of Fabiani's discontent are traced by insiders to September 2011 and the team's professed desire to locate a dual-use stadium and convention center in the East Village section of downtown.

"The idea is to make room for convention uses in the end zones and cover the grass as needed to provide exhibit space," reported U-T San Diego at the time. "The stadium also would include restaurants and meeting spaces."

Mike McDowell, an executive with Mission Valley’s Atlas Hotels, run by big GOP donor Terry Brown, rejected the proposal out of hand, saying it relegated the convention industry to second-class status. “Who wants to sit at the little kids’ table?” U-T quoted McDowell as saying.

The hotel moguls' resistance to the team's dual-use scheme ended up with the Chargers trying to convince the California Coastal Commission to kill off the city's expansion plan, a battle Fabiani lost in October 2013. Showing up to testify against the Chargers was Faulconer, then on the city council.

"The result is no surprise, given the influence of the powerful groups supporting the project," Fabiani told the Los Angeles Times after the commission's vote. "Still, it was disappointing to see the Coastal Commission ignore its own staff's recommendation."

Then in August of last year, a state appeals court held that a hotel room tax to fund the $520 million expansion enacted by the city council was unconstitutional because it had not been put to a public vote.

The mayor and the tourist lobby has been scratching its head about what to do next ever since.

In his online interview, Fabiani also has scathing words for Faulconer and Democratic councilman Todd Gloria, who counts among his major financial backers Evans Hotels, run by one of the city's top three hotel moguls, Bill Evans.

"There were many people and organizations around town that predicted right from the outset that the Cushman convention center financing plan would be struck down as illegal.

"But Cushman and the City — with the strong support of then-downtown area Councilman Kevin Faulconer and then–City Council President Todd Gloria – decided to forge ahead anyway.

"The result: Years and years of wasted time and effort, and millions and millions of dollars of wasted tax dollars — all expended on behalf of a financing plan that was doomed from the outset.

"In light of this track record, we are not encouraged that Steve Cushman will somehow come up with a workable solution to the stadium problem that has eluded everyone else for 13 years.

"If Steve Cushman does come up with some kind of plan, our strong view is that it will be a plan designed to provide political cover — not to actually result in the building of a stadium."

Still, Fabiani insists in the interview, the team is not leaving town — yet.

"The Chargers will remain open-minded about any idea presented to us," he says.

"And we know what it means to work with a City task force and City experts because we’ve worked with many of them over the years. Mayor Murphy appointed the Citizens’ Task Force on Chargers Issues, and subsequent mayors retained — at significant taxpayer expense — two separate outside consultants.

“Whether yet another task force — which will undoubtedly hire other experts — will come up with ideas that haven’t been thought of by everyone else over the last 13 years is, of course, a real question.”

That old black magic

The problem with the Chargers is that Philip Rivers is cursed.

December 24, 2014 — Patrick Daugherty

In terms of fan interest, yes, the Chargers Saturday night comeback ranks right up there. The Bolts push on with their December heroics, every game is a must-win game, every game is a walking–to-the-edge thriller, every game everything is on the line. Will they or won’t they? THEY DO! San Diego makes the playoffs and loses in the second round!

The Niners continue playing beautifully in the first half and tanking in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter. This year San Francisco’s second-half scores stand at 76 points versus 150 points for their opponents. That’s lousy coaching and that’s why Harbaugh will be fired. Having a fingernails-on-blackboard personality greases the wheels and makes his firing more satisfying, but seeing a Harbaugh-led team, over and over, lay down in the fourth quarter is why he’s gone.

The problem with the Chargers is the quarterback. Philip Rivers is cursed. He’s always referred to as an elite quarterback, but he’s yet to play in a Super Bowl. Since Rivers became a starter in 2006, the Chargers have produced the following playoff record: 2006 lost Divisional Playoff, 2007 lost Conference Championship, 2008 lost Divisional Playoff, 2009 lost Divisional Playoff, 2010 did not make playoffs, 2011 did not make playoffs, 2012 did not make playoffs, 2013 lost Divisional Playoff.

You don’t think that kind of a record was made by chance do you? I thought not. It’s obvious Rivers is under a curse and a strong one at that. What he needs is magical self-defense. And he’s going to get it. Follows is from Philip, listen up.

