San Diego Chargers need to stay put: Just say no to Los Angeles

The Miami Dolphins against the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium, September 27, 2009.
(Tim Forkes)

In the great, grand scheme of things, sports ranks kind of low — unless your team is either in the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup Final (that’s NHL for you folks that don’t know what a Stanley Cup Final is).

We have the so-called war on terrorism, poverty, illiteracy, medicine-resistant superbugs, natural disasters (Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy to name two we are still recovering from) and all the other social ills of the world and most specifically, the U.S. and our little corners we inhabit.

Super Bowl XLIX fans in Phoenix, AZ (Claudia Gestro)
Super Bowl XLIX fans in Phoenix, AZ
(Claudia Gestro)

But a lot of people do care about sports — a lot. They identify with their teams, wear the gear, and pay hundreds of dollars for jackets and shoes, and not just a few people, but millions across America.

The NFL, for instance, can get away with offering their Super Bowl tickets at face value prices between $800 and $2,000 and then turn around and sell tickets on aftermarket sites, like their own Ticket Exchange, for prices starting at — and I kid you not — $4,000. That’s for one ticket, by itself. If you want two tickets seated together, then you will pay almost twice that for each of the two tickets. In the so-called “cheap seats.”

The reason the NFL — and every other major sports league — can get away with it is that the people are willing to pay those prices. There are people who love sports and love being at major sporting events like the Super Bowl. It’s the place to be. Nuevo-riche and old money alike want to be where the action is and the Super Bowl is by far the biggest ticket in town, regardless of which teams are in it and who is doing the half time show.

So, the Super Bowl coms to your town and the only way to get tickets is through after-market sellers — the legal scalpers — or street vending scalpers that advertise on Of course there is always the question of authenticity from the street vender types, so buyer beware.

Either way, as a consumer you will be paying at least four times the face value of the ticket and you know what? Every one of those tickets will be sold because there are enough people around the world who want nothing more than to be at the biggest party on the planet — the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLIX fans in Phoenix, AZ (Claudia Gestro)
Super Bowl XLIX fans in Phoenix, AZ
(Claudia Gestro)

There might have been maybe a few thousand residents of Arizona sitting in those seats when Steven Hauschka of the Seattle Seahawks kicked the ball to the New England Patriots to start Super Bowl XLIX. The rest of the seats were taken up by Patriots and Seahawks fans and other people willing to pay thousands of dollars for their tickets. I wouldn’t even guess at the price of renting a luxury box. Seats at the 50-yard line were close to 30k a piece. You want a luxury box that can handle 50-100 people, with catering and an open bar? Don’t think about it too long, your head might explode.

  • Okay, I just had to check: $600k if you want a luxury suite near the 50-yard line. That’s not even the top price and there will be hundreds of luxury suites for sale. Is you head exploding yet?

The point is it’s big bucks, a billion or more generated by one game — a half billion just to Phoenix and the surrounding area for hosting Super Bowl XLIX. Forget who is in it and the half time show. Most of the people attending don’t care about those details, they just want to be there, wherever there is — even a cold weather location like the Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, site of Super Bowl XLVIII (48). Yep, sold out and “Super Bowl Boulevard” in lower Manhattan was so crowded with Super Bowl fans during the week prior to the big game it was nearly impossible to get from one entertainment venue to the next.

It just doesn’t matter where the Super Bowl is held or who is in it, except of course for the fans of the teams that are in it. About a billion dollars will flow into the host city when a Super Bowl comes to town. Which brings up our fair city, near the border with Mexico.

The last time San Diego hosted a Super Bowl was … 2003 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII (37 if you’re trying to figure it out).

San Diego from San Diego Bay. (Tim Fforkes and Wikipedia)
San Diego from San Diego Bay.
(Tim Fforkes and Wikipedia)

San Diego has hosted only three Super Bowls. San Diego, renowned for its perfect weather 350 days out of the year. Yep, we get about two weeks of rain and then perfect weather the rest of America envies. In fact, when we do get light rain in the summer (usually the remnants of a tropical storm in the Pacific Ocean) our weather is still enviable. Right about now, for instance, my family back in Wisconsin and Minnesota are enduring temperatures that are hovering around 0°f. In Milwaukee, the old hometown, the mid-day temperature at this moment is 16°f. Here in Sunny Sandy Eggo it’s a chilly 64°f.

So, the question is: why hasn’t this fairly nice city with the universally acknowledged best weather in the country hosted more Super Bowls? As it turns out the NFL declared there would be no more Super Bowls in San Diego unless the San Diego Chargers got a new stadium. It appears Qualcomm Stadium, which was once Jack Murphy Stadium, just isn’t modern enough for 21st century NFL football.

The San Diego Chargers themselves have been demanding a new stadium for longer, almost 15 years and back in 2003 the NFL, under Paul Tagliabue, said as much. “It’s unlikely that there’s going to be a Super Bowl in the immediate future in San Diego.”

Qualcomm Stadium just isn't modern enough for today’s NFL. (Tim Forkes)
Qualcomm Stadium just isn’t modern enough for today’s NFL. (Tim Forkes)

A new stadium that could attract Super Bowls would have to seat at least 70,000 fans and be technologically advanced, like Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, home of the San Francisco 49ers.

Okay, despite the population base of six million (if you include surrounding suburbs and municipalities), San Diego is considered a “small market” team, or at least a smaller market than Los Angeles, which has a population of 20-plus million — the second largest media market in the U.S. So to keep the Chargers in San Diego the city — the residents — would have to pony up some of the 1.2 billion dollars it will take to build a new stadium.

The city said it would have a plan that could be put to a vote in the 2016 elections … but then the St. Louis Rams announced they were looking at plans for moving back to L.A. and they had a location in Inglewood all lined up.

