After years of hints, shots across the bow and a few gentle suggestions, the Chargers have finally done it: Owner Dean Spanos announced that the NFL team will be leaving San Diego for Los Angeles, starting next season.
“San Diego has been our home for 56 years. It will always be part of our identity, and my family and I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the support and passion our fans have shared with us over the years,” Spanos said in a letter Thursday.
“But today,” he continued, “we turn the page and begin an exciting new era as the Los Angeles Chargers.”
The move will bring to a close the Chargers’ 56-year stay in the city. The team spent its inaugural year in 1960 playing in Los Angeles, as a member of the American Football League (which would merge with the NFL roughly a decade later).
The first stop in LA didn’t last long; the team moved to San Diego the following year. In the decades that followed, the Chargers made it to just one Super Bowl, which they lost to the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.
In recent years, the relationship between Spanos and the city his team called home soured, as Spanos angled for public funds for a new stadium. The Chargers’ current venue, Qualcomm Stadium, opened in 1967 and now stands as one of the NFL’s oldest buildings. The City of San Diego was less than enthused about the prospect of paying for a new one.
The standoff led Spanos to cast his gaze elsewhere, notably in a proposal with the Oakland Raiders to share a stadium in Carson, Calif., in Los Angeles County. That plan was rejected by NFL owners in a vote early last year.
The ongoing dispute even made a recent appearance on Election Day ballots, when a referendum was put to San Diego voters. They dealt a convincing defeat to a Spanos-supported proposal that would have used hundreds of millions of tax dollars on a new stadium in downtown San Diego.
While not necessarily a nail in the coffin, that vote renewed speculation that the Chargers and San Diego would soon part ways.
LA, for its part, had suffered a professional football drought for more than two decades, since the Raiders and the Rams both left town in the mid-1990s. Now, after the Rams returned last year, the city is suddenly flush with football teams — especially if you count perennial college powerhouses USC and UCLA.
The newly minted LA Chargers will join the Rams in a $2.66 billion stadium in Inglewood, reports the San-Diego Union-Tribune. That stadium is scheduled to open in 2019; in the meantime, the Chargers will be playing at the StubHub Center in Carson, which will briefly earn the honor of smallest venue in the NFL. According to the paper, the Chargers will also have to pay the NFL a $550 million relocation fee — or, $650 million if they choose to pay in installments.
San Diego fans, for their part, expressed disappointment and frustration, though not surprise.
“It hurts, but we will move on without them,” County Supervisor Ron Roberts told the Union-Tribune. “San Diego is a great community and we are not dependent on the Chargers.”
Lastly, by way of postscript, it must be noted: Bystanders on social media have not exactly been kind to the team’s new logo, which displays a white L and A on a blue background, a la the LA Dodgers — albeit with a little lightning bolt riff.
We present these tweets without comment, merely as a reminder that the Internet might not be the best place to look for a warm welcome.
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