San Diego already has its own casualties from the NFL players strike, and they fall in a ripple effect from the hard seats of Jack Murphy Stadium.
Closest to the scene are most of the 1,600 people who make the stadium work whenever the Chargers play. They are the ones who take the tickets, sell beer and souvenirs, park cars, drive buses, provide protection and clean up the mess after the NFL's weekly party is over and everyone is gone. They get paid by the hour, work part time and don't have guaranteed contracts.
Then there is the City of San Diego, which expected to pay $1 million this year to help subsidize the stadium. But that was before the strike, which the stadium's business manager says will cost the city $187,000 in revenues each Sunday the Chargers don't play and will mean a higher subsidy.
To make up the difference, officials may have to postpone planned stadium improvements or book a major concert next summer. That won't be easy, since every stadium in the NFL will be out there trying to hustle the same promoters.
Sports Saloon Won't Open
From there, the ripples lap at the doors of saloons all over town. Gary Polasky, manager of Rocky's Balboa--the sports bar wonderland in Pacific Beach with 12 television screens and three satellite dishes--says the tavern will be closed Sunday.
On a typical Sunday of professional football, Rocky's fills with 275 customers, with an hour wait at the door. "Our business will be devastated Sunday," said Polasky succinctly. "We'll probably be hurt more than any business in San Diego."
For those who work at the stadium, the strike will mean a loss of pay. For the 52 bus drivers of San Diego Transit--who on game day ferry 3,000 people to the stadium--the strike means a day without overtime.
The average driver making time-and-a-half overtime is paid $19.75 an hour, which after a usual 7 1/2-hour day amounts to $148. That comes to about $7,700 for all 52 drivers for the day. On that same day, Dan Fouts will lose $46,875, Kellen Winslow, $46,563. And of course, owner Alex Spanos will be out hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Rich Murphy, vice president of operations for the bus company, said San Diego Transit, unlike the city, won't be hurt by the strike because the typical $4 fare paid by football fans pays the cost of the drivers and buses. "Our system is designed to break even," Murphy said. The only hitch is that the bus company will have to refund money paid by customers who bought bus passes for the season.
Stadium Workers Idled
The stadium's biggest game day employer by far is Service America Corp., the firm that's operated the concessions for 18 years. It employs 1,000 workers on a typical NFL Sunday, employees who earn an average of about $6.50 an hour. "We're going through a lot of reforecasting right now," said Service America general manager Bud Cappello. He declined to say how much the company stands to lose, but said it would be substantial. The city estimates it will lose its 20% cut of the concessions Sunday, which it put at $45,000.
Cappello noted that Service America also operates concessions for football stadiums in Indianapolis and Cleveland.
Then there are the 200 to 220 private security guards who augment the 30 San Diego police officers at the stadium. They make about $6 an hour, and for some of them, providing security at Padre and Charger games is their only means of support, said Michael Gore, vice president of G&D Enterprises Inc., the stadium's NFL security company since 1979.
Many of the stadium's workers are represented by unions. One of the largest segments, consisting of about 300 employees, is represented by the Service Employees Union, Local 102. The union's president, Eliseo Medina, said the workers support the strike.
"We support the strike . . . though our workers have been put in the middle," Medina said. The unions, he explained, are discussing what to do if the NFL owners go through with their plan and play games with scabs.
The San Diego-Imperial Counties Central Labor Council has called a press conference for noon today to announce support for the strike.
"In all the contracts there is a no strike clause," Medina said. "That's what we're looking at now . . . because this situation is so different; it's outside of normal operating procedures and normal (stadium) events."
Double Whammy for City
The strike--especially a prolonged one--presents a double whammy for the City of San Diego. Jack McGrory, deputy city manager, said that because of the Padres poor showing this year--they've been mired in last-place for most of the baseball season--fewer fans have bought tickets. That translates into fewer dollars for the city.
Now with a football strike, the revenue stream is turning into a trickle. "We're going to have to look at some additional special events and belt tightening, and capital projects we might have to defer," McGrory said, noting the combination of the events will likely result in the city's subsidy for the year topping $1 million.