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Mayor's plan would halt 'hated ticket guarantee'

SAN DIEGO -- Mayor Dick Murphy offered a proposal Wednesday
to settle a nasty legal fight between the city and the Chargers.

A team spokesman said he was encouraged even though the lengthy
plan didn't guarantee a new stadium.

Basically, the proposal would redo the city's controversial 1995
lease with the team. By removing some of the terms that have
angered taxpayers, the deal could help the team get a measure for a new
stadium on the ballot in 2006.

Murphy proposed an immediate end to a ticket guarantee and asked
the Chargers to drop a lawsuit against the city seeking to validate
the team's right to exercise an "out" clause in the current lease. The
Chargers must agree to play in San Diego at least through 2008 and
forfeit their rights to renegotiate the lease.

The Chargers also could not negotiate with other cities before
January 2007. If the team leaves San Diego after 2008, it would
have to pay a termination fee of more than $57 million to help
retire bonds that helped pay for a previous stadium expansion.

"This is the last, best hope to reach agreement to what we
think is fair to both sides, and we certainly hope and expect that
the Chargers will agree to this," city councilman Michael Zucchet
said. Zucchet recently was added to the city's negotiating team.

Mark Fabiani, the Chargers' lead negotiator, said the team was
"very encouraged" by Murphy's plan.

The proposal still must be approved by the City Council and
formally presented to the Chargers.

"I don't want to jump the gun and accept something that hasn't
been offered," Fabiani said. "Presuming it comes to us in a form
that resembles this, I think you can say we're very positive about
it."

The City Council has scheduled a public hearing for Monday.

The ticket guarantee has caused friction ever since it was
included in a new stadium lease in 1995. Since 1997, when Qualcomm
Stadium was expanded, the city has guaranteed the Chargers revenue
equivalent to the sale of 60,000 general admission seats. That
clause has cost the city $36.4 million for unsold tickets.

"If this settlement is approved, we will turn the page on one
of the darkest chapters in San Diego sports history, namely, the
hated ticket guarantee," Murphy said.

Said Zucchet: "The city of San Diego will never again purchase
tickets for football games."