The San Diego Charger fans came to Spreckles Theater on Wednesday night and spoke…and spoke…and spoke.
At times, the NFL town hall meeting had a feel of a bitter divorce hearing with a whole lot of blame to go around.
The anticipation to the start of the proceedings was similar to a rock concert. Loyal Charger enthusiasts began chanting “No Way LA” before singing the “San Diego Super Chargers” team fight song, and then four members of the league’s relocating committee made their way onto the stage.
To open the evening’s festivities, Eric Grubman, the NFL’s point person, announced to the crowd that Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani wanted to make a brief public statement. In true WWE fashion, San Diego’s top heel was roundly booed until Grubman begged the audience to quiet down and let him speak.
The same old rhetoric came out of Captain Sunshine’s mouth, as Fabiani didn’t want to highlight the work done by the Spanos family in the last 14 years trying to obtain a new local stadium deal. Fabiani blamed San Diego government officials, not the fans for the Chargers resistance to negotiate with the city, as their disagreement centers around the environmental impact report (EIR).
The team feels the EIR is flawed and leaves them risking it all if a lawsuit is filed to challenge the findings in the report. Fabiani failed to mention that California Governor Jerry Brown recently approved an accelerated judicial review on all possible lawsuits that could be filed. In the end, he wanted to reiterate that the Spanos family respects the process and will adhere to the league’s final ruling.
All that was missing from this entertaining opening act was the giant hook to pull Fabiani off the stage.
City councilman Scott Sherman received the night’s loudest ovation after giving a rousing speech that refuted Fabiani’s claim that city leaders couldn’t deliver a firm stadium plan. Sherman acknowledged that government leadership has come and gone, but the one constant is Fabiani’s employment with the Chargers and his negativism toward the latest round of negotiations between the team and the city of San Diego. He contends that Fabiani had been a long supporter of the Mission Valley project until this summer. Why the sudden change of course?
The Spanos family has preferred a downtown stadium to the city’s Mission Valley site since day one of the negotiation process. This was brought once again when environmental attorney Cory Briggs recently proposed a citizen’s initiative to help develop a stadium and convention center expansion building project.
The initiative would increase the city’s hotel tax from 10.5 -to-15.5 percent, as the money would be funneled into a general fund earmarked for the cost of the project. The one constant roadblock has been the hotel industry, who have been opposed to the Chargers moving into the downtown area for years, but the potential cash cow earned from the city hosting future Super Bowls, College Football Championship Games and Final Fours might be too tempting not to sway their opinion on the matter.
San Diego might be the eight-largest city in the United States, but it still has a small town mentality. You hope the NFL executives came away from Wednesday night’s meeting with how much the Chargers are apart of the local community and how passionate the fan base is about their team.
A move of this nature will alienate the NFL in this town, as under no certain terms are San Diegans going to support the Chargers in Los Angeles. As one speaker eloquently said, “Take a look at the Friday night traffic on the I-5, as LA is coming south to us for the weekend, we’re going to them.”
So. the story continues…