PREDICTION: Chargers Will Stay in San Diego

NBC 7’s Derek Togerson takes a look at the Chargers and their stadium hunt in this commentary

It is the one question San Diego sports fans want answered and certainly the one I get asked more than anything else:

Are the Chargers going to stay or are they going to go?

I really, really wish I had an answer. The options, as you likely know by now, are to take the Los Angeles option and move the team to Los Angeles, rebrand, and become a tenant in Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s palace in Inglewood … or stay in San Diego while once again trying to work on a new stadium deal, something they finally did for the first time ever in 2016.

Or more simply put: Will Dean Spanos take the easy road or the honorable one?

This is one of those things that one could argue both sides of and come up with a pretty convincing case either way. Before we get to that, though, let’s assume a few things we can be pretty sure are going to happen (I know what happens when one assumes but we need to streamline this thing!).

The Raiders are probably no longer a threat to head to L.A. if the Chargers choose to stay. Mark Davis has a deal worked out to go to Las Vegas, public money has been approved in Nevada, and the NFL is really warming to the idea of a team in that market. Their relocation will almost assuredly be approved at the annual league meetings in March.

Also, the NFL wants the Chargers to stay in San Diego. The league has grown enamored with the idea of a team in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego. Call it the Golden Triangle (a golden scalene triangle, to be exact).

That geographic setup would give the National Football League a brand new market to work with as well as add L.A. and San Diego as Super Bowl cities because those markets will finally have Super Bowl-caliber facilities to match the Super Bowl-caliber weather.

THAT, my friends, is a big reason for the Chargers to try and stay. Spanos has already asked the NFL to up its ante and provide more money to bridge what is estimated to be about a $125 million gap in the funding for a new facility in the town that has called the Chargers home for 55 years.

That shows a desire to stay, and that is a good sign because if the owner wants to stay and the NFL wants to stay then all we would need is the local government to want them to stay and all would be well.

Speaking of, the City/County of San Diego combination will put up money for a new stadium but not as much as Spanos would like, which is part of the impasse. Another speed bump is the facility the local politicians would help fund will very likely have to be in Mission Valley instead of Downtown San Diego.

During the failed Measure C “campaign” Spanos said he couldn’t see the team under his ownership going back there. Odds are it was a scare tactic aimed at getting votes but it does provide a problem since a return now will make it look like Dean limped back to Mission Valley with his tail between his legs.

That is not how anyone wants to be perceived, especially not a man who owns an NFL team. Still, the finances of all this could be enough to make it happen.

If the Chargers stay they will be asked to contribute $300-$350 million to the new stadium build. That is a lot of money but a drop in the bucket compared to what they will have to pony up if they decided to pay rent in Inglewood.

To move the relocation fee is at least $500 million. Building a new practice facility is another, at least, $100 million. Paying severances to workers that don’t go with the team, hiring new staffers, moving the family, paying rent in a new spot and losing revenue from a severe lack of ticket sales in a market that does not want them …

Add all that up and you’re looking at nearly $1 billion dollars to go to Los Angeles.

I understand that there is a bigger pool up in L.A. with more potential fans and more potential advertisers. But you only make money from those entities if you know how to sell yourself. Has anything in the Chargers marketing history under this ownership group suggested they have the ability to pull off some kind of advertising coup in a city where they have next to zero fan base?

(Hint: the answer starts with an N and ends with an O)

The NFL also knows this, which is why the league is seriously considering figuring out a way to help the Bolts stay put. It is in no way impossible to get a new facility built in San Diego, although financing will be difficult.

That word … difficult … is the reason why it’s anything but a slam dunk for the Chargers to stay put. Spanos wants a stadium deal done and he wants basically everyone else to do it for him, from his string of advisors and lawyers to the local government. He has said he doesn’t see another option BUT to go to L.A. and part of the reason is a stadium will be there waiting for him, built and financed by someone else.

That is awfully intoxicating for Dean Spanos.

Given the financial picture laid out earlier really the only logical reason for the Chargers to move to Los Angeles is to sell the team. Once it lands in L.A. the value increases and the asking price to sell soars to at least $2.5 billion.

Of course we have no idea if that is the ownership group’s plan or not. They have not broached that topic publicly very often. My gut tells me Dean likes being in the fraternity of NFL owners and doesn’t want to give that up quite yet.

So … is it go to a house someone else builds in a new city? Or stick with the community that supported your team for the entirety of your tenure, right up until you tried to abandon them?

The easy road? Or the honorable one?

One of the things the fellow owners are always praising Dean Spanos for is his loyalty. They see him as the good soldier who does what he can for the league.

If loyalty truly is one of Dean’s qualities then he will make more than one real push at a stadium in San Diego. He will reject the Los Angeles option, work with the local government and the NFL on a stadium plan to be put before San Diego voters in November of 2018, and then if that doesn’t work he will truly be out of options and be able to move north with a clean conscience.

That is what I believe is going to happen. It will not be surprising if he leaves. But given all the factors involved here it would be the wrong decision.