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It’s hard to hear much else in San Diego lately over the stadium debate’s deafening roar.
So we’re diving in to address the big questions about what might happen next.
We put a call out to our members to help chart our course, with an anonymous survey sent out this week asking folks what they want to know, and where they stand on a few potential options on the table.
We heard back from about 200 people over the next day or two. This is not, of course, a scientific study, but here’s what we’ve gathered from those responses: 10.3 percent, or 21 people, said they’d support a tax hike for a new stadium. Thirteen percent said they’d support a sales tax hike, while 28.2 percent said they’d support a hotel-room tax hike.
We also included a few open-ended questions. The responses in this small sample of San Diegans paint a conflicted picture. There are so many causes more worthy of public dollars than a stadium, many said. But others think keeping the Chargers in San Diego is a given – they’re willing to do whatever’s necessary to keep the team happy. Check out the responses in full here, or browse through the excerpts below.
Comments have been edited lightly for style and clarity.
What do you want to know more about in the stadium discussion?
“Why isn’t this being treated as a regional concern? Most of the people I know who attend Chargers games don’t live in the city of San Diego; they come from El Cajon, Boulevard, etc. As a San Diego taxpayer, I do not want to subsidize the entertainment of people from throughout Southern California.”
“What would move any civic leader to spend millions to support a facility that may get 100 hours of use a year when our 7/24/365 day use of infrastructure – sewers, water pipes and roads – need billions? Do civic leaders value 100 hours of football more than daily use of our parks, libraries and beaches?”
“Can the city of San Diego and San Diego County support major league sports? I’ve been hearing for at least 25 years that our teams lose because we can’t afford the top players. We are a good farm team operation – we draft second-rate players and develop them into first-rate players and then they move on to those who can afford the big salaries. I would like to hear an analysis of the television market revenue to major league football teams. If the Chargers are asking for help, show me their audited financial statements for the past 20 years.”
“How very soon will they be moving and gone?”
“If a majority of regular San Diegans – taxpayers but not necessarily football freaks – value keeping the Chargers enough to build them a new home.”
“How much money has the city spent since 1968 on stadium improvements, attendance guarantees, etc., at the Chargers’ request, or as part of a negotiated deal with the Chargers?”
“What happens to Qualcomm when the Chargers leave? Mission Valley is already overdeveloped. Anyone take a look at the old gravel pit? It is disgusting how many units are being put there without any improvement of the roads in the valley.”
“Nothing. I have been a life-long (50+ years) Chargers fan but now I am so disgusted by the ploys to finance a billion-dollar on the backs of taxpayers, I say go ahead and go. I am a fan no more.”
“A number of studies suggest that a professional sports stadium isn’t nearly the economic boon to a city that its supporters represent it to be, and that cultural institutions like the opera and art museums produce a higher ROI (return on investment) on tax dollars. I’d sure like to see your reporters dig up those studies and do a compare and contrast.
“I’d like to know more details about the Carson deal. Are the Chargers already committed to purchase it, regardless if they move there or not? Also, let’s look at different ways how the financing plays out – we’re seeing numbers like $1.6 billion, but let’s break it down. What would be the actual amount San Diego city/county would be paying each year, and what would be the actual benefits rec’d for those dollars? I’d also like to see an analysis of the worth of the Spanos family compared to other NFL team owners. It’s reported they’re one of the ‘poorer’ ones, but by what stretch? Even with a new stadium here, can they afford to put a competitive product on the field in the future?”
“What does the city net from each game, taking into account all expenses and outlays, including maintenance, bond service, security, etc.? I suspect the city loses money every time the Chargers take the field.”
“Who in the city developer-council complex is the power behind the scenes?”
“The SDSU side. They need a stadium too!”
“I want to know why this is being pitched as just a Chargers issue. Cities the size of San Diego need facilities such as the aging Qualcomm for myriad purposes. When you look at it, it is used for the Aztecs, Holiday Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, concerts, large convention gatherings, monster trucks, motor cross – it has an emergency civil defense function like nothing else in central San Diego could do. It could house soccer, a huge growing market given our demographics. It is part of our civic infrastructure and is only peripherally about the Chargers. Why is it framed this myopic provincial way?”
“The details of the financing plans for other NFL stadiums built in the past five years. This includes nuances like having a redevelopment agency invest, as I believe was done in Santa Cruz. Can San Diego use an existing redevelopment agency to issue debt without requiring a vote? Other ideas?”
Why or why not would you support a tax hike? Please explain.
“1. The NFL is a nonprofit – we are already subsidizing them. 2. If the Chargers have enough money to build in L.A., why not SD? If they are so ‘loyal’ to SD, why didn’t they float ideas past us over the past couple years? 3. The Chargers threatened years ago to leave SD when the option was contractually available, then have made no discernible concerted effort to engage the community to support a new stadium. Why should we trust they will act in good faith now while we are under the gun?”
