Chargers to L.A. Not a Done Deal Yet

The team is still working on options to try and stay in San Diego

On Wednesday Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer met in person to discuss the future of the Chargers in San Diego. That future could be very, very interesting, and a lot longer than many people think.

According to Save Our Bolts, the fan group that works closely with the team in all stadium matters, the Chargers are expected to exercise their option to move to Los Angeles at the end of the regular season … but that does not necessarily mean they will be joining the Rams in L.A.

Save Our Bolts leaders recently had a phone conversation with members of the Chargers front office, who revealed the team is assembling a backup plan to try and stay in San Diego. Part of that plan includes putting together a different initiative to build a new stadium in Downtown but to do that they will have to play a dangerous game of chicken.

According to Save Our Bolts the idea is this: The Chargers know the NFL wants to keep a team in America’s Finest City. The team thinks it is possible the league wants that badly enough that they would change their mind on allowing the Bolts to go immediately to Los Angeles, instead trying to find a way to keep them in San Diego.

That could include kicking in even more than the $350 million they pledged this year to help with Measure C, the Convadium initiative voted down by San Diegans in November.

That money could come from Rams owner Stan Kroenke himself, who would pay to, in essence, keep the Chargers and Chairman Dean Spanos (who is not on the best of terms with Kroenke) out of the L.A. market. By exercising the L.A. option the Chargers also clear what is likely the final hurdle to the Raiders announcing their intention to move to Las Vegas.

The league would likely say they want Kroenke to compensate Spanos for relinquishing Los Angeles for the next two years, as long as that money goes towards the construction of a new stadium in San Diego.

Getting that new facility would be more viable with an increase in private financing because it cuts down on the amount of public money the team would need to request. According to Save Our Bolts, the Chargers are willing to put together another citizens’ initiative to try and build in San Diego and put it on the ballot before voters in November of 2018.

They would again ask for a transient occupancy tax (TOT) increase but with the influx of more private money they need a smaller rate hike, potentially making it more palatable to voters. The Bolts believe that a new initiative will be subject to a simple majority vote instead of the two-thirds they needed for Measure C and were sufficiently encouraged by earning 43% of the vote a month ago to potentially give it another go.

They also believe the hoteliers, likely the largest obstacle over the last decade and a half to getting a new stadium built, will not have the same power to throw up road blocks after being involved in a legal battle over their own attempts at increasing a TOT for an expanded San Diego Convention Center.

If all that goes according to plan the Chargers would play the 2017 and 2018 seasons at The Q and take those two years to try and win back the support they lost in last year’s failed attempts to move to Carson while putting together a more complete campaign pushing their new stadium initiative.

This would be the path of most resistance. The instant the Chargers announce they intend to leave for L.A. they will lose what little good will they have left with the fan base and the process of attempting to build burned bridges becomes exponentially more difficult.

If it ultimately does not work they can move in to Kroenke’s facility when it is scheduled to open for the 2019 season.

The easy way to go would be to simply exercise the option and leave. The road to Los Angeles has been paved and things are lined up there. Kroenke cannot sell his lucrative Personal Seat Licenses (PSL) until the Chargers make up their minds so he wants a decision made as soon as possible.

Another option, although the team has reportedly said it is not interested in it, is to ask for another extension while they work on something in San Diego but that would keep Kroenke in a holding pattern with PSL sales.

The final decision on this will likely lay with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. During the 2015 season when the Rams, Chargers and Raiders were all angling for L.A. Goodell said several times he wanted to see progress from both the City and the team. If he believes there is now a united front in San Diego between the political structure and the Chargers he could very well prevent the Bolts from moving until one more shot is taken in the home city.

So it should be seen as a good sign that several members of the City Council are expected to put together a list of guiding principles; ideas and concepts they want to see during any stadium negotiations. Among the most important to them, according to Save Our Bolts, are more transparency and more interaction with a member of the Spanos family during the process.

Wednesday’s meeting between Dean Spanos and Mayor Faulconer could be the first step in that process. And of course there is always the possibility that Spanos could be too fed up with the last 15 years of haggling, scrap this plan, and go straight to L.A., but the fact they are looking at options to stay can at least provide hope for Chargers fans in San Diego.

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