Mark Fabiani, longtime special counsel and front man for San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos, last week announced that the Chargers will once again not take advantage of the football company's annual contractual opportunity to flee town for a place inhabited by more appreciative people. So ended much handwringing over whether the team would move to football-starved Los Angeles in 2015. Handwringing will resume next summer.
Fabiani told Mighty 1090 radio host Darren Smith that the "intelligence" that the team has gathered recently suggests that neither the Oakland Raiders nor the St. Louis Rams will make a move toward L.A. in 2015, buying the Chargers another year to pull together some kind of proposal to get a new stadium built in San Diego. If either or both of those teams return to L.A. after that, Fabiani says, some 30 percent of the Chargers' current ticket buyers—who live in Orange and Los Angeles counties—will abandon San Diego's team. (Apparently, a new stadium would come with enough opportunities for new revenue that nearly one-third of the Chargers' current market would be rendered unnecessary.)
By most accounts, the Rams and Raiders want to be back in Los Angeles and the National Football League wants at least one team there as soon as possible. So, Fabiani says the Chargers have four choices: 1) build a new stadium in San Diego and stop worrying about L.A., 2) cobble together enough votes among NFL team owners to block the Rams and Raiders from moving, 3) somehow use politics to block construction of an L.A. stadium if Nos. 1 and 2 fail or 4) become the team that moves to L.A.
We think the Chargers would already have moved to L.A. if that's really what the Spanos family wanted, so we believe they'd like to stay. Their ideal-but-impossible scenario would be for the taxpayers to gleefully pass a tax worth several hundred million dollars to help pay for a new stadium here. Because that's never going to happen—mostly because it would require a two-thirds supermajority of voters to approve—the Chargers are talking up the idea of a multiuse facility: convention-center expansion, college-basketball tournaments, monster-truck rallies and whatever else they can think of that would fall under the "public benefit" heading.
The team really wanted the convention-center-expansion idea to take off but couldn't get much traction because the powerful local hotel lobby hated the idea. That was pretty much dead until the city lost its own convention-center-expansion battle in court, which puts the Chargers' idea back on life support. But we still think it's going nowhere.
If that's true—and even if it isn't—the football company must do something it hasn't done in the past decade-plus of talk about a new stadium: Put forth some kind, any kind, of concrete proposal. You'd hardly know, amid all the complaining and debating and arguing and worrying, that the team has never submitted a genuine development proposal.
Here's the proposal we'd like to see: The Chargers build a new, state-of-the-art facility, in a location where it doesn't completely ruin the character of the surrounding area, with financing that doesn't include any public money or free public land.
The Chargers want to leverage San Diego's civic pride in its football team and use it against fans who are desperate to keep them here—sports teams have that unique advantage over other companies. The L.A. threat is a tool to drive up the price. But let's remember that the Chargers are a private business run by an extremely wealthy family, and football stadiums don't exactly produce gigantic revenue windfalls for their host cities. Moreover, no one should be rewarding NFL franchises with scarce tax dollars, given the NFL's obscene record with regard to player safety, labor, domestic violence and treatment of cheerleaders.
Bring it on, Spanos.
Holy cow, Padres!
Speaking of local sports teams: the San Diego Padres! Wow! New General Manager A.J. Preller has been busy in the past week, acquiring an all-star-caliber outfield in Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, along with catcher Derek Norris and starting pitcher Brandon Morrow, and possibly third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The Padres have apparently also offered a deal to Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani.
These deals may not all work out, but at least Preller's trying to improve the team, which is more than Padres fans are used to and reason for excitement.
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