The Runner Sports

Chargers Officially Announce Move To LA

The NFL continues its scorched-earth trail and leaves a second fanbase in as many years without representation as on Thursday, the San Diego Chargers officially announced their intent to move the franchise to Los Angeles starting in 2017.

The Chargers’ quest has been one of the more intriguing sports stories to follow for the last year. A team whose fan base turned out in abysmal numbers, and playing in one of the oldest NFL venues not named Soldier or Lambeau Field probably seems justifiable in seeking greener pastures. However, it was the ultimatum the organization handed down to the city of San Diego that drew most ire within the entire unfolding.

But let’s back it all up just a bit. Qualcomm Stadium was originally built in 1967 as the San Diego Stadium, and that’s what ties this whole sad tale together. In its first years in use, Qualcomm hosted both the Chargers and Padres (1969), as well as San Diego State Aztecs football. At its time of inception, Sports Illustrated dubbed it the “finest multi-purpose stadium in America.” Both the Chargers and Aztecs played there through this most recent turn of the new year, while the Padres ultimately left in 2004 upon the completion of their own site, Petco Park.

Qualcomm has hosted three Super Bowls, most recently back in 2003 where Jon Gruden spurned his former Oakland Raiders to win with his newly-anointed bad boys of the NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It also plays host to both the Poinsettia and Holiday Bowl annually. Additionally, it has grown into a versatile field for soccer, having hosted CONCACAF Gold Cup, and US Cup matches. It played host to a 1980 international rugby matchup between USA and New Zealand, drawing 14,000 fans (at the time the largest crowd to ever watch an international rugby game in the US).

But as newer and shinier stadiums promised more luxury, seats, and amenities (plus revenue possibilities), there’s little doubt the Chargers felt left behind. While they’ve stayed steady for much of the last decade in attendance figures, averaging around 64,716 fans per game (which comes out to a 91.7% attendance average), the desire for more has no doubt been present for some time. Qualcomm ranked just the 25th largest stadium in the NFL by seating capacity.

Heightening the problem was the lack of on-field success. The Chargers have made the playoffs just once since 2009 (after making the playoffs four years in a row between 2006-2009). They went from one of the more exhilarating teams to watch to a steady bottom-of-the-standings figure in the last two years; posting a 9-23 record over the last two seasons. That decline left many of the home fans without a desire to scoop themselves up and spend money to go watch a lacking talent; despite a study finding that attending a Chargers game rated at the 11th cheapest NFL experience possible. The Chargers finished with an attendance average of just 57,024 (80%) this season, ranking 31st, and certainly would have been last had the Raiders not hosted a “home neutral field game.”

What it all culminated in was a growing safe haven of visiting fans to travel, maybe escape some wintry conditions back home to bask in the southern California sunshine, and all the meanwhile catch a road game of their favorite team. Chargers fans were seemingly regularly outnumbered, and often times drummed out by their visiting peers, creating an even bigger lack in desire to partake. Thankfully, a disbanding of the NFL’s blackout policy back in 2014 resulted in much more viewing opportunities as ticket sales fell off a sharp cliff in 2016 following discussion to move the team.

Chargers Owner/Team Chairman Dean Spanos first made public his interest to potentially move the franchise back in 2015. In competition with the then-St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders, everybody was trying to reclaim La La Land as their own. Proposed with a deal they couldn’t top, the NFL ultimately green lit the Rams, who moved the franchise at the end of the 2016 season. Still given an opportunity to join them, Spanos instead decided to play both hands and see which would yield him the winning situation. Obviously, retaining the fanbase and keeping the team in San Diego had its merits. But there wasn’t any getting around the need for a new stadium. Qualcomm at its current structure ranks as the 4th oldest active NFL stadium.

So Spanos and his cronies got to brainstorming, and came to the conclusion of letting the city vote on a tax increase on the hotel and tourism industry that drives the San Diego economy in order to fund the stadium. A 4% tax hike, at that, on hotel rooms. They’d risk displeasing tourists who already paid exuberant amounts to don the white sandy beaches in hopes of keeping the locals off the hook. The one catch, should the tax fail to secure the necessary funding, the bill would ultimately roll back to the taxpayers, obviously diverting funding from other areas of need. Instead of manning up and believing in his own plan, creating a fail-safe that might skim some profits from the team if the tax plan came up short, Spanos was unashamed in his willingness to throw his fan base in front of the bus, knowing he could always fall back on LA. A real dick move.

