NFL set to discuss Chargers-to-L.A. next Wednesday, as Spanos grubs for more stadium cash

We finally have a D-Day of sorts for the San Diego Chargerslong-rumored-by-Jason-La-Canfora move to Los Angeles, as the NFL’s finance and stadium committees will meet next Wednesday to discuss the relocation. On the surface, there wouldn’t seem to be much to discuss since the league already approved the terms of a Chargers move last January, but given that it’s the NFL, there’s always something to haggle about:

It’s believed that [Chargers owner Dean] Spanos could be seeking more money from the NFL to help him stay in San Diego. It appears that money is needed to bridge the gap between money already available from the league and the team, and public contribution from the city, county and San Diego State.

That’s completely unsourced, you’ll note — nice weasel wording with that “it’s believed,” Associated Press! — but if true, is kind of interesting: Apparently Spanos is holding out hope that the other NFL owners want him to stay put in San Diego badly enough that they’ll increase the $100 million offer they made to help him build a stadium there. That doesn’t seem all too likely, but you don’t get if you don’t ask, right?

The “gap” between money already available and what a stadium would cost, as a reminder, is pretty much “all of it,” given that in November San Diego voters overwhelmingly rejected funding $1.15 billion of a $1.8 billion stadium. Spanos needs to hope he’s better at last-second comeback attempts in the board room than his team is on the field.

SD councilmembers offer free land for Chargers stadium, team owner calls this an insult

What with San Diego voters having resoundingly rejected San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos’s request for $1.15 billion to build a new stadium and convention center, several city councilmembers have taken it upon themselves to make a counteroffer: We’ll give you the land for free if you’ll build the stadium your own damn self.

The current site is equivalent to over 60 downtown blocks that can be transformed from an empty parking lot to a state-of-the-art, one of a kind NFL experience. The development of the current site with a $1 per year 99-year lease would be a good starting point for a discussion.

This is not a terrible offer: The land itself is valued at $180 million, so that’s not chicken feed. On the other hand, it’s understandably a big comedown from a $1.15 billion subsidy ask, so Spanos is all pissy about it:

That conduct has been viewed by owner Dean Spanos as an effort to embarrass him and his family and to deflect blame for a relocation from the politicians via a last-minute proposal that will never survive scrutiny.

“If the goal was to infuriate the single remaining decision-maker in this process, mission accomplished,” the source said.

On the one hand, yes, this was clearly a PR move by the councilmembers, who know that Spanos is unlikely to accept the offer, but now can say “We offered him a $1 a year lease, what more does he want?” On the other, Spanos is now more clearly than ever saying, We need a new stadium in order to survive in San Diego, but we’ll only make money on a new stadium if someone else gives us the money to build it. That’s a pretty neat encapsulation of the stadium game, right there.

Four out of five invisible people now say Chargers will move to L.A.

Another week, another batch of anonymously sourced reports that the San Diego Chargers are moving to L.A.:

ESPN’s Jim Trotter, a former Union-Tribune beat writer on the Chargers, livened up the Twitter universe Thursday with two bearish forecasts about the future of the Chargers and Raiders in their respective cities.

Tweet No. 1: “I’ve never been more pessimistic about Chargers staying in SD. Based on all I’m hearing I’d be SHOCKED if team isn’t in LA next year.”

Tweet No. 2: “Barring unanticipated miracle, I expect Chargers and Raiders to announce in January their plans to relocate – Chargers to LA, Raiders to LV.”

That’s just Trotter’s opinion, really — dare I say hot take? — which is fine enough. What’s not fine is news outlet after news outlet acting like this is actual, you know, news:

NFL insider sees Chargers, Raiders on move in 2017 (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Chargers Reportedly Almost Guaranteed To Move To L.A. In 2017 (LAist)
It reportedly will take a ‘miracle’ to keep the Chargers in San Diego (Washington Post)

What we have here is still a rumor — one that could be based on what actual NFL insiders are thinking, or on what actual NFL insiders want you to think, or on what a few people around the league are talking to a couple of well-connected sportswriters about over beers. It’s certainly possible that Dean Spanos will announce a move to L.A. next month, but it’s also possible that he’ll ask for more time to keep negotiating with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and/or the city of San Diego — or even that he’ll decide the L.A. deal is too second-fiddly for his blood and reject it entirely, though that seems less likely because why not just ask for an extension then to keep his options open? But trying to guess based on what some unknown “league sources” say is going to be about as accurate as a dart board — you’d probably do just as well selling prediction shares in the Chargers leaving or staying in San Diego, and going with the wisdom of the crowd.

