Confirmation of news that’s been bubbling for much of the past decade, the former San Diego Chargers have officially announced plans to move to Los Angeles after spending 56 seasons in their now-former home. The shift is actually a return to their roots since their first season in the American Football League in 1960 was as the Los Angeles Chargers.
The key reasons for the dramatic shift stem from stadium issues that have plagued the Chargers for years and the chance to tap into the lucrative Los Angeles market. Qualcomm stadium in San Diego will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, yet will now only have a college football component to it in the form of the San Diego State Aztecs. The baseball Padres moved to Petco Park after the 2003 season.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos had until next Tuesday to indicate whether he would move the team, after having passed on the opportunity following the 2015 season. What many saw as the final nail in the coffin of the city’s hopes of keeping the team came on November 8th. That was when voters rejected a bid to fund a new stadium.
One of the first steps the Chargers will do is to pay the city of San Diego approximately $12 million in order to buyout the lease on Qualcomm Stadium. A much steeper cost will be assessed over the next decade, with Spanos paying a relocation fee of $550 million to the NFL for moving to what’s considered a potential gold mine by many sports business observers.
Last season, the Rams also returned to Los Angeles after having moved to St. Louis after the 1994 season. Beginning in 2019, the two teams are expected to share a stadium in nearby Inglewood that’s currently being built at a cost of $2.66 billion.
One oddity that the Chargers will deal with over the preceding two years is that their home stadium, the Carson-based StubHub Center, is built for soccer and only seats a maximum of 30,000 people. In contrast, the Rams currently play in the Los Angeles Coliseum, which seats approximately three times that amount.
Ordinarily, stadiums with less than 50,000-seat capacity aren’t considered for NFL teams. However, the temporary nature of the set-up and the fact that teams annually make much more money through television rights will allow the Chargers to remain a viable franchise.
The Chargers and Oakland Raiders were considered to be the strongest contenders to move to Los Angeles, with the Raiders having played there from 1982 to 1994. However, the greater likelihood now is that Oakland will move to Las Vegas in the next few years and play in yet another billion-dollar stadium.
The immediate concern for the Chargers is establishing a fan base among a Los Angeles-area population that wasn’t necessarily begging for them to come. A winning team would be a good start, with the Chargers currently looking for a new head coach to get things going.