“On the first night of the waxing moon, gather the following ingredients: a square of black cloth a little larger than your hand, one tablespoon of curry, one tablespoon of dill, one tablespoon of vervain, one tablespoon powdered ginger, one consecrated black candle, paper and black ink pen, one black string, knotted nine times.

“On paper, write the full name and birth date (if known), of the person who has cursed you. Place the paper in the center of the bag. One at a time, add the herbs, covering the slip of paper. Next, take the lit candle and drip 5–10 drops of wax over the paper and herbs. Visualize the person who has cursed you and say their name aloud three times while tying the bag shut with the knotted string.

“...bury the bag someplace on the property of the person who cursed you. The bag must remain there undisturbed until the next waxing moon. At that time, dig up the bag and burn the contents.”

I’m sure alert readers see the problem. We don’t know who cursed Rivers, we only know he is cursed.

Talliesin McKnight speaks. “If you feel that someone has put a curse on you then this is a method to send it back to them. All you need is a black candle, a mirror, and some reversing oil.

“Some folks like to use a double-action has two colors. White and black is a general double-action candle. Or, if it’s specific, if someone has cursed you in love you could use red and black. Cursed in finances you could use green and black.

Cut the candle’s top off, where the wick is, turn the candle upside down, take a knife and carve a new wick at the bottom. The symbolism is reversing, turning it around. Next, carve the enemy’s name, backwards, in the candle.”

Let me interject here. The problem, Mr. McKnight, is, we don’t know who the enemy is.

“If you don’t know your enemy’s name, you can just write My Enemy backwards. Then anoint the candle with a reversing oil. You can buy it online or make it yourself. Then burn the candle on top of a mirror, a cheap hand mirror will work. When you’re done, dispose the mirror and all of the remains away from your home.”

Okay, McKnight, you appear to have a workable spell, but your spell doesn’t have that old world, goblet-crypt feel I’m looking for. I want something that works but looks good at the same time.

Ah, here we are, “To remove a curse from yourself. Collect: one pink candle, one green candle, one black candle, bowl of water, three drops of green dye. Now, put three drops of green dye in the bowl of water. Slowly tip the bowl over each candle allowing them to be extinguished while at the same time chanting: Juina Shelt Fonsed. Do this very slowly.”

Philip, you’re playing Kansas City on Sunday. Win and in. Surely, attending to curse hygiene will be part of your game prep.


Seeking juice

December 10, 2014 — Matt Potter

The Chargers and their lobbyist Mark Fabiani, ex-president Bill Clinton’s onetime “master of disaster,” have ostensibly been hard at work on getting a new billion-dollar taxpayer-subsidized stadium in San Diego. But if they build it, will anybody come? That’s the question quietly dogging the managers of the team’s current venue, city-owned Qualcomm Stadium. At a meeting of the stadium advisory board earlier this year, general manager Mike McSweeney outlined the problem: “The NFL is currently dealing with the challenges of getting the stay-at-home fans into the stadiums,” said McSweeney, according to the board’s minutes. “Factoring in the costs of tickets, parking, food, and even the weather, why would you leave home with a 70-inch TV, surround sound, and a six-pack of Coronas in the cooler?” According to McSweeney’s report, “The league is taking an aggressive look at how to overcome and enhance the fan experience. For example, the Padres have concerts after their games. Events like these must surpass the experience they get at home [and] make it worthwhile for them to get in their car to come to the stadium.”

Though not widely publicized, the minutes say that “a series of focus groups have been meeting with the Chargers. Outcomes of some of their meetings are the infrastructure, getting in and out of the stadium parking lot, sound issues, and other creature comforts that the Chargers are addressing. As for the scoreboard, that is also being taken into consideration.” Concluded the city’s McSweeney, “There are discussions with Qualcomm Corporation in regards to permits, and who is going to come in to perform the work.”

Far above the raging hoi polloi...

Last call for city box's $25 food and open bar at Chargers games?

December 1, 2014 — Matt Potter

Life in the city’s Qualcomm stadium box is not as civil as it used to be, judging by recent remarks recorded in the minutes of the stadium's advisory board.

During the group's September meeting, chairman Rudy Castruita, retired superintendent of the San Diego County Office of Education, suggested that his fellow members "attend a Chargers game and sign up for a seat in the City Box to experience what that is like."

"There is also a buffet at a cost of $25 per person. Board Members would also have the opportunity to see how the Stadium operates."

