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Future Uncertain For Chargers In San Diego


Chargers CEO Dean Spanos told Mayor Jerry Sanders the team won't leave San Diego in 2011. Spanos wouldn't commit to staying after next season, as rumors have the team moving to Los Angeles in 2012. What are the chances the Bolts could bolt? What's the latest details on a Chargers' stadium in downtown San Diego?

Chargers CEO Dean Spanos told Mayor Jerry Sanders the team won't leave San Diego in 2011. Spanos wouldn't commit to staying after next season, as rumors have the team moving to Los Angeles in 2012. What are the chances the Bolts could bolt? What's the latest details on a Chargers' stadium in downtown San Diego?


Scott Lewis, chief executive officer of

Ricky Young, watchdog editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune

Alisa Joyce Barba, independent editor with NPR member stations

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

GLORIA PENNER: I'm Gloria Penner, I'm joined by the editors at the round table these days in San Diego. Today, we'll talk about those victorious challenger, and whether their time in San Diego is winding down. And then the almost million dollar salary for a local YMCA president last year. And some juicy benefits for volunteer water board members. And can a fiscally austere Jerry Brown reign in an out of control state budget? The editors with me today, I'm delighted to welcome them, are Scott Lewis, CEO of voice of San Scott, welcome back.

LEWIS: Thank you, nice to be here.

GLORIA PENNER: And Ricky young, watch dog editor for the UT.

YOUNG: Happy holidays to you Gloria.

GLORIA PENNER: And Ricky's wearing a red shirt, I just want you to know that. And Alisa Joyce Barba, and editor for NPR member stations, how are our member stations doing?

BARBA: They are thriving Gloria, good morning.

GLORIA PENNER: Thanks for finding time for us. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 895 I'll gonna repeat that once more. 1-888-895-5727. Well, congratulations to the Chargers who crushed the 49ers in their last [CHECK] [CHECK].

LEWIS: 2010 perhaps that would outline a possibility of how you could build a new stadium here, and maybe that would have enough legs to actually keep the team here.

GLORIA PENNER: Of course, that would be November 2012, and by that time, the challenger may have moved.

LEWIS: Well, I think that if there is momentum to put something on the ballot in 2010, I think that they'll refrain from moving right then. I think that they have committed themselves to at least giving San Diego a chance here. I think that, you know, whether San Diego wants to do something like that, considering the -- all the things that ails it from its streets to its rec centers being closed to all kinds of things happening in the city, it's going to be a difficult one, but it's not unheard of for them to come up with something that might work out for taxpayers. We'll see what it does.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, well, let's ask our callers about that. You heard what Scott said. . Where there's smoke, there's fire. And I'm wondering whether you think that there really is a fire under the challenger to move to Los Angeles and whether all the evidence, beyond the scope if it's evidence, but all of the elements that you put together, does that signal to you that the challenger are leaving? And if it does, do you care? Our number is 1-888-895-5727. 1-888-895-5727 KPBS. Let me go to you, Alisa on this. The charge website cites the meeting with the mayor saying we will be here in 2011. What has the mayor told directly the citizens of San Diego?

BARBA: He didn't put out anything. [CHECK] it kind of reminds me of the situation in the state budget, and I think that people in San Diego really cannot conceive of the challenger leaving. If there's anything that brings the city together every occasional Thursday or every occasional Monday, it's the challenger. And the idea that they may actually be going north, it's beg your pardon floated for so long. [CHECK] so we continue in this wonderful life with the San Diego challenger, and I don't think anybody's willing at this point, certainly with the budget, to kind of pay what we need to pay to keep them here, which would be to build a new stadium. And the mayor's not saying anything about it right you now.

LEWIS: One thing to keep in mind, I think this is the core of all discussions about the Chargers and the stadium, and stadiums in California, in order to build a stadium, other than like other places like Indianapolis or Dallas, [CHECK] you can't here raise a special tax for a stadium without two thirds of the vote. So in Denver or in Indianapolis or something, they can pass a special tax and fund a stadium with only 55 or 60 percent of the vote. And here you could get if I have or 60 percent of the vote, but you still wouldn't be able to fund [CHECK] in California for decades. And I think that that is the core of the issue. So I think that -- they always come up then with alternative ways of financing it, and you know, redevelopment dollars being funneled to it or something like that. But that is the fundamental barrier to building a new stadium here. And it's affecting San Diego, it's affecting Los Angeles.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, continue. I didn't mean to interrupt you.

