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Less professional football means more money for the city of San Diego, the city’s stadium manager said earlier this month.

Should the labor dispute between NFL owners and players postpone or cancel any of the upcoming football season, the city actually will save money. The city currently loses money in hosting Chargers games at Qualcomm Stadium, despite the team’s rent and any concession or parking revenues. Stadium Manager Mike McSweeney said at a stadium advisory board meeting earlier this month that the city would “lose less” in the event of a lockout.

McSweeney’s answer resolves a question that has been lingering since the NFL lockout began. The city owns the stadium and must pay for operations and maintenance of the stadium for its events including Chargers games. McSweeney added that the city has additional costs on game days, such as heightened police staffing. The city’s contract with the Chargers doesn’t recoup those costs so its bottom line is better off without the games, McSweeney said.

“All told it’s an upside down deal for the city and I don’t think that’s a secret to anybody,” McSweeney said at the meeting.

Still, it’s not as if a prolonged work stoppage or the prospect of Chargers leaving town resolves the city’s problems at Qualcomm. If the team leaves immediately, the city still is projected to lose more than $11 million a year operating the stadium through 2020.

We’ve reported extensively on the Chargers deal with the city, and why the city makes out poorly. Besides losing money operating the stadium the city has owed the Chargers more than the team pays in rent, in some years.

Team special counsel Mark Fabiani said he couldn’t confirm McSweeney’s statement because he didn’t have access to the city’s figures.

“But the general point is the same one that we have been making for years now in our argument for a new stadium: The costs for taxpayers of maintaining an aging Qualcomm stadium will continue to increase, and there are better options for taxpayers for use of the 166 Qualcomm acres,” Fabiani said via email.

Here’s the relevant exchange at the meeting between board member Ben Clay and McSweeney:

Clay: Mike, for those of us that aren’t very familiar with the Charger contract other than what you hear. There’s a lockout. What’s that do to our revenues? Right off the top. Or does it enhance since we don’t have the expenses that go with it? What’s the flavor of this?

McSweeney: The latter portion … We lose less.

Clay: We lose less, well isn’t that interesting.

McSweeney: We lose in the vicinity of $1 million a year doing Charger football. We retain no revenues.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/dillonliam.

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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