Yesterday I posted an open letter to Jim Steeg, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the San Diego Chargers. In a nutshell, I was voicing my disappointment with the combination of increased parking fees and less time to tailgate. Please visit and read the original post to get the full story.
When I checked my email this morning I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from Mr. Jim Steeg himself. It has been well documented, I have had my issues with the NFL and some of their stances regarding the limitations on tailgating. In both instances I was contacted immediately by those representatives close to the issue and was not passed off to some intern or office staff member. In the case of the grilling ban at the Super Bowl, Brain McCarthy, the NFL Director of Corporate Communications, called me and we had a 25 minute phone conversation. In the case of my issues with the San Diego Chargers, Jim Steeg personally emailed me even before I was able to fax and mail my letter of complaint. Although I may still have some issues with the policy changes I have no issues with the way I was treated professionally and with respect.
For those interested, I am providing you with the email response (with his permission by the way) I received from Jim Steeg this morning after the jump.
I have read your posting and feel that it deserves a response.
As you are aware the City of San Diego controls the parking lots at Qualcomm Stadium. It is the City through the Stadium Manager’s direction that sets polices for actions there. You will note that at the press conference held this past Wednesday that stadium General Manager Mike McSweeney and San Diego Police Chief Lansdowne were the lead speakers.
The policies set in place for this year were done in conjunction with the City, San Diego Police Department, Elite Show Services, Centerplate, Ace Parking and ourselves. In addition San Diego State University, the Holiday Bowl/Poinsettia Bowl and other annual stadium promoters at Qualcomm Stadium were consulted. The discussions of policies have been over the past 4 years, but these policies are a result of 10 months worth of discussion/meetings including conversations with season ticket holders.
We collectively have spent a great deal of time studying the traffic flow at Charger games. Depending on the game there has always been a lull in arrivals (excluding the RV area) from 4 ½ to 3 ½ hours prior to the game. The lots, except for the inner ring reserved parking, are usually full 90 minutes prior to kickoff. The vast majority of fans arrive 3 ½ to 2 ½ hours prior to kickoff unless they are coming on the trolley which handles up to 20,000 fans each game. Many tailgaters send in “advance” individuals to reserve their location at parking lot gate opening and then await the rest to arrive. I should note as an aside that the NFL has recommended that 3 hours is sufficient time for parking lots to open prior to games. I do think that our lot opening is among the earliest in the NFL.
At issue is the behavior of the fans that are affecting the enjoyment of Qualcomm Stadium events by the vast majority of attending fans. There is a total consensus that the actions that occur are initiated by irresponsible people in the parking lots. I am sure that you have seen this yourself as a Charger game attendee and tailgater.
If fans would take responsibility for their own actions and also affect the behavior of those they see acting irresponsibly then laws, rules and policies do not have to be put in place. As you have noted there is a problem currently.
I should note that I attended multiple training sessions this past week for all staff that will work Charger games this year. When I mentioned the later gate opening universally I saw nods and smiles of appreciation in addition to comments that actions were being taken to curb improper behavior.
Parking rates have increased over the past five years. They were among the lowest in the NFL and now are about average. We have addressed the portable toilet situation and continue to ask the City to add more. There will be increased Ace Parking attendants this year and the San Diego Police Department will be more prominent including adding RSVP’s (retired senior police officers) to be active in the parking lots. Costs have increased including adherence to the City‘s Living Wage Ordinance.
We have responded to the vast majority of our fans who see the behavior at Charger games changing and have requested action to be taken.
I would challenge you that instead of taking issues with the policies, your issues should be controlling the actions of your fellow tailgaters. If you truly have a voice with the fans you can have an affect. The issues are not with the policies, but with those who cause the policies to be put in place. It would be a much better placed priority by you that fans start working to ensure that other fans act responsibly and are considerate of others. There will be a system whereby you can contact the proper authorities if you see an issue via text messaging or email. I would challenge you to lead a campaign to ensure that the Qualcomm parking lot is the best place to come tailgate and that it is a place to have fun, get ready to enjoy a game and ensure everyone leaves in a proper fashion. It is up to YOU to decide what is the proper, acceptable behavior at Qualcomm Stadium.