Sportswriter with history of citing unsourced rumors says Chargers are moving to L.A., maybe

CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who two weeks ago wrote that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos had little choice but to share digs with the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood now that his request for $1.1 billion in public funds for a new stadium-convention center complex was crushed at the polls, is doubling down on that assertion, saying talks between the two teams are continuing to “improve in tenor.” His source? “League sources.”

La Canfora has a bit of a track record now of making anonymously sources predictions on NFL stadium deals, so let’s see how well he’s done in the past:

  • October 2012: NFL would rather have stadium built at Dodger Stadium than either City of Industry or the downtown “Farmers Field” site. Verdict: Hard to say, as none of the three sites ended up being approved.
  • September 2015: NFL owners can’t agree on whether to approve the Inglewood or Carson stadium plans. Verdict: Maybe at the time, though they did end up coming to an agreement just four months later.
  • October 2015: Rams owner Stan Kroenke would be willing to share his Inglewood stadium with another team. Verdict: True! Though how willing, we’re still waiting to see.
  • October 2015: St. Louis could come up with a stadium plan good enough to keep the league from approving a Rams move, but not so good that Kroenke wouldn’t refuse to take it and then move somewhere else, like maybe London. Verdict: Yeah, that didn’t happen.
  • December 2015: If denied the chance to move to L.A., Kroenke could sell the Rams to someone in St. Louis and buy the Denver Broncos instead. Verdict: We’ll never know.

Add it all up, and you get a reporter with lots of insider league contacts, and the willingness to run with any rumor that they’re telling him. Which doesn’t make the rumors wrong, necessarily, but it also doesn’t give them much predictive power.

So while it’s probably true that somebody has heard that the Spanos-Kroenke talks are going well, or at least proceeding apace, that doesn’t tell us much about whether they’ll actually come to an agreement. Or about La Canfora’s other predictions (similarly cited to “sources”) that there’s a “strong chance” the league could reduce the Chargers’ relocation fee (from what, he didn’t say) and that the Chargers “continue to investigate possibly” playing at the Los Angeles Galaxy‘s StubHub Center in Carson for two years while waiting for the Inglewood stadium to be built. La Canfora also said that Spanos asking for an extension on his January deadline to make a decision on an L.A. move “is not expected,” which is as close to a solid prediction as he gets in this article — mark it down, and we can add it to his scorecard in another few weeks.

Chargers owner’s only choice is to bunk with Rams in L.A. (or not)

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos has little choice but to move to Los Angeles now that a stadium subsidy initiative was soundly defeated at the polls. But then he quotes an NFL insider of saying … not completely the opposite, but pretty close:

“If Dean stays, it’s not because he thinks he can get a stadium in San Diego,” one ownership source said. “It’s just because he doesn’t want to take the deal in Inglewood.”

That was always the case, no? Los Angeles is bigger and wealthier than San Diego, and will soon have a newer stadium. But it will also be a stadium that will come with a whole lot of construction debt, and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is going to want to make that back by charging oodles of rent to any team that wants to bunk with him. So Spanos’s decision all along has been whether to take the deal that Kroenke is offering him, or to take whatever he has going for him in San Diego — and while “being the sole team in an old stadium” won’t be as lucrative as “being the sole team in a new stadium that the public would mostly pay for,” it’s still the same general calculus.

Will the Chargers move to L.A.? We can’t tell without knowing what offer Kroenke has on the table, and how much haggling he’s willing to do to ensure that he has a renter. No doubt this will all get worked out by the January deadline — or will get worked out as far as Kroenke and Spanos deciding they want an extension on that deadline — but as for how it all ends, your guess is as good as mine.

Rangers owners get $500m to tear down 22-year-old stadium for lacking a/c, oh democracy

So in those other election results:

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the [San Diego] Chargers received only 43 percent approval on Measure C, the team’s $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center annex that proposed raising hotel taxes from 12.5 percent to 16.5 percent to secure $1.15 billion in bonds to help pay for the project.

We already pretty much knew that was going to happen: That the Chargers stadium plan fell so far short was a slight surprise, but it never had any hope of getting close to the required two-thirds majority, and even 50% was probably out of reach. So anyway, what about the other stadium vote, the one whose outcome was still in doubt?

On Tuesday, voters in Arlington, Texas, approved a measure to contribute up to $500 million toward the cost of a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers. … The ballot measure passed by a margin of 60 percent yes to 40 percent no.

