April 29 2015 10:33 AM

The taxpaying citizens of San Diego should not pay for a new stadium

Qualcomm Stadium
Photo by SD Dirk / flickr

Football is a game. Mindful of the faithful who paint their faces and wave foam fingers while watching NFL action, you shouldn’t say football is just a game. But stick with the simple premise that football is a game. A money-making, addictive, omnipresent, culturally entrenched game.

This particular game is a collection of moving pieces. There are myriad alignments. An offense surges forward. The defense offers resistance. On any given Sunday, the game is won or lost by how the moving parts perform and interact. As in most sports, the outcome can turn on caprice and whimsy. A quarterback can call the perfect play—only to have a penalty negate a touchdown. Then again, a running back may fumble—only to see the ball flip into the hands of a teammate, who runs for a score. This notion— of outcome based on unpredictable circumstance— brings us to the assemblage of moving parts that is the San Diego Chargers’ stadium saga.

If this sounds like a broken record, well, it is. The above could have been said, or written, at any time during the past decade-plus about the gamesmanship being waged between Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani and the city of San Diego.

What was important at the beginning of this political game of football remains constant and crucial today: The taxpaying citizens of San Diego should not pay for a new stadium. Construction costs should be footed by and large by team ownership and the deep-pocketed NFL, and through other creative means (naming rights, personal seat licenses, etc.) that don’t tap the city’s general fund.

It’s being speculated that the Chargers are done cutting the cards with San Diego. And it’s being reasoned that the team is poised to accept the sleek, mega-promposal offered in Carson, a $1.7-billion joint-use stadium, with its electronic Chargers lightning bolt shows, and burning cauldron that would honor former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. It’s a nauseating idea.

Now, however, is not the time for the city to panic. After choosing Mission Valley as the site for a new local stadium, The Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group, the mayor’s special task force, is still due to present a financing plan in May. The Chargers and the NFL have indicated they would each pony up $200 million for a $1 billion-plus stadium in San Diego. 

That’s not enough. 

When the CSAG puts the final touches on a financing plan, the initial offer to the Chargers should be a zero investment by the people of San Diego. In other words, call the team’s bluff, and be prepared to lose.

With Carson as a chip, Fabiani can be a bully at the poker table. His actions of late are regarded as being dismissive of the Mission Valley site and generally negative about anything related to San Diego.

We all can see a special election on the stadium in 2015, a notion floated by an NFL representative, is ridiculous and impossible. But if the team and the league are going to push all their chips into the middle of the table, San Diego has to be stoic.

If the Chargers are serious about moving north to share digs with the Raider Nation, then they’ll have to start preparing for life as the second-favorite football team in the house. Are the Chargers really going to kiss San Diego goodbye this year, hang a cloud over the 2015-16 season and play for the next five years at the Pasadena Rose Bowl while the Carson monstrosity is completed?

The city’s stadium task force needs to stay resolved, and not blink. If the posturing and poker table talk coming from Fabiani are to be believed, the team is already gone. So what’s left to lose by a show of force?

If the task force recommends a weak financial deal for the city, and the mayor approves it, if and when it’s put to the voters they’ll turn it down. And the team will have justification for leaving.

But what if the task force’s financial proposal to the Chargers is hardline, and the mayor approves a pact more voters are likely to approve? There’s a public display for all, including the NFL, demonstrating San Diego wants the Bolts here and worked diligently to keep the team.

Ask 10 people how this is all going to turn out and you’ll get 11 different versions of the endgame. The expert analysis may point to the Chargers leaving town. But as diehard fans know, the outcome can always turn on the last play of the game.

Write to rond@sdcitybeat.com.