Why not initiate a fan campaign to affect fan behavior? We have tried to affect the behavior through our fan Code of Conduct, why not your own tailgater Code of Conduct?
Our goal is to make attending a Charger game the best experience in sports, but we need your help and that of everyone attending to ensure that.
My response back.
Thank you very much for your rapid response. It really means a lot to
me to receive a personal email from you and not a canned, pre-packaged
I understand that you have lots of things going on, especially on the
eve of the first pre-season game so it is not my intent to eat up your
day exchanging emails. I did have a few follow up questions to your
Regarding the increased parking fees now coming more in line with
other NFL teams… do those parking lots offer more amenities than
what the Q offers? I know at Arrowhead Stadium they have real
restrooms with flush toilets, running water, etc. You have already hit
on the portable toilet situation at the Q and how it is unacceptable
the way it is now. We all know you get what you pay for and
justifying a raise in fees “because everyone else does it” is not fair
unless the tailgaters are getting a better experience. As for the
increased living wage issue, I estimated that a parking lot of around
17,000 parking spaces and an increase of $5 per vehicle comes out to
roughly $85,000 a game more than the fees collected last year. That’s
over a 3/4 million dollars over the course of 2 pre-season games and 8
regular season games. You mean to tell me that Ace Parking is paying
close to a 3/4 million dollars in increased employee salaries this
year? (I am using round figures here because I do not know the break
down of RV spaces compared to passenger vehicle spaces but we all know
the RV tailgater pays much more than $25 a game to park.)
I would agree that intoxicated fans who are obnoxious and unruly ruin
a good time for everyone. I would also like to point out that the few
unruly and out of control fans are now dictating policy and rules to
be followed by the vast majority of those tailgating responsibly. I
guess the old saying holds true, “a few bad apples spoil the whole
I will take you up on your suggestion to construct a tailgaters code
of conduct and I will seek feedback from my readers and visitors to
help compile it. Personally I am a responsible tailgater and I
encourage others to be responsible as well. Unfortunately I can only
affect my behavior. If a tailgating neighbor decides to get obnoxious
and offensive, as an individual I can not do much to stop him/her from
doing that. I can’t monitor the amount of alcohol someone else is
choosing to consume and the onus is on them to tailgate responsibly. I
encourage everyone to tailgate the right way but ultimately it comes
down to their own personal choices.
With your permission I would like to share your email you sent to me
and post it on my website. In the interest of “equal time” I think my
readers would appreciate reading your response and gaining perspective
from you. Thank you again for the email response and here is to a
great season for the Chargers on the field and a great fan experience
off of it.
Jim Steeg’s response back.
Unfortunately some of the answers to your questions are complicated.
As you know we lease the stadium from the City of San Diego. It is their obligation to maintain and improve it. One provision is that the City no longer has to maintain the stadium as state of the art. Items like restrooms in the parking lot are capital expenditures the City needs to undertake. Since the lease was rewritten in 2004, the City has increased their deficit on maintenance to as much as $75 million. Outside of TV’s there has been very little spent on improvements.
As I am sure you have followed the saga of the potential for a new stadium, the Chargers are in the bottom quartile of revenues for NFL teams. Our revenue streams are less than most and in the cases of most we lag behind other teams. This means that we must at least maintain an average price on those where we are similar to other teams in order to be able to compete in paying players, coaches, etc.
A lot of problems and issues get solved with a new stadium.
Laws and rules are almost always made to affect the behavior of the minority. We just need to figure ways in our situation to rid ourselves of that group or make the general public let them know that they are not welcome. At least now we will have a texting service whereby fans who want action taken can let the authorities know that some one else is acting inappropriately.
I have no problem with you using my initial email to you.
Thanks for your passion and concern in wanting to make things better!
So there you have it. In a nutshell, don’t act like a jackass and drink too much and you won’t have your tailgating time reduced. Act like an idiot and expect to be treated as such.
I am interested in putting together not only a tailgaters code of conduct but also a tailgaters Bill of Rights. If you have an opinion on either of these, please leave a comment below or drop me an email.