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A Response to Arthur Salm

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This post is in response to Arthur Salm's article "Lose the Chargers? No loss at all" that can be viewed in it's entirety here.

I'm going to start by saying it's Memorial Day.  A day when petty matters like the one I'm about to discuss mean absolutely nothing.  It's also a day in which I do not have work and will probably be filled with beer, ribs and happiness by 5pm.  So if this article seems under-researched, so be it.  If it turns into anything more than me venting my own frustrations towards Mr. Salm, I promise I'll do more research.  Now, on with the criticisms...


The Chargers’ line is that they’d really, really like to stay in the San Diego area, but doggone it, they need a new stadium because Qualcomm is, like … not new, and they could make a lot more money if they were working out of spiffier digs.


This is a classic example of one of my biggest pet peeves.  The mocking tone in which Mr. Salm uses does nothing to disprove my notion that he's a child throwing a hissy fit.  Also, since it is essentially the beginning of the article, it leads me to believe that he is not open to any sort of debate.  Similar ideas only please.

The truth of the matter is that Qualcomm Stadium is one of the older stadiums in the league (now 42 years old) and one of the best teams in the league still has difficulty selling it out.  Part of that is because everyone in San Diego has been there before.  Part of it is that it's not very attractive and lacks a lot of the amenities we see at Petco Park.  It sounds silly, but NFL teams have realized that the easiest way to get good attendance is to bring in the average fans (while making the experience better for the hardcore fans).  Petco Park has a sushi bar in left field specifically for this reason.  The Chicago Bears renovated their stadium with a new look and new amenities for this reason, while bringing seats closer to the field for the hardcore fans.  Relevant comparison: If everyone else in your neighborhood adds a second floor and a pool in the backyard, they're going to have an easier time getting people over for their Memorial Day BBQ than you.

A new Chargers stadium will bring in strong crowds and grow the fanbase, the same way Petco Park has with the Padres, and it will bring in more Super Bowls and maybe even Pro Bowls (I have no idea what their system is as far as deciding where to play those).  That brings in tourists who spend money now and come back later.  In case you haven't realized, tourism is the lifeblood of San Diego and therefore also the Chargers franchise.

And, even more doggone it, as much as the Spanos family, the Chargers’ owners, might like to pay for the whole thing, they just can’t make themselves do it. And for good reason: It would be stupid. It would be stupid because they’ve learned, both from experience (the ticket guarantee, their current lease on Qualcomm) and from observing their cousins (the Padres/Petco Park), that the city of San Diego is easily snookered.


More mocking tone.  I guess Mr. Salm doesn't believe his facts alone are good enough.  His tone will surely win over the readers!

I am not as silly as Mr. Salm and others who think that since the Spanos family has money they should just pay for their own stadium.  Who cares if it costs millions or billions that they'll never get back?  They're rich!  How much do they really need?  This is a socialist point of view, but the Spanos family knows that the city and it's taxpayers are struggling to pay for anything right now so they have offered to fund the entire project if the city can sell them land for free or cheap in an area where they can build a community around the stadium that would make the ordeal profitable.  This is a business and the Chargers are more than willing to make an investment that would keep them in San Diego and eventually make them money (while making it easier on the city and fans), but so far they've yet to find the right spot/price.  It has been the fault more of the cities than the team.

After all, a city without an NFL team is, by definition … a city without an NFL team. And do you know what people who live in big, NFL-deficient cities like Los Angeles and Portland and San Antonio, not to mention every other American burg without an NFL team, have to do in order to see pro football? They have to watch it on TV - just like about 97.5 percent of the people in San Diego County do, and would have to do even should a new stadium be built, because, after all, the things only seat about 60,000.


Doggone it, he's right!  Most of the people have the watch the game on TV anyways, so we'd only be inconveniencing 60,000 people in a city of millions.  Screw the Chargers!  We don't need them!

I can do the mocking tone too, but gosh do I hate to.  At this point it has been made very clear that Arthur Salm is not a football fan.  He doesn't realize that it's not the same 60,000 people at the game each week.  He doesn't understand that fans also like to go to practices and training camp.  He probably thinks that if the Chargers left they wouldn't lose a fan, even though the UT and local news would stop covering them (and cut back on the sports section greatly).  Also, without a DirecTV satellite on top of every home and an NFL League Pass purchased by everyone (those things are not cheap), there's no way every Chargers fan in San Diego would see every Chargers game.  They're be lucky to get half of the games.  More often they'd be watching the "game of the week" when they're prefer to watch the Chargers pummel the Raiders.