That drew a response from boardmember Jesse Durfee, former chairman of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

During his attendance, Durfee said, he saw people in the box who "could barely walk due to their alcohol consumption, an issue that should be addressed (alcohol is provided with the Buffet)."

In reply, according to the minutes, stadium general manager Mike McSweeney "recommended a review of the alcohol policy for the City Box. A recommendation would be to possibly remove the alcohol from the buffet package” and require that it be purchased separately, “with a drink limit."

Another advisory boardmember, John Thomson, inquired about the possibility of cutting off drinkers who have had too much, the policy elsewhere in the stadium.

"Mike replied that there is usually one attendant in the City Box that handles buffet payments and wristbands. The attendant should notify Security when they observe disorderly behavior.

“Durfee suggested when tickets are sent out a code of conduct should accompany it.”

"Rudy stated that behaviors in the City Box have progressively gotten worse and requested Mike to address these issues with the City Council and include the suggestions from the Board Members."

In days of yore, the city council's luxury box at Qualcomm was a place of genteel legislative commerce, a posh retreat for councilmembers and their political backers to enjoy free football games and bargain food and booze far above the raging hoi polloi in the stands below.

A typical example came back in December 1996, on the eve of the controversial $80 million expansion of the now venerable stadium.

As wrecking and construction crews massed in the parking lot, boisterous city-council members, along with city manager Jack McGrory and city attorney Casey Gwinn, as well as Union-Tribune editor-in-chief Herb Klein, gathered for the Holiday Bowl.

As reported here at the time, "The presence of a reporter and photographer outside the city box so unnerved two members of the Holiday Bowl staff that they alerted security and threatened arrests.

“Cooler heads on the bowl committee intervened, and the guards warned the photographer not to 'touch that big cake or those champagne bottles.'

"Bowl officials said cake and champagne for the council came courtesy of the taxpayer-subsidized bowl committee."

The free and easy living continued until 2008, when the state's Fair Political Practices Commission ruled that the freebies were not an official part of doing city business and must be declared as taxable gifts or income on legally required state financial disclosures. No longer could the officials party in style without public notice or paying the taxman.

Seeing the light, then-mayor Jerry Sanders started handing out his tickets to the Armed Services YMCA and the Navy hospital, according to a January 2009 Union-Tribune editorial, which called for selling both the Qualcomm box and the city box at downtown's Petco Park.

Earlier this year, current mayor Kevin Faulconer announced he was negotiating to sell rights to the Qualcomm box to the Chargers, the primary stadium tenant.

"Negotiations with the Chargers aren’t expected to get serious until after their season ends early next year, because it would be chaotic to make an in-season policy change," according to a U-T San Diego report this October, which recounted that "all four council members who’ve used the perk this year are Democrats."

Many of the freebies have gone to the military, members of planning groups, and charities, but there have been a few exceptions.

As reported here in June 2013, District 8 councilman David Alvarez gave ten free tickets in the city's Petco Park box valued at $87.69 each to the Fullerton-based law firm of Jones & Mayer.

Firm owner Richard Jones gave a total of $1000 to Alvarez's 2010 city-council campaign, according to city financial disclosures. Neither man returned calls seeking comment.

God denies robbing Rivers' rib

Deity: "I love the guy, but that's not how I work any more."

November 21, 2014 — Walter Mencken

MARVELING AT THE WONDERS OF GOD'S CREATION, CHARGERS STADIUM — Ever since San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates let slip to reporters that Jesus-loving quarterback Philip Rivers has been playing through the pain of a "severe rib injury" this season, true powder-blue believers have been raising their eyes to heaven and asking, Why?

"I know the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," said season ticket-holder Mike Biergutt, "but after a while, whiplash starts to set in, you know? That awful opening loss, followed by those amazing five wins, followed by three straight losses, including that heartbreaker with Kansas City and that shellacking from the Dolphins. At this point, beating Oakland 13-6 is like eating a dry cracker in a hot desert, you know?"

But at this week's Wednesday night Bible Study, Mild McFearsome, lead pastor at The Rocket Church in Santee, offered a possible answer to the suffering throng, pulled right from the pages of Genesis: "But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man."

