Should everyone consider just moving the Chargers back to San Diego already?

With football season in full swing, it’s time for Los Angeles Chargers fans to start not showing up in droves again, and they happily obliged yesterday, with both lots of empty seats and lots of visiting fans despite playing in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium. Which is always fun for schadenfreude purposes, but it also seems to be alarming Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who is not at all happy that the Chargers’ alleged L.A. fan base isn’t turning out to pre-purchase seats to the new stadium the teams will share next year:

That’s a pretty weak tease, admittedly, and also not really surprising, since as the Big Lead notes, there’s been tension between Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos ever since the two were forced into their L.A. marriage by the NFL a couple of years back. And it’s only been exacerbated by the Chargers’ ticket sales woes:

The Chargers told NFL owners they were projecting to make $400 million from PSL sales in Los Angeles. That number was part of the justification for leaving San Diego, as more money was available in the the nation’s second-biggest media market. After being in said market for more than a year, the franchise “adjusted” that projection from $400 million to $150 million. A little quick math shows that’s just 37.5 percent of the team’s initial projection. That’s also $250 million that would not be helping to fund Kroenke’s stadium.

I’m pretty sure that’s wrong — not that the Chargers slashed PSL prices, that’s correct, but that Kroenke would have to take a $250 million bath as a result, since Spanos has to pay a share of stadium costs regardless of how much money he’s making from PSL sales. Unless the Chargers owner tries to get out of his obligation by claiming he doesn’t have the cash, which would indeed make for quite the Monday noon Pacific time bombshell.

The bigger question here is: Why is everyone even going through this whole charade anymore? Sure, Kroenke (and the NFL) needed a tenant to help defray costs of the Rams’ new stadium, but now that the total price tag is up around $5 billion, any contribution from the Chargers is starting to seem like a drop in the bucket. (The Big Lead further claims that “Kroenke and the Rams would love nothing more than to completely remove the Chargers from the equation and have the Inglewood stadium all to themselves,” which seems odd since it’s not like Kroenke would be able to do much of anything else with the stadium on Rams off weeks, but this whole stadium keeps seeming more and more like an expensive vanity project anyway, so who knows?) So maybe would it make sense to look at just sending the Chargers back to San Diego, where their actual fans are?

Sure, it would involve figuring out how to undo the Chargers’ $650 million relocation fee, and also you know Spanos won’t want to go back to San Diego unless he can find a way to leverage it into his own shiny new stadium, preferably paid for by someone not named Dean Spanos. But I think it’s fair to say that calling a do over is more of a non-zero possibility than it was a couple of years ago, which is pretty amazing considering the Chargers haven’t even moved into their new L.A. stadium yet. Let’s see what noon Pacific time brings.

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55 comments on “Should everyone consider just moving the Chargers back to San Diego already?

    1. Don’t think St. Louis wants any part of the NFL anymore. Unless the NFL wants to give them a team in order to stay out of court.

      1. Make Spanos Sell. He Is A Greedy Pig. The NFL Isn’t Real Anyway. Goodell Said It’s Entertainment. Not A Sport. Cheating Refs And Fixed Games. I Enjoy Watching The Chargers Lose Though.

      2. Used to an avid charger fan, but after all the BS I’ve moved on. I’ll never be a fan again. Love watching them lose as well

      3. Yeah pass. At this point the team should just fold. They can’t afford a new stadium, taxpayers don’t want to fund it, and LA doesn’t care about them. Not all SD residents would welcome them back with open arms. Especially not with that idiot Spanos at the helm.

    2. I would love nothing more than to see Stan Kroenke choke on his Stadium project. He just recently lost a lawsuit to the city of St Louis for the PSL’s he sold and never gave back upon moving the team. He is also in court right now for abandoning a lease agreement that was good with the city of St Louis and his intentions on building a new stadium and moving the Rams prior to that lease being matured. He doesn’t care if anybody shows up to watch the chargers. He just wants the 750 million they bring to the table to help his project get done. If this second lawsuit pans out for St Louis and the chargers go back to San Diego where they were loved maybe old Stan will have to close down some of Sam Walton’s stores in order to finance his project. Wouldn’t that be rich? We don’t want anything to do with the NFL anymore. They can all go to hell. I now take my season ticket money and put it into my new boat. The S,S, PSL. I know the college football team I root for is not moving anytime soon.

