Council members offer Chargers lease deal in stadium saga

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

SAN DIEGO -- Four city council members are offering San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos a lease of $1 a year for 99 years for the Qualcomm Stadium site as a starting point for negotiations for a new stadium.

The offer will be in a letter due to be sent to Spanos on Tuesday, with copies going to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 31 other NFL owners.

It comes six weeks after a Chargers-written ballot measure asking for $1.15 billion in increased hotel taxes for a new downtown stadium was soundly defeated, the latest twist in the team's long, bitter attempt to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

The Chargers have until Jan. 15 to exercise an option to move to Los Angeles and join the Rams in a stadium in Inglewood scheduled to open in 2019.

Councilman Scott Sherman, whose district includes Qualcomm Stadium, shared a copy of the letter with The Associated Press on Monday evening.

"The hour is late, and the time to find a stadium solution is getting dangerously short," the letter started.

The last two paragraphs read: "Before leaving 60 years of tradition and loyal fans, let's give one last concerted effort to come to the table and hammer this out face to face, working together toward a common goal of keeping the NFL in America's Finest City. If we fail to come to an agreement, at least we will know that nothing was left untested and we can part ways knowing that we gave it our all.

"We ask that the Chargers give San Diego fans another chance."

It will be signed by Sherman, Chris Cate, new council president Myrtle Cole and Lorie Zapf.

Sherman and Cate opposed Measure C but want the Chargers to stay in San Diego, preferably in Mission Valley. They hope the letter can get the Chargers to the negotiating table for the first time in 1 1/2 years.

The Chargers rejected a city-county plan for a new stadium at the Qualcomm site in 2015, and then voters rejected Measure C.

"So here's another starting point, and let's not give up on 60 years of tradition and fan loyalty," Sherman told the AP.

The Chargers didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The tricky part, of course, is coming up with a plan to pay for a new stadium.

Sherman and Cate said they'd like to see the Chargers, NFL and a development partner build a stadium. Both council members said they hoped it could get done with no public money.

"At the end of the day, 166 acres in the geographic center of the eighth-largest city in the country is the perfect spot to develop," Sherman said. "I'm convinced we could get over 50 percent (of a vote) with that. This is all just a starting point to start the discussion. The way we laid it out with the lease, it's a large incentive to come to the table."

In 2004, the Chargers failed in their attempt to get the city to give them a large chunk of the Qualcomm property in exchange for privately developing a stadium.

The cheap lease deal "is as close as getting the land given to you as possible," Sherman said.

The Chargers walked away from talks with the city and county in June 2015 and focused on a plan to build a stadium in a Los Angeles suburb with the rival Oakland Raiders. That plan was defeated by NFL owners in January in favor of the Rams' Inglewood plan, but the Chargers were given the option of moving to L.A. If they decide to move, they'll have to make a deal with either the Coliseum or the 27,000-seat StubHub! Center as a temporary home.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has had private talks with Spanos and a team representative in recent weeks. Details of those talks weren't made public.

"We need to hear from the organization what their concerns are, and if they're even open to having a discussion for Mission Valley," Cate told the AP. "These are things we need to hear from them about. The fans need to hear from them, too. What does success look like to them? We haven't been able to have a discussion as a council with them. This lets them know we're willing to have that conversation."

Sherman said he hopes people with the NFL note "that for the first time, four sitting council members say this is something we can support and move forward from here, something that's never happened before."

Is this a final Hail Mary from City Hall?

"I think we're going to continue to push as long as they haven't called U-Haul and haven't t moved the trucks up," Cate said. "We're going to continue to have proactive outreach to the team to see if we can open dialogue. This is the opening salvo."


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