"Brothers and sisters," explained McFearsome in a videoclip that has already picked up 1.2 million views on YouTube, "please consider. This season, fully half of this year's Chargers Girls are first-year. Brand new. The old order has passed away, with its stale routines and unprofitable commandments to 'Get up or go home!' The old Charger Girls understood the letter of the cheers, but not the spirit. But these new Charger Girls shall make a formation that is pleasing to the Lord, and when they bend their waists in homage, their cries shall be heard. But whence came these new women? And why is our quarterback afflicted? We know that Philip Rivers is a righteous man, bolt upright before the Lord, standing strong in the pocket though the o-line collapses around him. Is it not possible that the Lord took one of Rivers' ribs, and fashioned these most pleasing creatures from it, as once he fashioned Eve?"

As of this writing, Rivers' representatives had yet to respond, but God himself was quick to deny any involvement. "As a rule, I stay out of professional sports," He said in a prepared statement. "I never know what to do with all the competing prayers. So I would never monkey with a quarterback's mechanics, especially not a good guy like Phil. Tom Brady, I might be tempted. Guy walks around like he made himself that handsome. All that said, you might wanna think about going with New England come December 14."

Middle-finger bird deemed free

Digit-wielding Chiefs fan at Chargers game punched security guard

September 9, 2014 — Don Bauder

A San Diego Chargers security guard can't be held liable for restraining an opposing team's fan who flipped the middle digit at Chargers fans, a federal judge has ruled, according to Courthouse News Service.

In 2011, Jason Ensign, a Kansas City Chiefs fan who admits to have been imbibing alcohol at the game, was acquitted of battery charges resulting from a scuffle with security guards after he flipped off Chargers fans. Ensign was exercising free speech and had a right to defend himself, the court agreed back then.

The security guard sued Ensign for an injury he suffered in the struggle. Ensign countersued against the guard and his employer. But according to Courthouse News, U.S. District judge Cynthia Rashan ruled that Ensign can't pursue damage claims against the guard. Although the guard applied force, he didn't do so to interfere with Ensign's free speech rights, said the judge.

Millions for football in San Diego, zilch for opera

“The Olympic games are awash in fiscal myths”

April 23, 2014 — Don Bauder

"It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Excited TV announcers belt out that colloquialism at sports events that could be won by either side, even if one team seems to be comfortably ahead.

Those sportscasters would be embarrassed to know the axiom’s derivation. It comes from the end of Richard Wagner’s four-opera, 16-hour Der Ring des Nibelungen. The last of the four operas, Götterdämmerung, ends as the usually corpulent soprano Brünnhilde, warbling at high pitch, mounts her steed and plunges into the funeral pyre, when Valhalla crumbles and the gods are destroyed.

How many jockstraps know that their favorite aphorism was first uttered in 1976 by a college sports information director who apparently knew opera?

Hey, sports and serious music don’t mix. Everyone knows that. Billionaire owners of pro sports teams get massive taxpayer subsidies to build stadiums and arenas; arts groups get crumbs, if that.

Consider San Diego. On March 19, San Diego Opera suddenly announced it wanted to go out of business at the end of this season. The matter is still up in the air. Mayor Kevin Faulconer stated, “Spending taxpayer funds to save the opera won’t be an option because they will be spent on my priorities, which are street repairs and neighborhood services.” Faulconer said he would help the philanthropic community raise the funds.

The part about street repairs and neighborhoods is bunk. Within a few weeks, Faulconer’s aides were sitting down with the San Diego Chargers to talk turkey — that is, a massively taxpayer-subsidized stadium for the team, which would be a real turkey. U-T San Diego said taxpayers would chip in $400 million to $600 million of the roughly $900 million to $1 billion or more total cost. That would be on a par with the percentage taxpayers shell out in other stadium deals, quoth the U-T.

More bunk. The definitive work on this topic came from Harvard’s Judith Grant Long, who two years ago found that taxpayers on average pick up 78 percent of stadium payments. The costs of land, infrastructure, operations, capital improvements, municipal services, and lost property taxes add 25 percent to the taxpayer bill. Those initial lowball forecasts are phony enticements to voters.

Not long after Faulconer nixed an opera bailout, San Diego put in its bid for the 2024 Olympics. The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics cost $40 billion. The 2012 London Summer Olympics came in at $15 billion.

“The Olympic games are awash in fiscal myths,” said the British newspaper the Guardian late last year. “Games boosters always roll out tantalizing promises. One common claim is that the Olympics are a windfall for the host city.” However, “Academic economists simply haven’t found a positive relationship between hosting the Games and economic growth.” Economist Jeffrey Owen says, “It is unlikely that anyone ever will.” Said the Guardian, “Underestimating Olympic costs has almost become an Olympic sport in itself.”