From an out-of-town fan, I can't tell you how much I love actually being in San Diego during football season.  It warms me to see the fans in jerseys walking down the street, to read Chargers news in a local newspaper, to dream of accidentally bumping into Shawne Merriman at the grocery store or to watch the game in a San Diego bar that's filled with Chargers fans.  All of that dies if the Chargers leave town, and I would be crushed if it did....even as someone who only gets to experience it 2-3 times a year currently.

But here’s the dirty big secret about the Chargers: Their economic impact on the area is negligible. They employ relatively few people - they’re at most a medium-small company, by almost any measure. A lot of the jobs they do provide are seasonal, and a lot are low-wage. A few dozen Charger employees make a great deal of money, but many of them don’t even live here in the off-season.

And as for bringing dollars into the area, well, not really. Most people who go to the games are local. They love it, they have a whale of a time, but the cash for their tickets and nachos and beer goes mostly into quarterback, cornerback, running back, and Spanos pockets. Nothing wrong with that - business is business - but it’s not like the money’s going toward filling potholes, building fire stations or, god forbid, paying teachers.


So the Chargers can go ahead and leave town because San Diego has no need for low-wage jobs 6 months every year?  I don't understand that.  I have a handful of friends that work low-wage jobs for the Padres and they don't do it for the heck of it.  They need that money.  My brother spent a few years working for a security company that did 75% of it's jobs for the Chargers.  That's a company that probably goes under when the Chargers leave town.  Not to mention the businesses that rely on the Chargers to make them money in Mission Valley or right in the stadium by bringing in traffic.  What about the stores at the malls and downtown that sell Chargers/Padres gear?  The Chargers economic value goes far beyond their staff of employees.

Also, once again, San Diego is not a socialist county.  Just because the Chargers have a good business plan does not make them responsible for filling potholes or paying teachers.  How about we go to La Jolla or Rancho Bernando and tell the people with big houses that they're responsible for paying for these things?  Those residents, just like the Chargers and their owners/employees, pay taxes!  Considering how much money is being made, I'm willing to bet they pay MILLIONS in taxes.  It's the city's responsibility to turn that money into new roads and happy teachers.  THAT'S HOW OUR GOVERNMENT WORKS.

Another argument for you and me and Aunt Betty’s pitching in to help build a new stadium for the Spanos family is that every now and then the Super Bowl comes to town, and if we don’t have something bright and shiny and new, it might never show up again. The NFL blows a lot of smoke about the hundreds of millions of dollars the Super Bowl brings into an area, but reputable academic studies have refuted this, some estimating that the true economic impact is around 10 per cent of what the NFL claims. That debate isn’t settled, but bear in mind that 1) there are going to be a lot of people in San Diego hotel rooms and restaurants every January weekend of every year; the fact that every seventh or tenth or whateverth [cq] year, those people may be here to see the Super Bowl, doesn’t change things much, even if they do spend (read: drink) more; and 2) the NFL is not an unbiased party.

The Chargers and the Spanos family are small potatoes. If, stadium-less, they depart for a greener gridiron, as they’ve been threatening to do since Alonzo Horton and Wyatt Earp brought the team to San Diego in 1887, the local economy will never miss them.


Now I'm starting to wonder if Mr. Athur Salm, San Diego News Network's City Columnist, even lives in San Diego.  Have you ever been downtown during Super Bowl week?  I was there for the last one (Oakland/TB), before Petco Park made it even busier, and OH MY GOD.  It was like the city was hit with a tidal wave of tourists.  There was 2 hour wait at every restaurant and bar.  For someone who loves the Gaslamp Quarter and frequents it's restaurants and bars, it's annoying as hell.  For the businesses in the city, it's heaven.  Those businesses make more money, they pay more taxes and the city gets more in the end.  

Although maybe I'm over exaggerating, maybe it's exactly like that "every January weekend of every year".  Even though Mr. Salm's not-at-all-made-up facts from "some" estimate that the NFL is lying to you about how much money a Super Bowl brings in for the host city, I'm pretty sure the teams and cities that spend hundreds of millions building new stadiums just to get a Super Bowl (Detroit comes to mind) aren't doing it for the hell of it.  I guess Mr. Salm's response would be that these NFL teams are swindling these cities into chipping in (even though some don't, such as with Dallas' new stadium), but my faith in the government being mostly-filled with intelligent people doubts that very much.

Look, part of this is heart.  I love San Diego and I love being a Chargers fan.  I very much want those two things to stay related for the rest of my life.  However, it makes financial sense for the city of San Diego if the Chargers stay in-town.  It makes less financial sense for the Chargers to stay here when they could move to a larger market without having to pay for a stadium, but it genuinely looks like they're interested in making it work in San Diego.  Which is really all we can ask for from the Spanos family.


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