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San Diego Given More Time, More Questions


Chargers fans received good news on Tuesday when it was announced the NFL was rejecting the team’s Carson City proposal and sending the Rams to Los Angeles for the 2016 season. However, what looked at first to be a celebratory moment is littered with asterisks and complications.

The execution has not been stayed … the guillotine is merely jammed.

The Chargers have been approved for relocation and given the right to join the Rams in Inglewood. Dean Spanos has until Jan. 17, 2017 to make that decision, but really, the pertinent time frame is closer to four weeks than 12 months. That’s because in the next month or so, the Chargers must decide if they want to join the Rams this season or spend the year in San Diego making a last-ditch effort to build a new stadium in America’s Finest City.

If the Chargers move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season, they will share the Coliseum with the Rams until the new stadium in Inglewood is ready in 2019.

For fans who want to keep the Bolts in San Diego, there are plenty of reasons for optimism and just as many for pessimism. Let’s run down a few of them.

Reasons to be Optimistic

-Spanos has been open about not wanting to partner with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and not wanting to be a second tenant in the Inglewood stadium. Now, that is his only option if he wants to move to L.A.

-L.A. football fans want the Rams, not the Chargers. The Rams still have a huge fan base in Los Angeles after playing there from 1946-1994. If the Chargers share a stadium with the Rams, they will be seen as the “little brother” team, just as the Clippers are seen compared to the Lakers. That’s fitting, as the Clippers are another former San Diego team that bolted for La La Land.

-Because the Chargers have exclusive rights to the second L.A. vacancy between now and January 2017, it only makes sense to stay put for one more season if only to keep every option on the table. The Chargers can spend the next 12 months working to get a mutually agreeable stadium plan in place, which would hinge on a public vote in either June or November. Should that route prove fruitless, the Inglewood option will still be there next January.

-Staying put in San Diego will be significantly more cost effective, especially now that the NFL has offered an extra $100 million to the Chargers should they stay put. If you combine that with a $200 million “G-4” loan and $187 million in expected revenue from the sale of “personal seat licenses,” the Chargers are already halfway there in the pursuit of a $1 billion stadium. Mayor Kevin Faulconer was offering $350 million towards the Mission Valley project, which could make Spanos’ total payout less than $200 million.

Compare that to the costs in Inglewood, where Spanos would split the costs with Kroenke (putting Spanos on the hook for $950 million). Throw in the reported $550 million relocation fee and the San Diego option will be more than $1 billion cheaper.

“If Mr. Spanos has a sincere interest in reaching a fair agreement in San Diego, we remain committed to negotiating in good faith,” Faulconer said. “We are not interested in a charade by the Chargers if they continue to pursue Los Angeles.”

Reasons to be Pessimistic

-Spanos has often cited the fact the Chargers cannot compete in San Diego with another team in the Los Angeles area, which accounts for 25 percent of the Chargers’ ticket and merchandise sales. Well, that is no longer a hypothetical. The Rams will now eat up those L.A. sales, and if they are given a 12-month head start, may very well earn a dominating ownership of the city’s fan base.

-Even an extra 12 months of negotiating may not bring the Chargers and the city any closer to agreeing on a stadium location, let alone financing terms. The team still prefers a new stadium be constructed in downtown San Diego, while the stadium advisory board has recommended building in the current Mission Valley location. The Mission Valley proposal offers a quicker turnaround, especially with the possibility of expedited environmental reviews, but it may not be exciting enough to convince the Chargers to turn down an offer to play in the nation’s second largest media market.

-Even after the NFL’s decision, Spanos has not committed to reopening negotiations with the city.

“I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers,” Spanos said in a statement.

-It’s difficult to see how San Diego fans will pass any public vote or support the team in any meaningful way after Spanos was so open and aggressive in his efforts to jilt the city. If the bridge has not been burned completely, it is significantly singed.

-While the cost of staying in San Diego is much lower, the payout in Los Angeles is potentially much higher. Estimates indicate the Chargers could make $300 million per season in Los Angeles, nearly double the projections for a new stadium in San Diego.

-Mark Fabiani is still involved. At this point, Chargers fans would rather listen to a whale fart than anything Fabiani has to say.

Final Verdict

I believe the Chargers stay for another 12 months. Spanos is all about keeping his options open, and staying another season is the best way to do that. Plus, the NFL’s long-stated preference is to keep teams in their home markets, so the pressure is on the Chargers to give the city of San Diego an opportunity to pass a ballot measure before jumping ship.

Additionally, the NFL has long used the opening in Los Angeles to leverage cities into funding new stadiums. The preference is to keep that leverage in place for at least one more season, hopefully resulting in new stadium deals for the Chargers and/or Raiders.

What are your thoughts on the Chargers moving to Los Angeles? Discuss inside our new message boards!

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has also been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter @NFLinsider_Mike.

About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Football Insiders and MySpace Sports.

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