The Economist says hotel bookings actually dropped during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Nevertheless, hosting the games is “wildly popular with the voters who foot the bill.” San Diegans will be told that the Olympics — like the Chargers stadium — won’t cost much. Don’t believe a word of either claim.

No one should be surprised that a report released early this month by the American Association of University Professors showed that from 2004 to 2011, inflation-adjusted spending for athletics at big and medium-sized universities, and small colleges and community colleges, went up 24.8 percent, while spending on instruction and academic support was about flat and public services and research declined.

The purpose of higher education is education? What are you? Some kinda weirdo?

While professional- and amateur-sports spending soars, classical music — opera, symphonic, and chamber — is dying of old age. Less than 3 percent of recording album sales are classical. According to Slate, the percentage of adults going to a classical concert (even once a year) dropped from 13 in 1982 to 8.8 in 2012. Classical music radio stations are drying up.

Seattle Symphony reports that 32 percent of its regular-season audience has postgraduate degrees. When it does Wagner’s Ring Cycle it’s 39 percent. Brünnhilde may be plump, but she brings out the well-educated folks.

In 1937, the median age at Los Angeles orchestra concerts was 28, says Slate. It’s probably over 50 now. Music education has been in decline for years. That’s one of the major reasons San Diego Opera attendance has fallen so sharply.

So, it’s clear why a politician like Mayor Faulconer will toss gobs of public money at sports teams owned by billionaires and offer nothing to an opera company on the brink. (The opera is slated to get $389,357 from the city’s Special Promotional Programs this year. The symphony will get $411,870 and the Old Globe $421,074.)

Politicians know that sports are where the votes are. Personally, I don’t like government subsidies for professional sports or the arts. There is no question that classical music appeals to an elderly, elite audience that should pay its own way. Even Europeans, longtime arts subsidizers, are rethinking the practice, given the weak economy.

But the wealthy and elite really aren’t supporting classical music — or any charities — the way they should. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Californians with compensation of $50,000 to $99,999 give 6.2 percent of their incomes to charity. The favored few who make $200,000 and above give 4 percent. In particular, the affluent who huddle in one neighborhood are penny-pinchers in charitable giving. In city after city, it’s the low-income residents who lift giving levels, according to the Chronicle.

The same pattern holds true with corporations. In 2012, according to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, Fortune 500 (the largest) companies gave 0.09 percent of their revenue to charities. Smaller companies gave 0.14 percent.

And according to Giving USA, only 5 percent of 2012’s total charitable giving went to culture, the arts, and humanities. Taxpayers should not have to support the wealthy — except in the case of billionaire sports-team owners, according to the politicians who pander to pedestrian tastes.

Might Chargers eye property occupied by opera studio?

Commercial Street area could be developed near stadium site

April 14, 2014 — Don Bauder

San Diego Opera — in an internal struggle over dissolving — owns a set-making studio at 3064 Commercial Street. This studio has built more than 50 new productions for San Diego Opera through the years and has produced sets for other opera and theater-arts organizations.

"My estimate is that it is worth five million bucks," says H. Eugene Myers, an attorney and real estate buyer who owns property in the area. "In the next couple of years the opera could possibly pick up a pretty sizeable chunk of change."

Myers owns property on Commercial Street from 28th to 32nd streets. On Saturday, April 12, he met with other real estate owners in that same area of Commercial Street. Myers had invited the other owners to come. Initially, he was concerned that the city would seize Commercial Street property from 28th to 32nd by eminent domain, knocking down the values.

At the meeting, he was told seizure was not likely, and he feels that Civic San Diego probably does not have the funds to go the eminent-domain route because of potential lawsuits and the like. However, he feels the parcels in that area could be converted to high-density residential and mixed uses — thus raising property values "at the stroke of a pen."

He invited Karen Cohn, chairwoman of the opera, to the meeting, but nobody from the organization showed up. Myers notes that when John Moores got a $300 million subsidy to build Petco Park, he was permitted to buy surrounding property at an extremely low price. (Some have estimated he raked in $700 million to $1 billion just in reselling that property to developers.) Myers says his own Commercial Street property enjoyed an increase of 50 to 60 percent because of Petco and the surrounding development, even though it was a long way away.

