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Drive for stadium helped by victories?

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Concudan, Feb 11, 2007.

  1. Concudan

    Concudan Still Chargin Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 5, 2006

    By: MIKE SULLIVAN - Staff Writer - Analysis

    SAN DIEGO ---- The Chargers are looking for a win-win situation in their bid for a new stadium. And on-field wins certainly don't hurt the cause.

    With the Chargers fresh off a 14-2 season, with the populace excited about the best season in franchise history, interest in the team is as fierce as it has ever been. Some might say there's no better time for the Chargers to expedite the process and seek a solution.

    But Mark Fabiani, the team's point man on stadium issues, sees little correlation between the win-loss record and the process of finding new digs to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium. He says the pressures of getting a deal done don't change after a spectacular season.

    "There's no more urgency than already exists," Fabiani said recently. "We've been at this five years. We really have spent a lot of time and money on it, and that creates its own urgency. When you've been doing something for five years, you need to produce results.

    "Clearly, the success on the field is a huge thing, mostly because it convinces people that you're going to spend the money to win. When you're locking up all of your key players on long-term contracts, people appreciate that. That's a huge thing to make those kind of multimillion financial commitments."

    General manager A.J. Smith is the man who has doled out big-money contracts to many of the team's key players. But his focus is on building the best football team he can regardless of the stadium dilemma.

    Smith is aware of what's going on and says he gets occasional briefings from Fabiani and team president Dean Spanos. Though the matter is unrelated to his job, he knows that 14-win seasons definitely aid the push.

    "I'm not the least bit conscious of it except that I know winning is a good thing and is always a good thing," Smith said. "What happens on the business side of it, I really don't know. I'm not involved in it and I don't sit in on meetings with it.

    "The only thing that I know is that Dean Spanos is trying everything he possibly can to remain here in San Diego."

    Coach Marty Schottenheimer also knows that success can only help ---- the team is 35-13 over the past three regular seasons ---- as the team analyzes locations in Oceanside, Chula Vista and National City in search of a new home.

    Schottenheimer's focus might be on what occurs on the field, but he's keenly aware of the buzz in the community.

    "When you look at our community in San Diego, we have a professional sports franchise that I think brings people together," Schottenheimer said. "People are able to share a common interest and a common purpose. Given the nature of sports and its interaction with the media and television, everybody that chooses to gets to experience that and everybody feels a lot better when you're winning than when you're losing.

    "That, to me, is where the real satisfaction and gratification for me personally comes from because you know you're a small part of what hundreds of thousands of people are enjoying.

    "No longer is it just a coach or a player or the owner that is experiencing that excitement, but it's a community that can share in that. Ultimately, that's what this thing is about."

    Winning does wonders in the community, which is why it can only help propel public sentiment that the stadium deal must get done.

    The emotions involved with the Chargers' success caused a flurry of spending as the season advanced into January and a home playoff game against the New England Patriots. LaDainian Tomlinson jerseys flew off store shelves, blue-and-gold-clad fans flocked to the stadium for a rally, and the city was at a fever pitch in anticipation of a Super Bowl run.

    "From the simple reality of the enthusiasm built by the Chargers having a winning year, the atmosphere in the community leading up to the playoff game was immeasurable," San Diego International Sports Council president Joe Moeller said. "Take the individual in San Diego that's not really into football. Instead of a walk on the beach, that person might go to a friend's home to watch the game because of the excitement. That's the economic engine of football at work."

    That engine is churning, even if the stadium process is chugging slowly while the team assesses locations and seeks a solution.

    The Chargers would like to be playing in a new state-of-the-art football stadium within the next decade. The best-case scenario would be identifying a site and putting a proposal on the ballot in November 2008.

    So a successful season in 2007 ---- imagine the atmosphere if a Super Bowl trip occurs ---- can only boost the excitement of fans desperate for a deal to assure their heroes don't depart town. Recall that the vote in which Petco Park was approved came just weeks after the Padres played in the 1998 World Series.

    The Chargers' recent track record of spending money to retain players should calm any fears that a stadium deal is just a way to cram more millions of dollars into the pockets of the team. Fabiani says the Chargers rank 28th out of 32 NFL teams in revenue and can't increase revenue streams without a new stadium.

    "When I get out to speak, that's the thing that I get from people," Fabiani said. "Of course, people are happy that you're winning and people are excited, but what they really understand is that you're going to use the money.

    "If you get more money from a new stadium, you're going to put it into your players and your coaches."

    Still, there's a lot of work to be done to reach a deal. The Chargers have strongly stated that the No. 1 priority is to remain in San Diego County, and the outlook remains positive that a solution will eventually be found.

    "I would hope that the community and all the parties will find a resolution," Schottenheimer said. "I personally think it's a win-win situation for everybody involved if the Chargers continue to be the San Diego Chargers."

    Contact staff writer Mike Sullivan at (760) 739-6645 or msullivan@nctimes.com.


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