Los Angeles Chargers: Plan to play at StubHub Center makes sense, but quite risky
By Travis Wakeman
In announcing their move to Los Angeles, the Chargers also made the announcement that they would be playing home games at StubHub Center next season. Really?
That move was likely surprising to hear for many people, particularly because NFL teams are used to playing in front of 70,000 fans or more on any given Sunday. However, the decision to play games in the home of the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer does make some sense.
Sure, the Chargers could have decided to play games inside the much larger Rose Bowl, but the fact that the organization chose a 30,000-seat stadium as its venue shows that it realizes that building a fan base for the Chargers is going to take time.
There is so much to do in Los Angeles, and that doesn’t even include the sporting scene. Throw in the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Rams, USC Trojans, UCLA Bruins and the occasional Galaxy game, and there is plenty to follow in the way of sports teams.
So how are the Chargers going to fit in? By trying to win people over, literally.
The Chargers will hope that at least 30,000 fans will want to see players like Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Joey Bosa. They’ll also hope that they can find success on the field relatively quickly, locking in those 30,000 or so fans and creating a loyal fan base that is willing to follow the team to Hollywood Park when it shares the new stadium there with the Rams. They’ll also hope that more fans have been collected along the way, wishing they were one of the first 30,000.
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That’s a lot of hope.
This is why Dean Spanos, who will likely forever be public enemy No. 1 in San Diego, should have rebranded the franchise. Yes, he’s probably hanging onto hope that some fans in San Diego will still support the Chargers and while some will, few of them are likely to make the drive up to LA every Sunday as a season ticket holder.
This team’s job will be to fit inside a large pool of teams in one of the country’s largest cities, one that went without professional football for over 20 years and didn’t seem all that excited to have it back last year. Yes, that likely has to do with the Rams’ futility in 2016, something the Chargers could take advantage of if they can create a winning product under new coach Anthony Lynn.
At the same time, LA didn’t want or need the Chargers. They’ll be easily forgotten if they start out say 0-3 or 0-4.
Playing at StubHub gives the team a chance to reach a small percentage of football fans in Los Angeles and keep them loyal to their team and their team only. Many fans may find that exciting. But what happens when the Raiders come to town and 75 percent of the crowd is wearing silver and black? Because guess what? That’s going to happen. What happens if the team never sells out a soccer stadium?
Still, it makes more sense to go this route than to have 25,000 fans show up to a Chargers game at the Rose Bowl. Even if it’s only 30,000 seats, a sellout is a sellout and will give off a much better impression than to have one of the world’s most famous stadiums more than half-empty.
Of course, winning will be the cure-all. Clippers coach Doc Rivers gets that (video). Spanos and Lynn will need to get that too.