LEWIS: No, that's good. I think that's a core element of understanding of this issue, that, you know, it probably -- something would have gotten done a long time ago had only 50 percent been required to pass the special revenue issue to get it done.

GLORIA PENNER: I guess what I'm curious about is where the momentum now, Ricky? We saw in the Union Tribune, three architectural firms had renditions of their versions of a Los Angeles stadium. And it's circulating on the Internet. It appears that LA is much further along than San Diego in the planning process.

YOUNG: It felt a couple of months ago that there was more momentum for a downtown stadium down here. [CHECK] there was the late night deal in Sacramento to lift the downtown redevelopment spending cap, which, you know, everybody seemed outraged about. But it seemed to move the project forward significantly. And it seemed like there was momentum then, and then there was sort of this that you had where it seemed like nothing was happening anymore. [CHECK] and they've got some renderings, they've got Anne chutes pushing for it, [CHECK] and it just seems like that's where the action is right now. He's trying to put together a deal by the spring, which includes both a stadium deal and a team deal. So it could be that's where the [CHECK] are putting their attention, it doesn't seem like right now, there's more attention [CHECK].

GLORIA PENNER: Let's see what our listeners have to say. We'll start with Cory in Northpark. Cory, you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, how are you doing?

GLORIA PENNER: Aside from that little glitch in my voice, I'm fine.

NEW SPEAKER: It me, it seems like Los Angeles as a city it seems to follow through and be more progressive with stuff like this. Of but my main comment was the fact that I just wanted to mention that, you know, the NFL has a very precise arrangement of all the teams and all the divisions. The 32 teams and how the divisions are set up, I think it's, you know, pretty clear that somebody's gonna move as opposed to a new team being created. Of so I just wanted to say that to all of the discourse that's been given thus far.

GLORIA PENNER: Thank you, Cory. Scott?

LEWIS: Well, there's a few things to think about right now. There's a very salient view recognizing, I think that the LA Times has a writer named Sam farmer who's made a point that the NFL might actually find more value in a team not being in LA that happen it not being there, simply because it provides so much more leverage for those hoping to build stadiums in places like Minnesota and San Diego. Where every time it happens there's more developments of a potential stadium in LA, it adds to the fear in maces like Minnesota and San Diego so they can get the political capital behind building a new stadium. The other thing to think about right now is the NFL is in a very serious labor strive battle. There is a good chance that next year, the NFL will not simply play football. There's such a disagreement about the revenue sharing arrangements and about the -- the salary cap on teams that until that is resolved and the NFL has actually said, until that's resolved no new stadiums can go forward.

GLORIA PENNER: You mean there will be no professional football from the NFL?

LEWIS: That's a chance. The players' union and the owners have a deal that runs out in March. And unless there's some progress, some very significant progress in the next couple of months, I think the reality of no football next year would be significant. Now, that would obviously have a tremendous effect on a ballot measure in some place like San Diego to put up a new stadium. And the two sides don't look like they're very close. One of the top reporters in the country, Tom [[]], said he would grow a mustache, an ugly mustache and wear it all month if it were at all possible if the owners and the players would come to an agreement in the next few months.

GLORIA PENNER: I don't know if some of our listeners would go that far, but that's another twist in this story. Suppose the NFL cancels the football season. Right now, Alisa said San Diego tends to come together when the Chargers play. And I assume that this latest win and the possibility of the playoffs will cause another surge of enthusiasm in San Diego for a San Diego stadium.

BARBA: Well, and it's interesting the timing of all of this too. It all does seem to swirl around with the accept, as we get close to the end of the season, and as our hopes are rising, that they may actually make the playoffs of then there's all these rumors that hay they my go to LA. People are talking [CHECK].

GLORIA PENNER: Let's see what Daniel has to say, Daniel in Clairemont. You're up next please.

NEW SPEAKER: First I'd like to say merry Christmas to all the editors and thank you for your participation.

GLORIA PENNER: And happy holidays to you too, Daniel.

NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, thank you very much Gloria. When I thought of when you said that, where there's smoke, there's fire, I'm thinking, what are the city leaders and City Council members smoking when they're gonna push this, when we have such [CHECK] the humanity, the problems that we have here are just really sad. I'd also like to note that one of the editors says no stadium has been built in a decade. And that stadium is less than a decade.

GLORIA PENNER: Yeah, that's the ballpark of course 678 and I guess that would qualify as a stadium. Of let's address what Daniel has to say, Ricky. Are the people in San Diego so engaged in what Daniel says, rightfully so, are humanitarian problems? We have hungry people, needy people, homeless people, people who can use the support of city services.

LEWIS: Well, I think we had all those things, you know, maybe it was a different time, but when Petco was built. So you know, but San Diego does sort of have the reputation for fair weather fans. There have been a lot of blackouts this season because not enough tickets sold. So it's hard to say what they'd do moving forward. I was in Orange County when the Rams left, and it was the same kind of thing where I think the city budget deficit was such in Anaheim that there wasn't much they could do. And you know, so you could see a similar scenario play out here. Although I think there's a lot more love for the Chargers here than there was for the rams there. So that may be the ultimate calculus.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, we'll be back, we'll be talking some more about the Chargers, after congratulating them for their big win last night. And in fact, they have two games to the playoffs, if they make the playoffs. We're also talking about the possibility that they're gonna move to Los Angeles. And we're gonna take your calls in just a minute or two. This is the Editors Roundtable. I'm Gloria Penner.

This is the Editors Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner, and we're talking about the fact that the Chargers did win last night. Of course that excites everybody who is a Chargers fan. Getting closer to the playoffs. But then there is that darker side, [CHECK] for some people, that the Chargers could move to Los Angeles. And we're talking about that this morning. And with me talking about it is Ricky young from the Union Tribune, and we have Scott lose from voice of San, and from NPR stations, Alisa Joyce Barba. And you. Let's start right out with a phone call, 1-888-895-5727 is our number. That's 88 fine KPBS. Rick from mission valley is with us. Rick, mission valley, you must be near Qualcommm.

NEW SPEAKER: I could almost hit it with a rock if I had a major league arm.

GLORIA PENNER: Or a football.

NEW SPEAKER: That's right. But, you know, from an average stand point of view, I go to a game maybe every couple of years or so, to me, Qualcommm is fine. And I think this is kind of a good time to get off the NFL extortion merry go round, kind of what's been alluded to earlier. Already they're starting to go around to, you know, relatively new stadiums that were built 20 years ago and exhorting a new stadium out of these cities if they want to get a super bowl.

GLORIA PENNER: Is that what it's all about, Scott Lewis.

LEWIS: Well, the UT had a great column, by Tim Sullivan not too long ago, where he pointed out that already in Atlanta the NFL commissioner has said that Atlanta will never get another super bowl unless it, you know, redoes its stadium. And the stadium is not that old. And I think that's kind of the frustration now. The Chargers will point out, and the city will point out, that Qualcommm stadium doesn't offer them the type of luxury boxes that they could sell to really make a profit. And they claim to be competitive. And they'll also point out that the deferred maintenance at Qualcommm is deferring to the point that it's starting to become a major drain on city finances. And you could do -- you could scrap the stadium at Qualcommm, and you could scrap the sports arena in the Rosecranz and Sports Arena area, and you could build them in some new form downtown, and then [CHECK] and make so much money off them. [CHECK] is that you could also do that if the Chargers just left. And you wouldn't need a new stadium downtown.

GLORIA PENNER: [CHECK] let's see, Qualcommm is not in downtown. So it wouldn't qualify for redevelopment money would it?

LEWIS: The mission valley is specifically not a redevelopment area.


LEWIS: And that would be a -- that was one of the hang ups to the previous proposals to rebuild something there. The other thing, he says Qualcommm is good. And some of the TV commentators have gotten in trouble because they say, yeah, this feels would you feel, when they're supposed to remind people how horrible it is. But the other thing to think is, if we do move this downtown, it will be one of the smallest footprints for a stadium in the entire country. And so there won't be the kind of tailgating available. It'll be a very packed if situation. Of and I think that there's gonna be a lot of interest in -- you know, Ricky pointed out there was renderings that came out before, but those were very vague descriptions of what a study would look like, it's gonna be very interesting to see [CHECK].