    3. After being burned not once but twice (Cardinals, Rams).. our hatred of the NFL runs DEEP at this point.
      Plus, we have a new MLS team coming soon.. (in addition to winning the Stanley Cup and the Cardis making the MLB playoffs) SO… the NFL can stick it!

        1. I, for one, can’t wait to watch the St. Louis MLS team’s 4-way rivalry with Brockway FC, Club Deportivo Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook Rovers.

  1. Dear Dean: No thanks, we’re good – since every Carson/Inglewood/SD Chargers game is on one of the local channels here every week, we’re not missing you at all…

  2. The real problem here was that it should have always been the Raiders that moved. The Chargers could have just as easily extorted Las Vegas for a new stadium, and the Chargers would have likely had a much better shot of building a fan base there. The Raiders have a huge following in LA. I don’t think anyone cared about the Chargers in Los Angeles, though……

    Maybe the Chargers can do a Clippers/Donald Sterling thing where they make the team intentionally suck and draw in out-of-market fans so that they can watch their teams beat up on the Chargers. LA Clippers and LA Chargers have the same initials, they are both second fiddle in their respective sports to another team, and they both relocated from San Diego to do it.

    1. Davis and Spanos should agree to swap places, with a fee going to Davis for getting the LV stadium built.

    2. The Chargers brand isn’t as strong as the Raiders one. It wouldn’t work in Vegas. The Raiders have a global following and will draw people to Vegas (yes I know Vegas is already a trourist draw on its own but stay with me) in a way that the Chargers won’t.

        1. Really? I honestly never heard of a Chargers fan that wasn’t from SoCal. They supposedly had a fan base in LA cultivated over the years there was no team there and that failed to materialize when they moved there.

  3. “…by the Char?”

    Are we so desperate to reduce everything to one syllable now that two syllables is just too much?

  4. Worst NFL owner ever… just sell the team and bring them back home. You’ve lost your San Diego privileges….$crew $panos.

    1. OOOO, that’s quite a competition there… Spanos has bungled his way into a very tricky situation, but think of some of the other candidates for this award…

    2. Spanos is bad, but Kroenke is worse, Mark Davis is even worser, and Daniel Snyder is so much worse there’s not even a non-grammatical word available to describe it. And Snyder isn’t even the worst Washington NFL team owner in history; that would be the Lester Maddox of football, George Preston Marshall. Spanos bites but he’s small fry.

  5. Neil,

    According the the reporting I’ve read, Spanos is not on the hook for stadium costs. If naming rights, PSL sales, suite sales, and sponsorships fall short of projections, Kroenke makes up all of it.

    My read is that the Chargers’ low PSL costs screwed over the Rams’ PSL sales, and now Kroenke wants to pretend he’s willing to evict the Chargers if they don’t pitch in something to offset missed revenue projections.

    1. Can you direct me to a source for that, Ben? I spent some time this morning trying to find any evidence that Kroenke is getting a defined cut of PSL sales etc., not a flat free, and couldn’t find any confirmation.

      1. I can’t find anything like that stated anywhere either.

        I did find this:

        So there are some additional reasons why Spanos won’t want to sell or undo the move, but nothing PSL related.

        The Stadium’s wikipedia page (doesn’t everyone have one?) does state that the team commits $200m to construction – which is the league sourced loan – and funds from the PSLs… but no information is provided on which party is on the hook should the PSL funding either not materialize or be below expected amounts. Kroenke would be a fool to accept a straight percentage with no minimum value guaranteed. He may be many things, but he is not a fool.

  6. Maybe they can just move up to San Luis Obispo and play in Cal Poly’s 11k seat stadium. I mean, it’s already named after Dean’s dad Alex. Still not confident they’d fill the seats there though.

    1. Santa Barbara City College’s 10,000 seat La Playa Stadium would be a nice home for the Chargers. Except they would have compete with the ocean for fan’s attention.

  7. Early days, as you note.
    However I’m not clear why the proposed solution would involve “undoing” the Chargers $650m relocation fee?

    They paid (ok, agreed to pay) that for the right to relocate to Los Angeles. If they subsequently decide they don’t want to be in Los Angeles anymore, I see no reason why their ‘partners’ in the NFLOC would need to refund any or all of that payment.

    Spanos “wanted” to be in LA (no matter how much the NFL offered in incentives to move, it was still Spanos’ choice), and he has – more or less – been in LA.