“I might support some kind of tax if it were countywide. Let everyone in the county pay for a stadium if they want it, not just the citizens of the city.”
“Not for a stadium, but as I understand it, our hotel tax is lower than most of California’s major cities. It should not be a private slush fund for the major hotels, but should go to the general fund, since there are costs to the city in having additional people here, although it could be earmarked for parks and rec, since our parks, museums and beaches are what really bring people to SD, and whose funding has been drastically cut to pay for stadiums, etc.”
“Rarely is Qualcomm sold out, rarely would we be hosting the Super Bowl and I believe there are only eight or nine games played there every year. I say let the Chargers pay to touch up the current stadium. That is the only rational approach considering the multitude of needs we have in this wonderful city. Or, let the Chargers do what they have to in order to build a new one, like all other business owners must do.”
“Within reason, a modest tax hike might be necessary. The Chargers are intimately interwoven into the fabric of this city.”
“I would only support a hike in the hotel tax if it went to multiple items: convention center, sports arena redevelopment and other projects the citizens need.”
“Of the three, it’s probably true that a hotel-room tax hike is most palatable to the general public. That said, I’d never support raising it to build a stadium. If the city feels the TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) is currently at a level that can be raised without impacting average room nights, it should do so anyway for the purpose of raising general funds for other crucial city needs. Not a stadium.”
“A city without an NFL team is a poor excuse for an American city.”
“I would support all these tax hikes to meet the cost of deferred maintenance in Balboa Park – a free public space, but none to support a football team owned as a business.”
“We just need to let them go. We are constantly being asked to validate the Chargers who clearly hold the old-school position that the city owes them something, when, in fact, they are all about their own bottom line.”
“Football is big business, and a new luxury stadium is a want/desire, not a necessity. Management and support staff should consider salary reductions to help finance a new stadium before asking for subsidies from residents or visitors.”
“I feel that the Chargers are a source of civic pride and interest that cannot be matched by any other entity. If we lose them, chances are that San Diego will never again have an NFL franchise. That is not how a big-league city operates.”
“The Chargers are a very profitable organization which contributes little to nothing to our civic life. The Chargers ‘brand’ is no more valuable than the Qualcomm brand – and it would be as inappropriate to subsidize the Chargers as it would be to give tax benefits to any other for-profit organization.”
“I’d support a modest hotel room tax hike, since the rate in San Diego is quite a bit lower than in other major California cities. The reason? I see the benefits of having professional sports in town, but I don’t want to break the bank giving money to the NFL, which rakes in billions. I also detest their methods of playing one city against another to get cash-strapped municipalities to build newer and bigger stadiums that cater principally to the NFL. If we have a sales tax hike, it’s got to be for our infrastructure or more police officers, not a stadium to please the NFL.”
“The city has not proven it can manage existing tax revenues, pensions, etc., in a responsible manner. If someone can demonstrate (that the) increased tax revenue and services to (the) city from (a) new stadium would exceed (the) cost of tax hike, I’m interested.”
“My property taxes are already high, but hotel rooms are a no-brainer. Tourists and conventions wouldn’t notice.”
“My sidewalks are broken and the city may need to raise taxes to repair infrastructure. You can only raise taxes so much before we can’t pay anymore. The city needs to prioritize.”
“1. The net economic benefit of building a stadium is negative. 2. The Chargers are a mediocre team so it’s no great loss if they leave. 3. Should we actually build (Dean) Spanos a stadium, history suggests it will be less than 10 years before he comes demanding more concessions.”
“We spend millions on parks, open space, other non-revenue entities. Why not a stadium?”
“I believe that the city’s core services should be dedicated to infrastructure, public safety and neighborhood issues like redevelopment/zoning and the updates to our community plans. I’d like to see the city invest in different sectors of the economy if we’re going to do a public investment that benefits a for-profit entity. Subsidizing a stadium for the Chargers benefits the team, its owners and ultimately a low-wage sector. This isn’t conducive to a better life for the majority of San Diegans.”
“I do not believe that the Chargers’ presence in San Diego contributes significantly to the quality of life here. At best they’re a form of amusement, at times, for some people during a very limited calendar window. I think they are overestimating how important they are, and how much fans would be willing to sacrifice in order to keep them here. As VOSD has pointed out, the team and indeed the NFL if not the entire pro sports industry rests on manipulating fan emotions of loyalty which the pro teams do not in the least reciprocate. They’re a business, pure and simple, and I don’t believe the product they’re offering is worth either the ticket prices, the exorbitant cable TV prices or – certainly – any form of public subsidy.”