GLORIA PENNER: Well, we still have time to hear from some of our listeners who are interested if supporting building a new stadium for the Chargers. It seems to me that we have many listeners that find reasons not to did this. But why do you think it's important for San Diego to keep the Chargers and to build the stadium for them? 1-888-895-5727. 895 KPBS. Ricky?

YOUNG: Just one thought on that last caller, Qualcommm maybe fine for playing football, but it plays into what Scott was mentioning earlier with the salary caps and the revenue sharing. And he briefly alluded to it, but you know, the team says to stay competitive in that arena that they need a new stadium. Of and some of that is just, you know, built among the competition. And so that's -- if you want a good team that may be a decent argument. And maybe one of the callers will call and say that.

GLORIA PENNER: We'll find out about that. Meanwhile, let's hear from Di in Northpark. Di, you're on with the editors. Of.

LEWIS: Hi. I was wondering whether the editors, and Gloria, you had read, there was a double page spread in the New York Times a few months ago, discussing stadium sizing around the country, and I think one of the reasons you're not finding as much support in San Diego for building the San Diego downtown is because stadium financing is a really bad financial deal for cities. [CHECK] still paying off bonds they built for stadiums 20 years ago, and some of those stadiums have sense been demolished of so I wondered if you could talk about that.

GLORIA PENNER: [CHECK] go ahead, Scott.

LEWIS: Yeah, there was a tremendous story and spread that pointed out that exact thing of there's so much debt built up on these old stadiums, stadiums that don't even exist anymore. And it's very difficult, I think for people to swear the idea that the city is it falling apart in so many areas. Our proposal to cut off swimming pools to close almost all rec centers, it's very difficult to square the idea that 4 or $500 million some subsidize a major stadium. On the other hand, that's why they're going to put so much creative energy into frying to make it balance out for taxpayers of the other thing is there is a much more exceptive facility than Petco Park was, [CHECK] unless they had put a roof on it, which seems like a strange thing for San Diego to do. But it'll be a very interesting discussion going forward.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, I asked whether anybody was far a new stadium, and Chris from San Carlos has called in on that ONE. Go ahead, Chris.

NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, I was saying I am actually for a Chargers stadium in San Diego. I am a Chargers fan. But that's only part of the reason. I think San Diego has a problem with trying to be a big city, and whether it wants to be a big city. We have this identity where a lot of us want to go back to being the small town San Diego 30 or 40 years ago. If we're really serious about being a big city, we need to be able to go forward and have big things like stadiums and NFL teams of and it's part of our identity. The city without the Chargers isn't San Diego to me anymore. That's pretty much where I stand. And I think there's a lot of different creative ways to get it. You can make it part of an extension of the convention center, which would also keep the Comicon people happy, which brings in a lot of revenue. So I think there's creative ways it can be done. But we have a backward looking mentality from a lot of people here. Of.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, thank you, Chris. There's a lot remark about San Diego. Backward. Tell you what, tell of the editors want to chime in on this. So we'll give them each a very brief final comment. Alisa?

BARBA: Well, I think we can get very creative of how to do it, but I think stirring the black hole of the budget deficit, it's gonna be [CHECK].

LEWIS: A lot of people blame San Diego for not being visionary, or something like that. Again, if it were only a requirement of 50 percent of the vote to get a special tax passed to get something built like this, they would have done it. [CHECK] that's what stops something like this from getting built, and it's not [CHECK] and that would change, and would be impossible [CHECK].

GLORIA PENNER: We have a mayor who's a Chargers booster. He'd have nothing to lose by pushing for public money to pay for a stadium.

YOUNG: But what has struck me the whole time I've been here about him, him specifically, and the city's leadership in general, is this feeling of, yes, let's do that, as long as it doesn't cost anything.

LEWIS: Right.

YOUNG: And I think that's an accurate reflection of sort of how the city feels.

GLORIA PENNER: -- I was gonna say SD week, but that's another show. Editors Roundtable. If you want to list your comment that you didn't get a chance to call in, again, it's We'd love to hear from you. On to another subject.

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