    Seems to me that if he wants to move back to San Diego, he’ll have to come up with some form of compensation for breaking his deal in Los Angeles (which could just be “Ok, Stan, LA is all yours”, subject to approval by the other owners) and then pay an additional fee for taking over the now open NFL market of San Diego. It appears that the old “Raiders II” formula (value of new market – value of old market) is no longer being used by the NFL.

    I’m sure the league would like LA to be a 2 team market, but honestly there’s really never been any evidence that it was a good two team market (unless you count USC as one of the teams…).

    Don’t discount the possibility that the “solution” to this quagmire involves Spanos no longer owning the franchise. Really the only option he has now is to tough it out in LA and hope someone overpays for his franchise because it is in LA. This could easily happen to Davis in Vegas as well. The complimentary chips that the house provides to high rollers aren’t really free, if you think about it.

    I’m guessing stadium negotiations with the city of San Diego would be fairly confrontational given all the water under the various (still smouldering) bridges. We haven’t heard from Fabiani in a while, have we?

    Enjoy the show, everyone.

    1. I *really* don’t see Spanos going back to San Diego unless he gets at least part of his $650 million back. Sunk cost or no, that would be a tough pill to swallow.

      Trying to find a buyer who thinks he can market an L.A. Chargers (or rebranded L.A. Football-No-The-Other-Football Club) might indeed be his best option. But would he be willing to give up show business?

      1. I agree he won’t want to. And he may not be able to afford to (whether he gets let off the hook for the relocation related payments he has only just started making on the relocation fee or not).

        And he won’t want to part with the team either. But at some point, if he owns an LA NFL team but almost all the net revenues are being syphoned off by other “partners”, he may have no choice.

        This goes to the original call he had to make… is he better off financially being the forgotten franchise owner in LA (working for an undetermined period of time based on cashing in when he sells) or being the primary tenant in San Diego.

        He apparently thought the former was the better option. Ultimately, he may be proved right. But it is not clear at this point that that is going to be the case. He and Davis aren’t like most other NFL owners (who have significant non-sports revenues to draw on while his franchise appreciates).

        1. the one way Spanos might get off the hook is if the NFL wants him out of the league and the Chargers out of LA. A deal could be struck where in exchange for him selling the team {and the team returning to San Diego} the relocation fee is cancelled.

          1. I completely agree with that scenario. Spaznos is rich/poor as owners go, and he is in an unwinnable spot now. His decision to move to SmeLA was stupid, and his “fan” turnout shows that. Each year his girls soccer stadium has less “fans”. The past few games were a SIGNIFICANT embarrassment to the NFL, and they need to step in. The unknown variable is the incompetent city leaders in San Diego and if they can be proactive (most unlikely) in your plan (Spaz sells, Chargers move back to SD, stadium somehow gets built with new owner and city cooperating). I do not see this happening if Spaznos stays the owner. Just Sayin?

          2. In fairness, the league has been discussing the Chargers playing to empty seats for about a year now (there were stories about this in major media in Sept-Oct 2018).

            At least at that time Dodger Goodell was saying that “we knew it would take time to woo back LA fans” and all the other things you would expect him to say in the face of an unmitigated marketing disaster.

            How long will he keep saying that? I don’t know. Maybe until Kroenke comes knocking to demand that the league cover the Chargers’ PSL shortfall.

  8. Heard Fred Roggin at noon today, if what he says is true, two things could come out of this, one Spain’s May not be obliterated to pay for anything, but Stan can and SHOULD stick it to the Chargers anyway he can, like adding Rams Field to the stadium name. Second, if the city or county of SD could ever get there act together, and get a stadium passed and break ground, that would help bring a team to SD. It should be the Chargers, however, that would mean the NFL and Spanos would be admitting they made a huge mistake. Arrogant people NEVER admit to their mistakes

    1. I think the fact that San Diego hasn’t built a stadium is evidence that they do have their act together. Not giving billion dollar gifts to billionaires is good policy.

      1. Not completely true; SDSU has plans to build a new stadium at Mission Valley soon. I believe it will seat about 30K.

  9. The city of San Diego, should be entitled to buy the team back at very low rate.and get rid of that greedy bastard of an owner who had never thought about the fans or the City that supported him when the team was losing their asses off.for so many years they always sold out every seat they had and season tickets sold. See God doesn’t like ugly. They broke all those children’s hearts the children looked at them as our San Diego home team and most of the hardcore fans been fans for years.

