Chargers may look for new home in San Diego County
SAN DIEGO -- The City Council unanimously agreed Monday to amend the San Diego Chargers' lease to allow the NFL team to look for a new stadium site within the county.
The action came less than two weeks after Mayor Jerry Sanders said the cash-strapped city doesn't have the money to help Southern California's only NFL team build a new stadium.
If the team fails to strike a deal in the county before Jan. 1, the Chargers would be free to negotiate a deal anywhere in the country.
The Chargers can leave San Diego after the 2008 season if they pay off the approximately $60 million in bonds the city issued in 1997 to expanded Qualcomm Stadium.
"I strongly believe the Chargers are a regional asset," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said. "Today's action is appropriate because it is in the best interest of San Diego's taxpayers."
City Attorney Michael Aguirre said he supports amending the team's lease, but urged caution in dealing with the Chargers.
"I hope this is not part of some charade where they are going to pretend to go out and make some kind of effort in the county and then say, 'Gee, we were not able to do it,' and then come back and ask for some kind of subsidy," Aguirre said.
The Chargers' negotiator, Mark Fabiani, said on April 21 that the smaller cities of Oceanside, Chula Vista, and National City to the north and south of San Diego have approached the team, along with a private investor whose identity Fabiani wouldn't disclose.
"We welcome today's lease amendment, and when that amendment becomes final, we will immediately begin to examine available options in San Diego County," Fabiani said in a statement. "The Chargers are very hopeful that the amendment will result in the building of a new Super Bowl-caliber stadium in San Diego County."
San Diego is facing what the mayor called a financial and a managerial crisis, which includes a $1.4 billion city employee pension fund deficit and federal investigations into city finances.
The Chargers have been in San Diego since 1961, the year after they started playing in Los Angeles under the ownership of hotel magnate Barron Hilton.
Earlier this year, the team dropped its proposal to build a $450 million stadium as part of a commercial development the Qualcomm site because it could not find developers to share the estimated $800 million upfront costs. The team offered to pay for the stadium and traffic improvements, but wanted the city to give it 60 acres for development to recoup its costs.
Last week, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman contacted the Chargers about the possibility of starting talks to relocate to the gambling and entertainment mecca.
Team officials responded that their lease with San Diego bars them from talking with other cities until Jan. 1.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press