Myers believes the Spanos group does not want to develop the area around Qualcomm Stadium because of the plume under it and other reasons. Spanos might prefer to have a combined stadium and convention center but could settle for something else. Possibly, he would get property not too distant from Commercial Street and might try to put senior and affordable housing in the Commercial Street area as part of the stadiium package. Myers raised this possibility at the Saturday meeting, pointing out that since the trolley "would be the purveyor of people to the stadium," the idea is not out of the question. "There could be a bump in the value" of that Commercial Street property.

I reminded him that Mark Fabiani, PR representative for the Chargers, has suddenly shown up as PR for the opera on a pro bono basis. Could the opera's property on Commercial Street be a reason Fabiani is giving free time to the opera?

"It seems like a long shot," says Myers, who admits he was puzzled when Fabiani showed up at the opera. "There is a possibillity you could connect the two [the studio and Fabiani]."

San Diego considered floating stadium 50 years ago

But Mission Bay structure was too expensive

March 2, 2014 — Don Bauder

"The Strike Zone," a feature of Sports Illustrated, pointed out on February 28 that half a century ago, San Diego considered a floating sports stadium.

It would float on Mission Bay, attached to Fiesta Island. It was proposed by Barron Hilton, original owner of the Chargers. It would seat 53,000. There would be a 13,000-seat main grand stand behind home plate.

Then, two separate 20,000-seat grandstands would float to attach to the landlocked 13,000-seat portion. The floating stands could be moved to straddle a football field just down the way.

However, the price tag escalated to $41 million, double the original estimate of $20 million. Thus, the landlubber stadium now known as Qualcomm was built for a mere $27 million.

San Diego Chargers place Philip Rivers on indefinite hiatus following political endorsement

December 19, 2013 — Walter Mencken

Former United States Senator Rick Santorum's 2012 presidential campaign ended a long time ago. But because the Internet is forever, the effects of that campaign are still being felt today — and in a very big way. Today the San Diego Chargers placed their long-time quarterback Philip Rivers on indefinite hiatus, because of a statement he made endorsing Rick Santorum for President. The statement, which is still up on Santorum's website, reads, "I am supporting Rick Santorum for President because of his stance on issues that attack vital Christian values our country was founded upon: no abortion, upholding traditional marriage, defending religious freedom, no euthanasia." Santorum famously opposes gay, "non-traditional" marriage.

In their statement, the Chargers front office stated, "We are extremely disappointed to have read Philip Rivers' comments on, which are based on his own personal beliefs and not reflected in the offensive strategy of the San Diego Chargers. His personal views in no way reflect those of the National Football League, which works hard to champion the rights of the LGBT community. Remember that one time the League had the Thursday Night Football announcers wear purple on Spirit Day? Plus, 'no abortion'? That's just crazy talk."

Responding to the news, GLAAD activist Mike McManus said, "We are extremely pleased with the Chargers' decision. But I have to be honest with you: we weren't even gunning for this Rivers guy. One of our interns was collecting media responses to Phil Robertson," the Duck Dynasty reality show star who was just suspended by A+E for anti-homosexual comments he made to GQ magazine. Catching Phil Rivers in our Google net was just dumb luck."

L.A. NFL stadium rivals sink big cash into Brown bid

U-T San Diego ramps up push for new Chargers venue

December 9, 2013 — Matt Potter

The professional football season is nearing a wrap and the campaign for San Diego mayor is ramping up, time yet again for another push by La Jolla real estate maven, Republican money-man, and U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester for a new taxpayer-subsidized Chargers stadium.

And, judging by recent reports from Los Angeles, along with a campaign financing disclosure filed over the weekend by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, a familiar cast of L.A. area superrich will likely surface once more as Manchester's bogeymen, threatening to steal the team for La La Land.

U-T kicked off its latest scrimmage on the final day of November, with an editorial entitled "A new stadium for San Diego: It is time."

U-T San Diego ownership believes it is time, for the benefit of residents countywide, that a new multipurpose stadium be built in a private-public partnership.

The U-T Editorial Board in coming weeks will publish commentaries making the case for a new stadium. We will examine potential sites and the combination of facilities that should be built in conjunction with the stadium.

We will also explain in broad terms how a stadium might be financed without breaking the backs of taxpayers.

Whomever [the] mayor is can expect us to challenge him from Day One to work with the City Council, the business community, the Spanoses and the NFL, community groups and other stakeholders to get it done.

