NFL’s Chargers Headed to LA to Join Rams

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SAN DIEGO (CN) – San Diego Chargers team owner Dean Spanos said Thursday he will move the football team up the California coast to join the Rams in Los Angeles, who left St. Louis last year.

In the end, Spanos decided paying a $650 million relocation fee was a better than decision than continuing to fight for a downtown stadium in San Diego.

“San Diego has been our home for 56 years,” Spanos said in a letter posted to the team’s website Thursday morning. “It will always be part of our identity, and my family and I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the support and passion our fans have shared with us over the years.”

With the hourglass running out, Spanos announced the team’s move following a Wednesday meeting in New York between the National Football League’s stadium and finance committees. The announcement comes nearly one year to the day the Rams announced they would move to Los Angeles and the NFL extended an offer for the Chargers to join the Rams at their state-of-the-art $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, scheduled to open in 2019.

Spanos had until Sunday to decide whether the Chargers would join the Rams.

Moving to LA is expected to be lucrative for Spanos, with the team estimated to boost their profit to $250 million a year at the new stadium – compared with $145 million a year at a renovated Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, according to estimates by Vanderbilt University economist and professional sports expert John Vrooman.

The Chargers have tried to get a new stadium in San Diego for more than 15 years to replace crumbling Qualcomm stadium, located in Mission Valley. Spanos has pushed for years to get a stadium in downtown’s east village, near Petco Park – home of the San Diego Padres baseball team.

He got his best shot for a downtown stadium last year, with the Chargers’ Measure C ballot measure to increase the city’s hotel tax rate from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent. The additional revenue would have helped fund the stadium.

But the measure required a supermajority vote by San Diego voters and failed, securing only 43 percent of the vote.

Prior to the Nov. 8 vote, Spanos told San Diego’s local NBC affiliate if the measure failed but was supported by a significant amount of San Diego voters that would affect the team’s decision in whether to leave or stay.

“If we get 30-35 percent support, that says one thing. If we get 55-60 percent, that says something entirely different,” Spanos said.

The 43 percent was all Spanos needed to finally commit to moving the Chargers to LA, despite the last-ditch effort by San Diego politicians to keep the team.

Just last month, four City Council members said they’d be willing to give the Chargers a $1-per-year, 99-year lease for the Qualcomm site as part of a stadium deal.

And Mayor Kevin Faulconer was recently joined by County Supervisor Ron Roberts and representatives from San Diego State University in proposing a $375 million public contribution toward a $1.2 billion project in Mission Valley: $200 million from the city; $75 million from the County Board of Supervisors; and $100 million from the university.

The NFL and Chargers have said they would commit $650 million toward a new San Diego stadium, so the latest proposal still left a $175 million gap in funding.

Public funding from the city and county would have also required a countywide public vote, which would not have happened until at least November 2018.

Following the failed stadium initiative, the Chargers secured a temporary practice facility in the Orange County city of Costa Mesa in December.

The Chargers will be tenants of the Ram’s Inglewood stadium and are on the hook to contribute an estimated $700 to $800 million toward the new stadium, which includes sales generated by personal seat licenses and a $200 million stadium construction loan from the NFL.

Economists predict the Chargers’ move to LA offers more certainty of a return on their investment, since the City of Angels is a more lucrative market than San Diego.

“LA is a remarkable place, and while we played our first season there in 1960 and have had fans there ever since, our entire organization knows that we have a tremendous amount of work to do,” Spanos wrote in the letter. “We must earn the respect and support of LA football fans. We must get back to winning. And we must make a meaningful contribution, not just on the field, but off the field as a leader and champion for the community.”