That’s also to be expected, once you take into account that the pro side (i.e., mostly the Texas Rangers owners) was outspending the anti side (a handful of volunteer activists) by more than 200-to-1, and anything over a 100-to-1 margin usually guarantees a victory. Still, as of just a few days ago it looked like a toss-up, and … nah, nobody wins against that kind of spending firepower, especially not in Texas.

So Chargers owner Dean Spanos will now be deciding whether to accept a lease from Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke to be tenants in Inglewood, or whether to try to fight an uphill battle to somehow get stadium subsidies in San Diego. (Or to stay in San Diego without subsidies HA HA HA HA just kidding.) And Texas Rangers owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson will be getting a half-billion-dollar check from Arlington taxpayers so they can tear down a 22-year-old stadium because it doesn’t have air-conditioning. The American experiment is going great.

Chargers stadium measure falls even farther behind, Rangers vote too close to call

Tuesday is election day, when voters go to the polls to decide on funding new stadiums for the Texas Rangers and San Diego Chargers, and also some other stuff. But anyway, how are those stadium votes looking?

  • In Arlington, according to the we’re-not-editorializing-at-all Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Despite warnings from city officials that the Texas Rangers could leave town unless the team’s owners get help to build a new ballpark, Arlington voters are evenly split on spending taxpayer dollars to subsidize construction of a $1 billion, retractable-roof stadium, according to an exclusive WFAA/Star-Telegram poll.” The current tally is 42-42%, with 16% undecided, which is pretty remarkable in a race where the pro-stadium side has outspent opponents by 200-to-1. ($1.47 million to $7,192, to be precise.) There’s still a good chance that all that campaign money will be a decisive factor with undecided voters over the next few days; nonetheless, it’s becoming clear that that whole “we need a new stadium because the old one doesn’t have air-conditioning” argument isn’t as convincing as the Rangers owners might have hoped.
  • In San Diego, where the ballot initiative to spend $1.15 billion on a new Chargers stadium plus convention center expansion already had no hope of getting the two-thirds majority necessary for passage, it now looks unlikely even to come close to a simple majority: “A Union-Tribune/10News poll released Thursday shows that Measure C is trailing 55 percent to 45 percent among actual voters and likely voters who are certain how they will vote, down from a 52 percent to 48 percent margin against the measure in mid-October.” And the Chargers owners, reports the U-T, have already spent “millions of dollars” on TV and radio ads, to no avail.

What does all this mean? That’s it hard to get voters to willingly give over hundreds of millions of public dollars to a private sports team owner. This isn’t really new — it’s been hard for decades, which is why owners like those of the Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins had to spend 10 years or more trying again and again before winning subsidies — and is why most team owners usually like to deal directly with elected officials where possible, because you can win them over by horse-trading with only a handful of people.

Still, if both the Rangers and Chargers votes go down to defeat, I’m pretty sure this will be the first time that sports team owners were shut out by voters on subsidy demands in a single November. Yet another reason to stay up late on Tuesday to see how this all turns out.

San Diego paper says to vote no on Chargers subsidy, then negotiate new Chargers subsidy

In a move that’s sort of surprising, sort of not — more on that in a second — the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board on Friday came out against the Chargers stadium ballot measure:

Could [San Diego Mayor Kevin] Faulconer, [Chargers owner Dean] Spanos and others negotiate a better deal than either measure on the ballot now? Clearly.

To earn our support, that deal must be negotiated with all sides, including hoteliers if it involves hotel taxes, with a specific design so San Diegans know what the venue would actually look like and, of course, with a public financial contribution spelled out and capped.

This board chooses to be optimistic, and it urges San Diegans to reject C and D and send everyone back to the bargaining table.

It’s indeed unusual for a city’s major paper to editorialize against a measure that’s backed by both the mayor and the owners of the local sports team, but this is an unusual ballot measure: The local hotel industry, which would be taxed to pay for the project, is dead-set against it, and even the project’s proponents aren’t holding out much hope that it will win a necessary two-thirds victory. So really, there isn’t too much political risk here for the U-T: It can call a crappy deal a crappy deal, and at worst it might get a few phone calls saying, “Jeez, we know we’re down, did you really have to kick us too?”

If you want to be really conspiracy-minded, you could even see the editorial as a backdoor way for Spanos to come up with a Plan B once the ballot measure loses: If everyone goes back to the negotiating table, that at least gives him a San Diego option to keep from having to slink north to Los Angeles and accept whatever Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke will offer for the Chargers to be his tenant. This is a long, multi-sided game of chicken being played here, and it’s not yet clear who’s going to go off the cliff. At least it’s not likely to be San Diego taxpayers next month, anyway, so thank goodness for small favors?