      1. That is not true. Oakland and San Diego could have been creative to keep their football teams. That is not a valid excuse.

    1. The NFL is not into public ownership anymore. The Packers ownership structure causes the NFL headaches because it allows the public to occasionally get a look at their finances.

  10. London…just sayin.

    The league is looking for a team to move and since the chargers have no fans-they won’t be missed.

  11. The relocation fee is payable over 10 years starting with when they move into the new stadium. So if they go elsewhere the NFL could adjust/waive the remaining installments. The Raiders fee by comparison was $350 million. So if they go to St Louis the NFL could say “ok instead of $650M you only pay $250M”

    1. They could, Aqib. Have you ever witnessed the NFL owner’s club waiving payments they were due on contract? I have not.

      As a sporting cross reference, MLB just donated $210,000 to Dorian relief funds in memory of Roberto Clemente (on Roberto Clemente day in MLB).

      $210,000. from an entity with north of $10bn in annual revenues. About a third of the starting minimum salary in the league… ($550k in 2018).

      They laughingly described this as something “Clemente would be proud of”. Adjusted for inflation, he provided greater relief funds HIMSELF in the last year of his life than MLB has just done. I don’t believe he would be proud of this at all.

      1. True. I was just clarifying that it wouldn’t be a “refund” in that the Chargers didn’t already cut a $650 million check to the other owners. They would be paying $65 million a year for 10 years starting next season. So if the league wanted them out of LA they could redo that fee. I always thought they should have gone to Toronto once the Rams got LA.

  12. Ironically, the Chargers wouldn’t be able to return to San Diego because their old digs are being repurposed for SDSU and for a much smaller stadium. So they’d have to get permission from the secondary tenant they treated like garbage for years to return to their old facilities.

    1. The new SDSU stadium will seat 35,000 but will be expandable to 55,000 for an NFL return.

  13. Front end disclaimer… this appears to be a blog post, but it does give some (as far as I can prove accurate at the time of writing – Oct 2018) financial details of the basket of alligators Spanos has launched himself into in LA.

    The suggestion included is that each team will retain 18.75% of the PSL revenue (total? that each team generates?) with the remaining funds put toward stadium financing.

    Still no info on who covers shortfalls (on PSL revenues or otherwise). Absent access to the actual tenant agreement (or subsequent agreements on financing, overruns or shortfalls in projected revenues) it’s difficult to determine. All we do know is that there is somewhere near a $1bn hole in the funding model at present.

    The most obvious red flag in this is that the Chargers (last year) are thought to have generated only about $48m in profit. Now, that’s seems like a tidy sum… but not when you have a $64.5m annual fee to your partners for the right to relocate on the horizon.

    Sure, when they move into the 70,000 seat stadium they will see an upswing in ticket (probably around $20m) and concession revenue (another $10m?)… but they still figure to be less profitable in Stan’s place than they were in San Diego.

    If they have to cover the $250m PSL shortfall as well, Spanos could be borrowing against asset appreciation to fund ongoing operation… Oops.

  14. The Chargers fan turnout won’t change much in the new stadium, you’ll see a temporary increase in attendance due to the glitz of the new stadium and capacity, but only temporary. We all know that this stadium belongs to the Rams (Kroenke) and that the Chargers are nothing but a tenant ($1.00 per year paid to the Rams). Have you noticed the shape of the stadium? If you have an aerial view you’ll notice it’s shaped as the Rams logo. Sadly it’s too late to evict the Chargers. Too many things would need to be undone, including what SoFi paid for naming rights. Visibility to 20 games compared to 10 has its price.

  15. What would need to happen on both sides ( Chargers / San Diego ) for them to even have a chance to come back?
    I don’t think Spanos will put his tail between his legs to come back, nor would Goodell. As much as I hate watch the chargers every week along with my other SD friends, we all long for a day that could bring them home.
    At this point with or with out Dean, as much as he is hated. The city should show some good faith effort to express interest in working out a deal. I just think a lot more would need to happen for a situation like this to happen. I will continue to harass anyone wearing Charger gear, especially in San Diego, because after 56 years to see a parade in down town LA in stead of the SD would be the worst site any fan could endure.

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