“I used to live in Seattle and first watched the Seahawks get a stadium, and then the Mariners get their way as well. Finally, we voters had had enough and passed a ballot measure – no more public funds for these professional sports teams. It caused the Sonics to bolt for Oklahoma City, but at least funds were preserved for useful public services. San Diego has horrible roads (I have to get my car aligned every few months), lousy old libraries, a falling apart city hall, poor public transit, bad sewer treatment and stormwater systems and a drought to contend with. A convention center expansion–which would actually boost our economy unlike this stadium – has no funding plan. We can’t keep increasing our already high state and local tax burden to fund things we actually need as a public service if we’ve devoted potential new revenues to funding a private business. I love having the Chargers in San Diego. But I would much rather spend $800 million of new tax revenue on infrastructure improvements which will make the city better for everyone, not just people who are interested in or can afford the money to go see one the NFL’s eight home games a season. This should be the job of our elected officials, not falling all over themselves to provide subsidies for football.”
“Have to pay for it somehow.”
“I think a tax hike would impact our county’s economy less than losing the Chargers.”
“Would support a hotel-room tax hike if it wasn’t controlled by the hotel crowd. No other type tax hike until the pension debt is brought down, significantly.”
“The extra tax burden on San Diegans wouldn’t be that much if spread over a 30-year bond. It could also be guaranteed by increased TOT revenues.”
Would you support giving the team land, or letting developers build on Qualcomm Stadium or Sports Arena land to help pay for the stadium? Why or why not?
“Do not give Spanos/the Chargers anything because they can’t be trusted. Rob Wellington Quigley has made the case: Mission Valley is the only logical place for the stadium. Renovate the Q or build new (stadium) next to it; both approaches have worked in other places. Sell or lease land in (Mission Valley) to developers on favorable terms and safeguards – no more stadium seating deals!”
“No. The UTC mall and One Paseo are private investments. So are the NFL and Chargers. Let free enterprise reign and the market function for the taxpayers.”
“No. The Chargers are just not a priority to me and I see no reason to go so far to keep that particular business in town. Based on attendance, it seems that San Diegans agree.”
“No. Giving land is the same as giving money. Either use the land for better purposes or sell the land to finance infrastructure improvements.”
“Leasing public land to a business who promises to improve and develop it is acceptable, so long as it eventually reverts back to public ownership and the public receives fair and reasonable compensation for the lease.”
“All other considerations aside, the extensive concrete sea that is Qualcomm seems to be environmentally problematic. In either location, the environmental impacts should drive any considerations of future usage.”
“If it would help keep the Chargers in San Diego, I could possibly agree to it.”
“No! Encourage the Chargers to move to L.A. (or anywhere). Then use the proceeds from developing Qualcomm Stadium or Sports Arena to improve our city in important ways, like bike paths, streets and sidewalks.”
“Yes, but there better be a huge upside for the people of San Diego. As a fan, the Q isn’t bad, but the Sports Arena is a dump.”
“Maybe. But it won’t be enough for Spanos. The core problem, which probably can’t be solved, is that the team ‘needs’ a big public subsidy because the market won’t purchase tons of PSLs (personal seat licenses) and the sponsorship number is not huge; however, the public is disinterested in providing this support. Look at the poll numbers.”
“I may support transferring the Qualcomm site if that is the only way, but nothing more. If the Chargers can get a better deal in L.A., they should take it.”
“Maybe. A lease-to-own option could be palatable if done correctly. But it should not be a giveaway.”
“Yes, but only if it’s part of a package that has the city paying no more than we now pay to support the team. Like (Chargers special counsel Mark) Fabiani says, “no half-baked measures”; we need a clean deal that explains all the cash flows.”
“No, no, and no. Football is a business, and a lucrative one at that. Owner/operators should pay all their costs, just as I do for my business.”
“Yes, I think this would be a reasonable compromise rather than a tax increase. Qualcomm is already earmarked for this type of use, so admittedly not knowing all of the land rights issues, it appears this would be a reasonable contribution from the city, even if they sold the Qualcomm stadium or Sports Arena land to developers and use the money on other property.”
“I would be very reluctant. The city has proven itself an awful negotiator on real estate transactions, and I don’t trust that they have the staff nor expertise to negotiate a fair deal.”
“No! From a financial perspective, selling city land and giving away the revenue to fund a stadium is no different than just handing out money from the General Fund. The city and its taxpayers still end up the losers.”
“Let them use current Qualcomm Stadium site, if any. Sports Arena would require a trolley extension costing millions for just a few game days. A very bad return on investment for the city any way you look at it. Why do we think taxpayers should subsidize a hugely profitable entity for a minimal return to the community? Let them pay or let them go.”
“Yes. This is a viable option to get the job done through real estate. The resulting property tax revenue will be beneficial to the county in the end, and we’ll get a new stadium, and the Chargers can build the stadium with all the bells and whistles they say they need.”
“Only if the citizens get a share of the franchise, to prevent the Spanos family from threatening us with relocation ever again.”