Chargers stadium measure is going to lose, question is only by how much

To win $1.15 billion in public money for a new stadium and convention center expansion, San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos needs to have more than two-thirds of ballots cast on election day be in favor of his funding measure — unless he somehow gets an appeals court to not just overturn this summer’s ruling that it will take a supermajority to approve the measure, but make it retroactive that a simple majority will do. Not that it matters, because it doesn’t look likely that the measure is even going to get 50%, let alone 67%:

The survey shows 41 percent of likely voters say they are certain to vote against Measure C and 36 percent say they are certain to vote for it. The remaining 23 percent describe themselves as “not certain.”…

“If there’s some blockbuster development that could alter the course of history, maybe the support group rallies,” said [SurveyUSA president Jay] Leve, whose company conducted the poll. “But even if it does rally, it would be unprecedented and historic in the annals of polling for something that’s trailing 30 days before the election to come back and get a super majority of 67 percent.”

And to add insult to injury, a sizable portion of voters say they’d be considering voting for the measure if the team didn’t suck:

More than half of likely voters said the team’s performance had no effect on their support for Measure C, but 34 percent said it made them less likely to support the measure and only 10 percent said it made them more likely to support it.

There’s still a few weeks to go, but it’s safe to say that we can not only call this vote, but the aftermath: The stadium measure is going to fall far short of a two-thirds majority, Spanos and Mayor Kevin Faulconer will scramble to come up with a way to say that the people who did vote for it represent a mandate to develop a new deal that doesn’t require two-thirds voter approval, and then everyone will stare at their feet a whole lot as they realize that nobody knows how to make $1.15 billion appear out of thin air without raising taxes in some way (and thus requiring a public vote), which is why they were in this mess to begin with.

It’s tough to see any end game at this point that doesn’t involve the Chargers moving to Inglewood, unless maybe Spanos decides he’d rather be top dog in San Diego than second fiddle in L.A. and decides to put more of his own money into a new (or renovated?) stadium, or just decides to stick around and wait things out until maybe his team starts winning games and voters decide this is a reason to throw more money at him. I wouldn’t bet big money on it, but stranger things have happened.

Chargers “study” finds that spending money causes money to be spent, calls this success

The San Diego Chargers announced yesterday that a study by two local economists found that construction of their “convadium” plan, which would cost $1.15 billion in public money, would “increase regional output by a total of $2.1 billion, increase labor income by more than $800 million, and will have a value-added impact of $1.2 billion.” The study was paid for by the Chargers, but its authors insist (according to the Chargers) that they had “complete freedom to do our research over the summer months and to come to whatever conclusions we believed were warranted.”

Okay, so with at least one eyebrow raised, let’s click on that “Read a complete copy of the economic impact study” link, and we find … oh, look it’s a whole 13 pages of report! Two of which are renderings of the convadium, and the rest of which are, from what I can tell, just the result of plugging the cost of building the convadium into the Commerce Department’s RIMS II formula, and reading the numbers that were spit out. Nice work if you can get it!

A bit of explanation: RIMS II is mostly a set of multipliers, which take a certain kind of spending — construction, in this case, then operations of a football stadium after that — and tell you how much of an effect that’s ultimately likely to have as the money filters out into the local economy. So it could tell you that if a company spent another $1 million on hiring, that would increase to, say, $1.5 million worth of impact as those new hires went out and spent their paychecks at local stores, which would hire new employees in turn, etc.

What RIMS doesn’t tell you is what would happen if you didn’t spend the money. In this case, the city would still have a 4% lower hotel tax rate, which would presumably boost hotel stays somewhat by making San Diego more competitive against other places to go on vacation — or, if you want to look at it another way, the city would have the option of raising hotel taxes 4% to spend on something else that could then be plugged into the RIMS model. RIMS also can’t tell you what would happen to Chargers fan spending if the team were to leave (would they all drive up the coast to see them in L.A.? buy more Padres tickets instead? spend it on big-screen TVs?), so you’re comparing apples to a box of oranges that you haven’t even opened to count yet.

In short: Studies like these are almost entirely worthless for telling you whether a project is worth doing. Developers love RIMS II and its ilk, though, because if you put big enough numbers into them, they’ll spit out even bigger numbers, and big numbers look good! In the end, though, all it says is that if the public spends a billion dollars on a new football stadium and convention center expansion, that’s a billion dollars that somebody else will earn. You don’t need an advanced degree in economics to figure that out — though it sure helps when you’re trying to get hired to write a 13-page report that a sports developer can tout on its website.