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Cost Of Maintaining Qualcomm Stadium Could Total $282 Million

Qualcomm Stadium seen from above in this undated photo.
KPBS Staff
Qualcomm Stadium seen from above in this undated photo.

Keeping aging Qualcomm Stadium operating over the next 20 years could cost the city of San Diego at least $259 million, and possibly as much as $282 million, according to a city report obtained today by City News Service.

The estimate by the city's chief financial officer factors in annual costs to run the facility in Mission Valley, current debt service, and the projected cost of future major maintenance projects. It doesn't take into account potential upgrades to amenities, such as bigger and better video and sound systems, bathroom and kitchen overhauls, or luxury suite improvements, CFO Mary Lewis said.

Her memorandum to members of the City Council comes three days before city and county officials make a pitch to a group of National Football League owners in Chicago in support of their plan for a new facility in Mission Valley that would house the Chargers, San Diego State Aztecs, the Holiday and Poinsettia bowls, high school championships and special events.

The Chargers have been asking for a new stadium for nearly 15 years, and have acquired land in the Los Angeles County city of Carson on which they could build a facility themselves, possibly in concert with the Oakland Raiders.

The NFL has made a priority of moving a franchise to the lucrative Los Angeles market. The owner of the St. Louis Rams, Stan Kroenke, previously unveiled plans to build a stadium in Inglewood, close to the Los Angeles International Airport.

San Diego's plan to keep the Chargers includes a $1.1 billion replacement for Qualcomm Stadium.

A task force appointed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer suggested that the city and county governments could each contribute $121 million over 30 years — far below the figures in Lewis' memo, but it's uncertain whether such funding levels will make it into an eventual financing plan.

City officials have pointed out that even if the Chargers leave San Diego, SDSU and the bowl games would still need a playing facility, and the cost of keeping up Qualcomm Stadium would be too much of a financial burden. An SDSU/bowl game stadium would likely be far smaller, and much less expensive, than what's envisioned for the local NFL team.

The Lewis memo said current stadium expenses come out of the city's hotel room tax revenues and the general fund, which pays for basic services like public safety, recreation centers and libraries.

Debt service on 1990s-era stadium renovations average $4.9 million, and will take another 11 years to pay off, Lewis said. She said a 2011 condition study on the stadium detailed $79.8 million in capital needs, which figure to be around $85 million in present dollars — an expenditure that would also need to be financed.