Fri, Sep 18, 2015

Stadium Update: Determined and Downright Scared

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San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium. Photo by Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports.

The Chargers are determined to relocate to the Los Angeles market as soon as possible, with designs on the 2016 season. But "determined" isn't the word that best describes the state of the organization at the moment ... that would be "scared."

The Chargers want out but the decision is not up to them. The league will hear petitions for relocation in January, at which point the owners will decide which of three candidates -- the Chargers, Raiders and Rams -- gets the green light to move to the nation's second largest media market.

For the Chargers, that means the primary challenge is not progressing the joint-stadium venture in Carson City ... it's making the case that league owners should vote to send the Bolts up the I-5 North. It's a tough sell, especially since fans in the Los Angeles area have made it clear they prefer to the return of the Rams or Raiders, both of whom played in the city as recently as 1994.

The best case the Chargers can make is this: "We have no other options! We've been negotiating with the city of San Diego for 14 years and have been unable to come up with a stadium solution. We need to move now to remain financially competitive!"

The city of San Diego -- trying to make a late rally even though the Chargers have now walked away from the negotiating table -- is doing the only thing it can do ... take the legs out from under that argument.

The city continues to push forward with its plans to complete accelerated environmental impact reports by Oct. 15, which would allow a public vote by Jan. 12. Should that vote pass, it would negate the Bolts' claim that there is no viable stadium solution in San Diego.

The Chargers, as evidenced by their defensive response, are scared of that possibility.

"We have made our position absolutely clear: We will not risk the future of the franchise on a quickie, half-baked EIR," Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani said Tuesday.

The environmental impact reports, expected to cost just north of $2 million, are being jointly funded by the city and county.

City officials met with Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league representatives a couple weeks back and were encouraged by the feedback they were given.

"Basically they said 'it looks like you're on a good track and we'll discuss it further in late July,'" Mike Hansen, the city's director of land use and environmental policy, told UT San Diego. "We haven't had any further discussions since then, but we also weren't expecting to."

What makes this a risky gamble by the Chargers is they have no strong fallback option. The Rams could always stay put, as the city of St. Louis appears determined to build a new stadium with or without the Rams. The Raiders won't stay in Oakland much longer, but if Los Angeles falls through, a move to San Antonio is likely for the Silver & Black.

As for the Chargers, if they don't make it to Los Angeles, they will have to crawl back to San Diego after spending the last few months giving the city a LaDainian Tomlinson-esque stiff arm.

The Spanos family is confident that won't happen. Dean and the boys are banking on the fact they can sell the league's 31 other owners on two ideas: 1) the latest stadium efforts by the city of San Diego are too little, too late; and 2) the Chargers cannot remain financially competitive in San Diego if another team moves into the Los Angeles market.

How will that pitch be received? It's still too early to tell, but there is a strong chance the league will put just one team in Los Angeles in 2016 and -- if everything goes well -- add another franchise a year or two later. And if one team is going to lead the way, it figures to be the Rams, who have a stronger connection to the area and a superior stadium plan.

It says here the Chargers will eventually follow the Rams to Los Angeles. The real question is this: If that move doesn't happen until 2017 or 2018, what kind of negative nonsense will come out of Mark Fabiani's mouth in the interim?

As author Bryant McGill once wrote: "All defensiveness and emotional tumult is a fear response because of your need for acceptance and ruthless control of the territory of your safe fantasy world."

And for the Chargers, the L.A. fantasy is alive and well.

What does the future hold for the Chargers in San Diego? 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 been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. In addition to being publisher of, he works as the Senior NFL Reporter for You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter @NFLinsider_Mike.

Dean Spanos, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Fabiani, Roger Goodell
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