The new Manchester campaign comes on the heels of tales from Los Angeles about new Democratic mayor Eric Garcetti diving into the thick of that city's longstanding NFL intrigue, as reported by the L.A. Weekly.

Garcetti met in L.A. with Philip Anschutz, the head of AEG, who is still trying to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles.

Anschutz' firm, AEG, first announced plans to build a downtown football stadium nearly three years ago, to great fanfare.

But after winning approval from City Hall for Farmers Field, along with an expedited environmental process from the state Legislature, the deal stalled.

Garcetti took the helm in July, and according to the L.A. Weekly, an aide said then that getting a football team was "not a priority."

But Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire, has continued to work on the deal in his own quiet way.

In early September, Anschutz reached out to the mayor's office to update Garcetti on the situation.

The two talked over the phone on Sept. 11, and arranged an in-person meeting during Anschutz’s next visit to L.A. On Oct. 8, Anschutz brought to City Hall Dan Beckerman, the new CEO of AEG, and Ted Fikre, an AEG vice president.

Garcetti brought Glyn Milburn, a former NFL kick returner who now works in the mayor's Office of Economic Development. The next day, Milburn wrote an email to Fikre, thanking him for the meeting and saying "it is our hope that we can accomplish the goal of bringing football back to Los Angeles."

Whether or not anything emerges from Garcetti's putative bromance with Republican Anschutz, on November 23 the Anschutz Corporation made a $50,000 contribution to the reelection campaign of Democratic governor Brown.

Three days later, Majestic Realty Company, run by billionaire Ed Roski, who has long aspired to build an NFL stadium in the City of Industry, kicked in $54,400 for Brown.

Even more than a mayor, a governor can do big favors for any NFL hopeful who catches his fancy; two years ago, Brown signed a bill to "streamline" state-mandated environmental review of the Anschutz project. Brown's predecessor, GOP governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, earlier did the same for Roski.

In the subsidy and infrastructure battle to come, Brown could play a key role in handing out plenty of public money and regulatory approvals to advance the cause of his Los Angeles patrons.

Brown is likely to do no overt favors for longtime GOP kingpin Manchester, and, for that matter, San Diego, generally, other than to perhaps raise the perceived threat level of moving the Chargers from San Diego.

Skeptics argue that may be just what Manchester and the wealthy NFL owners need in a coming high pressure attempt to scare voters into approving a costly new stadium project here.

The governor's latest political foray into the city by the border, an endorsement of newly hatched Democrat Nathan Fletcher for mayor, ended with a third-place finish by Fletcher.

That effort was largely a production of La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs, who had given heavily to the successful 2012 campaign for Brown's Proposition 30 tax hike measure.

Whether any of the recent public jousting is real, or the stadium game has already been fixed by the NFL behind closed doors, remains to be seen.

Chargers Coach McCoy: "The City of San Diego doesn't much care for losers, but what they really hate are winners."

"If we won, we'd have to leave town."

November 14, 2013 — Walter Mencken

"You ever hear of the San Diego Gulls?" asks Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy as he cracks open a frosty can of Amstel Light. "Hockey team. They were around for eight seasons in the '90s and early aughts. Played in the Sports Arena. They won the West Coast Hockey League championship five of those eight seasons. But they folded in 2006, because they couldn't make a buck."

"Or consider the San Diego Sockers," he continues. "They've won four straight Professional Arena Soccer League titles. They lost all of one game last year. You ever been to a San Diego Sockers game? Do you even know where they play? Did you even know they existed?"

"Now consider the Padres," he offers, warming to the subject. "They got the city to commit to a new stadium, which broke ground in 2000. They've won a couple of division titles since then, but never a pennant. And more often than not, you can find them in fourth or fifth place by seaon's end. And then there's us. We've got Philip Rivers, God's own quarterback — Tim Tebow with talent, I like to call him — and we can't get it done. Often as not, we can't draw enough fans to fill the stadium and avoid a TV blackout. But it doesn't seem to matter: the city is still bending over backwards to find ways to build us a stadium."

"Here's my point," he says, coming to his point. "San Diego is comfortable with mediocrity. It values it, holds it up high, throws money at it in order to make it stick around. People who hit it big — think Adam Lambert, or Gregory Peck — they catch the first train north. Because they know that here, they'll just be ignored."

"The San Diego Gulls — hilarious," says McCoy at the end of the conversation, more to himself than anyone else.