The Chargers fumble in choice to relocate to Los Angeles

Max Gilberg

The Seattle Supersonics, the Los Angeles Raiders and the Washington Senators: what do all of these loyal fan bases have in common? They all had to endure the pain of a devastating franchise relocation. These sports organization relocations force teams to leave behind their history as well as their entire fan base.

The San Diego Chargers are now facing a very similar situation after owner Dean Spanos announced that the Chargers will be moving to Los Angeles for the 2017-2018 NFL season. Spanos is making a huge mistake by relocating his team, leaving behind a passionate fan base as well as the legacy that the franchise had built over the last 56 years in San Diego.

There are many problems that the Chargers will likely experience when joining the Rams in LA. History has shown that two NFL teams sharing a stadium and a city is a recipe for disaster. In 1960, the University of Southern California (USC), the Los Angeles Rams and the Chargers were forced to share the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Rams averaged more than 70,000 fans per game, while the Chargers could barely draw a crowd of 10,000. This resulted in the Chargers moving to San Diego only a year after establishing their team.

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Illustration by Vanessa Clare

There are a number of Redwood students that are passionate about this topic, including sophomore Lily Billimek. Billimek grew up in San Diego County and enjoyed attending Chargers games as a child. Still supporting the organization, she feels frustrated by the recent decision to relocate. However, Billimek can understand some of the motivation behind the move to Los Angeles.

“A new stadium and a new city will refresh [the Chargers] which could lead to new opportunities for the organization,” Billimek said.

Although I still disagree with Spanos’ decision, I see several positives for the franchise. One of the biggest issues the Chargers have been dealing with is finding a new stadium. The Chargers have been playing in Qualcomm Stadium ever since 1967. Although the outdated stadium has served a great purpose for the last 50 years, it has fallen behind other NFL stadiums such as the Dallas Cowboys, who reside in a 1.2 billion dollar stadium. It is clear that the main reason the Chargers will be moving to Los Angeles is that San Diego was unable to provide a new stadium. 

With the Chargers returning to LA for the 2017-2018 season, they will be forced to play their home games in StubHub Arena, where the soccer team the Los Angeles Galaxy currently resides. The issue with this stadium is that it only seats 30,000 fans, making it the smallest NFL stadium by 25,000 seats. In fact, the Chargers’ current stadium seats 70,561 fans, which means that they are able to fit 40,561 more fans than StubHub Arena. This could take a toll on income for the Chargers franchise as they won’t be able to make sufficient funds from ticket sales.  

I also believe that the Chargers will once again be overshadowed by the Rams, much like how the Clippers are overshadowed by the Lakers large fan-base. The Clippers have had a much better team than the Lakers in recent years, yet the Lakers have consistently beat them in attendance numbers. This is due to one reason – history. The Chargers have little history in the Los Angeles area opposed to the Rams and for that reason they will be consistently overshadowed, just like the Clippers.

The Rams have history in L.A., as they resided there for 46 years before moving to St. Louis, while the Chargers were only there for one year before moving to San Diego. Although the organization will increase in value, team support and interest is beginning to dwindle, which will lead to a recurrence of low ticket sales as well as low attendance rates like the Chargers experienced in 1960.

With the Chargers unable to find the space to build a new stadium their only choice is to move to Los Angeles where they would be provided with a temporary stadium until a new one is built in L.A.

Another major reason the Chargers decided to move to LA was for financial purposes. Goldman Sachs has agreed to finance the Chargers if they follow through with moving to Los Angeles. According to San Diego 6, a local news outlet, Goldman Sachs has told the Chargers they will cover any financial losses the team experiences due to the relocation as well as any renovations needed at a temporary facility like the Los Angeles Coliseum or the Rose Bowl. The firm has also said that they will finance their new joint stadium in Carson as well. I believe Spanos’ decision was heavily influenced by financial cushioning.

Overall, Spanos is making a huge mistake relocating the Chargers to Los Angeles. San Diego is the perfect location for sports teams to subside with beautiful warm weather that attracts tourists from all around the world. However, San Diego has failed to properly manage their sports organizations, losing a number of sports teams over the years including the Clippers. In coming years we will likely see the Chargers being overshadowed by the Rams as well as disappointing attendance levels due to the lack of Chargers fans in the Los Angeles area. I believe Spanos will soon regret this decision as he will realize the die hard fan base they have built within the San Diego area and how he has failed to capitalize on the opportunity and continue the legacy of the San Diego Chargers.