Exploring options for the Chargers in S.D. and L.A.
By Joel Garcia
Much to the chagrin of San Diego fans, the Chargers have the option of joining the Rams in Los Angeles and do not need league or any other type of approval to do so. With less than a week away from a decision and with the Colosseum in Los Angeles already housing the Rams and the USC Trojans, where would the Chargers play if they move? Is it possible that the team stays in San Diego?
The Chargers have until Jan. 15 (UPDATE: Jan. 17) to make joining the Rams in Los Angeles official. The team received that option from the NFL when their joint Carson Stadium plans with the Oakland Raiders was rejected in favor of the Rams’ Inglewood stadium plans.
Chargers ownership does not need league permission to either stay in San Diego or move to Los Angeles. Regardless, the options for the Chargers to stay in San Diego are not nil, but also do not look promising.
Measure C fails
Measure C was born when team ownership spent $10 million and worked with local San Diego politicians on a vote that would allow the use of public funds for a stadium. However, voters soundly defeated the measure (only 42 percent voted in the affirmative), setting in motion a few things: The Chargers met with the Rams and agreed in principle to move in with them in Los Angeles; the Chargers leased office space in Costa Mesa (just a few miles south of the Inglewood stadium), and angst began in earnest for many San Diego faithful.
Nov 6, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon (28) looks on from the field before the game against the Tennessee Titans at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego Chargers
In an attempt to keep the Chargers in town, Qualcomm officials have offered the team a $1 per year lease good for 99 years. The team is also allowed to make changes to the site. However, if the Chargers do not accept the offer, there are no guarantees that a similarly generous offer would be forthcoming.
Besides the free lease ($99/99 years), staying in San Diego does provide the Chargers with a little added leverage, as the NFL would prefer that the team stay. This would add pressure on the NFL to provide additional funding for a new stadium, thus helping the funding gap the team sought to alleviate through the failed Measure C.
The San Diego option also allows Chargers ownership to show their commitment to the fans, alleviating concerns of the team moving and letting the team proceed with local marketing and ticket sales.
San Diego hurdles
However, there are some drawbacks to the team not moving. One of these is that passing on Los Angeles means the Oakland Raiders can move on south. With Los Angeles being the nation’s second-largest television market, San Diego games may no longer make it regularly to the lineup as they do now.
Additionally, Los Angeles would no longer be an option for the Chargers, although all the work the Raiders have done with Las Vegas could still leave an option for the Chargers. Thus, any leverage the team has over the NFL now would be squandered, in effect, leaving the team back to square one: The Chargers would be a team looking for a local stadium deal or a new market… again!
Los Angeles Chargers
The options for the Chargers in L.A. come with the promise of financial incentives. The St. Louis Rams doubled their team worth upon becoming the Los Angeles Rams. Likewise, Forbes estimates that a move north would add even more value to the Chargers, as just having the option to move to Los Angeles saw the team climb in value from $1.5 billion in 2015 to over $2 billion last year. Is another billion on the books with a move?
Moving to Los Angeles also comes with unknowns. If the Chargers decide to join the Rams in Los Angeles, they would be abandoning a market they solely control and in turn play second fiddle to the Rams before a fickle fan base. Without a winning product on the field, fan support would be an immediate issue, as the Rams found out this year, with television ratings being higher in St. Louis than in the local Los Angeles market.
If the Chargers do indeed chase the dollars, the question of what “home” means for an L.A. NFL franchise arise again. The Rams faced a similar question at the beginning of the season and it is hard to say how much all the distractions accounted for the product on the field. This is an uncertainty the Chargers would share for a few seasons, as the Ram’s stadium is not scheduled to be ready for play until 2019.
Where is home?
Mar 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers helmets and the Olympic torch at the peristyle end of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum will serve as the temporary home of the Rams after NFL owners voted 30-2 to allow Rams owner Stan Kroenke (not pictured) to relocate the franchise for the 2016 season. Chargers owner Dean Spanos (not pictured) has an option to join the Rams in Los Angeles. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Chargers have a few options in this respect. Team officials spoke with Coliseum officials about the possibility of joining the Rams and the USC Trojans for home games.
There are other options available, like Dodgers Stadium, Angels Stadium and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, but an intriguing option is for the Chargers to play home games at the StubHub Center in Carson, Ca., just minutes down Interstate 405 from Inglewood.
What makes the StubHub option interesting is that the center is built for Major League Soccer, with the Los Angeles Galaxy calling the center home, and holds only 27,525 fans. That would be by far the smallest venue of any NFL team.
Selling out games should not be a problem and the added intimacy could make for a suitable L.A. move phased approach. Ticket prices would also be higher, adding a “premium” feel for home games.
Fans will not be in limbo for much longer. A decision will come down in less than a week now. At this point, a Los Angeles move looks all but certain, but there are those who remain hopeful a deal that keeps the team in town can still be worked out.
Should the Chargers, at the risk of losing out on the Los Angeles option, continue to work for a stadium deal in San Diego? Or should they take the added team value and larger market potential and look to Los Angeles?