City, Stadium Dispute for Whom The Who Toils

Times Staff Writer

The Who is the rock group bringing in the money, but the question is, who will get the money that The Who brings in?

Assistant City Manager Jack McGrory says the estimated $300,000 the British rockers are expected to net for the stadium should pass automatically into the city's general fund, to be used for city improvements as a whole.

Stadium Authority Board member Mike Gotch said he and others on the nine-member body favor the money's being used for stadium improvements, such as seat replacement and the installation of rubberized, non-slip flooring.

The stadium is bringing The Who to San Diego, Gotch argues, so the stadium should get the money.

"I work for the city manager," said stadium Manager Bill Wilson, who has booked The Who for an Aug. 22 concert. "So you see where I stand on this one. My job is to run the stadium. I want to stay out of this one."

McGrory said the City Council, which has jurisdiction over the authority board, may have to decide the matter at a stadium budget hearing in mid-June.

"Our position is that the stadium operation has been subsidized by the general fund as long as we can remember," McGrory said. "We put $500,000 to $1 million into the stadium every year just to help it break even. We think earmarking revenues is a bad precedent. It hasn't been done before. Why should we do it now?

"Money coming into the city goes into a general fund and is spent according to citywide priorities," McGrory said. "Our suggested compromise is that, if the stadium breaks even on its own (in 1989), we could take the surplus revenues from the concert and put those into capital improvements at the stadium."

Gotch said the authority board has recommended to the council that all stadium-generated proceeds be directed to the stadium for improvements. He said the rubberized, non-slip flooring has been budgeted for $140,000 for fiscal year 1990, $460,000 in 1992 and $600,000 in 1995. He said seat replacement will cost $125,000 a year over the next four years.

"By the time those improvements are completed, the next Super Bowl will have come and gone," Gotch said, provided San Diego is approved as host of one of the upcoming games. "Hopefully, a World Series will have come and gone. At least 10 million people will have passed through the gates by then," he said "We're going to ask the City Council to condense the capital-improvement time frame to three years. It can easily be accomplished if revenues from concerts be directed to the stadium."

Wilson said the new flooring and seats could be installed sooner than expected, provided the National League Padres continue at a pace that will see 2.4 million fans pass through the gates during the current baseball season. If the National Football League Chargers have a good year, that would only bolster the capital-improvement timetable, Wilson said.

He noted that the Rolling Stones want to come to the stadium for a two-day concert in November that McGrory said could net the stadium (or is it the city?) as much as $750,000. But both said the Stones' chances are nil, since a two-day event, spanning seven hours each day, would do permanent damage to the field. They said the Stones' proposal is bitterly opposed by the Chargers and San Diego State University Aztecs, regular tenants who share the

field during that month.

"Two days of the Stones would reduce the field to what (Chargers' official) Jack Teele calls Astro Dirt," Wilson said. "We can't have a two-day concert on that field at that time under any circumstances. In August, we'd have a chance to repair the field. But in November, with two teams playing on it, we'd have to play 10 games on nothing but dirt."

Wilson said a one-day appearance by the Stones hasn't been ruled out, but rock fans shouldn't be optimistic about seeing them here; the Stones have said they want to play in November for two days or not at all.

$5 Million in Improvements

McGrory said the city manager's office has approved $5 million in stadium improvements over the past four years, including a new parking lot and sound system. He said the stadium requires about $5 million a year from the general fund just to break even. He said its operating expenses run about $4.5 million a year and its annual bond payment of $2.5 million will have to be made through the year 2003.

Its revenues run only about $6.3 million a year, McGrory said, "so if the Padres and Chargers have lousy years, we're the ones making up the difference."

McGrory pointed out that, despite having jurisdiction over the authority board, the City Council need not approve events booked for the stadium. So the council won't be asked to rubber-stamp the Stones, The Who or any other group Wilson schedules for rock shows.

What happens to the money such groups generate is, of course, a different matter. As McGrory pointed out, money is the only reason rock bands would ever be courted. As it is, the stadium has not permitted a rock show that required seating on the field since 1983, and the group playing that night was The Who.

The unofficial ban on concerts came about because of the quagmire the field became and the extra security that such events require.

If individual tenants had their way, "We'd never have a concert in the stadium," McGrory said, "and that includes The Who--no matter how much money we make. The tenants just don't feel it's worth it. We've worked too hard to get the field in its present condition, and we're not going to tear it apart just for the sake of money."

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