That created a flurry of tweets and commentary before the Super Bowl. If the Rams moved back to L.A. then it would be unlikely the Chargers — or Raiders — would move as well. What people didn’t count on was that there would be a competition of sorts for teams considering relocation to L.A.

Which made the news from the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders so shocking. They announced they had been looking into and investing in the possibility of relocating to the L.A. area, specifically a location in Carson.

“Carson? Never heard of it.”

The proposed stadium in Carson, CA (Carson2Gether YouTube)
The proposed stadium in Carson, CA
(Carson2Gether YouTube)

No one outside the immediate area of Los Angeles had heard of the small town until last week when the Chargers and Raiders announced they were looking at plans to move there and share a stadium. If you’re wondering, it’s about 13 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles and has a population of just over 91,000. It was first incorporated as a municipality in 1968.

  • San Diego on the other hand has been in existence for 246 years.

Angelinos are very accustomed to getting in their cars and driving everywhere so the idea that they would travel a few miles to watch football games 17 weeks out of the year is not out of the question.

It’s in Los Angeles County and the mayor of Carson, Jim Dear, could hardly contain his giddiness at a press conference in Carson to let everyone know they were seriously considering his town as a place to play their home games. Mayor Dear spoke at the press conference and gave his enthusiastic support for the Chargers and Raiders building a new stadium. The representatives of the two teams spoke of the plan as being more than just exploratory. It sounded to many like it was a done deal and the posturing by the Chargers over staying in San Diego was just for show.

Now others believe this was just a bluff. The Chargers, i.e. Dean Spanos, the owner, said they want to stay in San Diego, that they’ve spent 14 years and millions of dollars trying to hammer out a deal for a new stadium here in San Diego because that is the team’s preferred plans. The Carson deal with the Raiders, well that’s just in case the City of San Diego can’t find a way to help the Chargers find a new location and finance a new stadium.

Dolphins and Chargers, September 27, 2009. (Tim forkes)
Dolphins and Chargers, September 27, 2009.
(Tim forkes)

But now the Chargers can’t wait until November 2016 for an answer. They want to know now, so that if the Rams have any real desire to move back to Los Angeles, something many Angelinos would welcome, they can either say no to Carson or begin their final preparations for the move.

At his Super Bowl XLIX press conference Commissioner Roger Goodell said there were no applications or plans for moving any teams anywhere, including the Chargers. Yes, that might be technically true, but the Chargers, Raiders and Rams would not be going through the considerable expense of looking at options in L.A. if they didn’t have some assurance from the league there would be a favorable outcome were they to decide on a move.

Sure, 100 million dollars is chump change to these billionaires, but billionaires become and remain billionaires by counting every damn penny in their chump change jars. They know what kind of revenue a new stadium will generate so they calculate the cost of exploring options into the equation. The teams get a piece of the pie if their stadium is chosen as a Super Bowl location.

Either way, with a new stadium here or in L.A. the Chargers will make back all the money they have invested so far, while looking for a solution in San Diego and L.A. And I believe the Chargers — Dean Spanos and family — want to stay in San Diego. If that wasn’t true they could have moved years ago.

San Diego is not a very enthusiastic sports town. It just isn’t. In 1984 the Clippers moved to Los Angeles and played second fiddle to the Lakers for 30 years. No one in San Diego really cared.

Pacific Beach, San Diego (Tim Forkes)
Pacific Beach, San Diego
(Tim Forkes)

Then there is this: on a nice Sunday afternoon in September, where would you rather be? In a crowded stadium with people spilling beer on you, or at a semi-crowded beach taking in the sunshine and hard bodies? Plus, half the residents are from someplace else and they either don’t care about football very much or they already have a favorite team; in San Diego you’ll find a lot of Steelers and Packers fans. And Cowboys fans. Cowboys fans are like an invasive species.

And this is really how you judge whether a city is an enthusiastic sports town or not: the two networks that provide regular season football coverage will offer double headers every week, two games for the viewers. In San Diego we will only get one of those games, no matter how big the match-ups might be, like say a Packers-Bears game advertised by the network, Fox in this case. The oldest and fiercest rivalry in football — will get replaced with infomercials and reruns of … pick a stupid show from the 1990s.

The point being: there will be a lot of San Diegans who just don’t give a damn if the Chargers move to Los Angeles. Yes, a lot of San Diegans like their Chargers all right, but not enough San Deigans consider the team theirs.

But there is something the Chargers can do to get more support from the residents in and around San Diego, including the 25 percent of their fan base that comes from Orange County and L.A.: Win a Super Bowl. Do that and the fan base will grow. Do that and the fans will demand the city get a deal done, maybe even Downtown, although really, the best place for a new stadium is Mission Valley, right next to Qualcomm Stadium. Easy access from several freeways, lots of space for parking and you have the trolley rolling past and stopping right there on the grounds.

Keep the Chargers Girls in San Diego! (Tim Forkes)
Keep the Chargers Girls in San Diego!
(Tim Forkes)

It won’t be a surprise if the Chargers leave San Diego, but it will be another disappointment for many San Diegans. Even those of use who already have a favorite team, we like football and having the Chargers play every Sunday gives us another team to root for, as long as they aren’t playing against our favorite team.

And come on — going in cahoots with the Raiders? You gotta be kidding! Even as a Packers fan — especially because I’m a Packers fan — I appreciate the weight of this rivalry. When Chargers fans say, “[screw] the Raiders!” I can relate. Them effin’ Bears.

The Chargers need to stay in San Diego. The city can use the future Super Bowl revenue — even just the promise of it — to revamp the convention center so we don’t lose Comic-Con. It all fits.