Giving the fans the ultimatum of “show us your support and be willing to foot this tax bill or we’ll up and leave,” the city voted on the measure, officially named Measure C, and it got eviscerated. Spanos and his group having spent millions in attempts to lull the public into the benefits of the plan, and instead reaffirmed he might be the most hated man in the Plymouth of the West, or more frequently referred to as the Whale’s…… 57% of the 296,110 voters (voting figures are pretty depressing) ultimately returned the cold shoulder to Spanos. The bill needed 66% to pass, and with its failure secured a future departure…which brings us to today.

Spanos announced via an official release that the team would indeed be taking its option to move to LA and join the Rams in their eventual super complex. The super complex yet to be named, is set to be complete in time for the 2019 season, which leaves the Chargers out in the cold until then. There are reports that the team could join the Rams in use of the Coliseum, but logistics there already appear to be a nightmare. The more likely outcome is that the Chargers will be temporary tenants of StubHub Center, home of the LA Galaxy. With a seating capacity of just 27,000, the Chargers will find themselves in the NFL’s smallest venue by a wide margin.

The team sounds eager to win over their new locals, although cautious concern remains over Los Angeles’ ability to welcome and support an NFL franchise again, let alone two. The move will put a second NFL franchise in the City of Angels simultaneously for the first time ever; a marvelous feat after spending 20 years without a team. The second largest city in the United States is no newcomer to hosting multiple franchises. The move will in fact complete the four major sports in having two franchises each within the city (Dodgers, Angels, Kings, Ducks, Lakers, and Clippers).

There’s already a lot of love for their new hood, as with a major change comes a little bit of rebranding. The team concurrently unveiled a new logo with the relocation announcement. Look a little familiar?

 


While it’s a shame they didn’t make a comeback to the glorious powder blue unis of yesteryear, there is plenty of excitement for jersey buffs out there.

Completing their overhaul, the teams spent the afternoon securing their future head coach, after Mike McCoy was fired at the season’s end. Announced late Thursday was that Anthony Lynn would become the next head coach. Lynn spent this last season on an upwards trajectory within the Buffalo Bills. He began the season running backs coach but was promoted to offensive coordinator after Week 2. Lynn also wrapped up the season as the interim head coach following the ousting of the Ryan brothers.

The move will surely cause a green light for the Oakland Raiders to follow through on their plans to move to Las Vegas. Currently, in the league’s 3rd oldest stadium, it’ll be the same story but new faces. Abandoning a fan base that embodies their brand and spirit. After all, being a Raiders fan isn’t a hobby, it’s a lifestyle.

Meanwhile, San Diego will be left reeling not just as sports fans, but as a city. The move leaves the Padres as the city’s sole professional sports team. And while many will be quick to write the Chargers’ move off as irrelevant, and happy to have them gone, the economic impact cannot be written off. It’s easy to not get swooned by the often over bloated figures teams try to throw around when attempting to get fans to build them a new stadium. However, trying to quantify the damage, the University of San Diego estimates a lost expenditure of $104 million annually by the departure from the team expenses alone. And that’s not accounting that 20% of the Chargers’ attendance has been estimated to be comprised of visiting fans. Taking into consideration those estimations, the city could face upwards of 103,544 fewer visitors each year who spend money in hotels, local restaurants, and other local commerce. Tack on top of that the loss of 1,600 jobs as a result that equates to a rough $67 million lost in wages.

It won’t get much easier for the fans, and it won’t be the last time we see a franchise pull this same maneuver, we’re on the cusp of the very next instance.

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the founder and editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I've been an avid sports fan since I was a child and have turned that love into a profession. I will watch, comment, and break down anything I can get my hands on, from football to white water rafting in the Olympics. Your visit means a lot to me, so thank you for your readership.
Tyler Arnold