Ohhh, the stadium situation.
To this point, I’ve been cautious about weighing in on it, due to the fact it’s all speculation and there are endless scenarios that could or could not happen and it seemed silly to be swayed by every opinion or theory.
Recently, though, I’ve been privy to conversations that included information from people closest to the chaos, and with some of the news that’s come out of the recent owners meetings in New York, it’s given me pause.
So, I’m about to dive into the dark side and weigh in with my thoughts. For me to be writing anything about the Los Angeles/Carson/San Diego/Inglewood Chargers means I feel strongly about the information I’ve heard, strongly enough to put it out there and be taken to task by all the people who think I’m crazy — (get in line, by the way) — but also remember that none of us really know what’s going on. This situation isn’t orchestrated. It’s dynamic, fluid; it shifts with every domino that falls.
I don’t believe the Chargers are moving next year.
They might want to – and it seems to indicate more and more that they do – but I would argue they’re not. This contradicts pretty much everything I’m hearing by fans and most everything that’s being written about in the media. Heck, I’ve even had Chargers employees tell me that while they don’t know for sure, they strongly believe LA is a foregone conclusion.
I don’t think it’s going to happen, and here’s why:
**First things first: My hunch is that there is no delay on NFL-to-LA. While there’s been talk that everything could be pushed back a year, I’m hearing there is a “greater than 50-percent chance” a team will be in Los Angeles next season. Does that mean it’s certain? No. Greater than 50-percent doesn’t exactly strike absolute confidence. But, every year they wait brings unforeseen challenges, so if the situation can be managed now, it’s time to strike.
The best time for a team to move (or announce a move) is in January. (It maximizes a team’s time in a new market and it creates less distraction than if a team was to move closer to the start of the season. An organization also needs to be able to tell season-ticket holders of the move before the renewal deadline.)
**The NFL sees the San Diego market as a relatively strong market. It’s also a gateway to Mexico, where the league sees deep, deep pockets. The NFL does not want to lose that connection and the opportunities that come with being so close to the border.
(Also, league officials love San Diego. That counts for something, believe me. Put a decent stadium in this place and you’ll never get them to leave.)
**None of the owners have all their cards on the table. That would be foolish, as Kenny Rogers would tell you. Hands will be shown at the eleventh hour, and deals that will be made right as the clock strikes midnight. There is a lot of ego and gamesmanship involved in this process and much figures to be maneuvered behind closed doors.
**While the NFL cannot necessarily interfere with the process at this point – they have to let the owners do what they feel is in the best interest of their team – they can broker deals in the background. As Eric Grubman (NFL point person for relocation) told Kevin Acee in this interview, the New England Patriots almost moved to Hartford, Connecticut, in 1999. Then NFL-commisioner Paul Tagliabue went to Boston to help negotiate a deal to keep them in the Foxboro area instead, and the Patriots called off their pact with Connecticut.
From a New York Times article published on April 27, 1999:
From November through last week, the National Football League did nothing publicly to upset the proposition that the New England Patriots would move from the team’s creaky old home in Foxboro, Mass., to a $375 million stadium in Hartford that would be fully subsidized by Connecticut taxpayers.
But on Friday, Paul Tagliabue, the N.F.L. commissioner, met in Boston with Massachusetts business leaders, now energized by the urgency of the Patriots’ situation. Tagliabue said he wanted to take a look at how the team might remain in Foxboro, in a new $225 million stadium paid for by the league and the team, with up to $75 million being provided by Massachusetts for roads, exit ramps and parking lots.
There is a thought that as time expires, commissioner Roger Goodell may sweeten the pot for the Chargers to remain in San Diego by ramping up negotiations with Mayor Faulconer to get the Chargers the stadium they want and/or by using more league money to get a stadium financed. The league could say to Chargers owner Dean Spanos: “Give it one more shot. We’ll help you and put our resources behind you. If the City of San Diego can’t get it done even with that, you can apply for relocation in 2017.” Even if ONE team moved to Los Angeles in 2016, it could still allow for the Chargers to apply for relocation if nothing could get done next year.
There is also speculation that if Spanos remains locked on Los Angeles, the league will say, “Okay, you can move the Chargers … but we’re going to bring another team to San Diego this year to take your place” (a notion that would not sit well with Spanos).
The league is not necessarily meddling at this point, but make no mistake that arms can be twisted and backs can be scratched, whether by convincing other owners to sway from one proposal to another (and thereby “un-block” deadlocked proposals) or by convincing certain owners to go back to the negotiating table.
I tend to lean toward the Chargers giving it one more shot in San Diego. If that “one more shot” requires a public vote because it uses taxpayer money … Well, that’s where I stumble. Even IF the league is able to convince Spanos to make one more attempt in San Diego, it doesn’t necessarily mean the voters of San Diego will see it through. Perhaps the notion of less taxpayer money — due to the NFL likely kicking in more dough — will incentivize voters to adopt new digs. I’m still not sure it will be enough to get it passed, though. (Especially if the Chargers have a mediocre or sub-par year. Don’t underestimate the power of wins and losses when it comes to apathy, my friends.)