The Bolts are bolting.
As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday night, and later confirmed by the team Thursday morning, the San Diego Chargers are planning to moving back to Los Angeles for the 2017 NFL season. The Chargers had been in San Diego since the AFL days starting in 1961, moving from L.A. following the franchise’s inaugural season of 1960.
How quickly are the Chargers moving on? They’ve rolled out a new logo, which has received some hilarious responses to its appearance in the first few hours.
Chargers new logo, via their twitter avatar. pic.twitter.com/M9eSK8Pgm6
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 12, 2017
Chargers chairman Dean Spanos announced the move after a 16-year battle to secure a new stadium deal in San Diego came to an end.
“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.
“But, today we turn the page and begin an exciting new era as the Los Angeles Chargers. L.A. is a remarkable place, and while we played our first season there in 1960 and have had fans there ever since, our entire organization knows that we have a tremendous amount of work to do. We must earn the respect and support of LA football fans. We must get back to winning. And, we must make a meaningful contribution, not just on the field, but off the field as a leader and champion for the community.”
“The Chargers are determined to fight for LA and we are excited to get started.”
In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell backed Spanos’ efforts to make a deal work in San Diego before informing him of the team’s relocation intentions.
“For more than a decade, the San Diego Chargers have worked diligently toward finding a local stadium solution, which all sides agreed was required,” Goodell said. “These efforts took on added intensity in the last two years. A year ago, NFL owners granted the Chargers an option to move to Los Angeles. Rather than immediately exercising that option, the team spent the past year continuing to work on finding a stadium solution in San Diego.”
For the next two seasons, the Chargers will play in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson, Calif. before moving in as roommates with the Los Angeles Rams in the Inglewood palace being built by Rams owner Stan Kroenke for the start of the 2019 season. It’s a less-than-ideal living arrangement — both for the short and long terms — for the Chargers, but they felt they had no other options left.
Spanos and the franchise have sought a new stadium for parts of the past two frustrating decades, and there was a funding gap between what the team, the city of San Diego (via taxpayer dollars) and the NFL could provide for a new home to replace Qualcomm Stadium, which had fallen behind modern NFL facility standards in the team’s mind.
Even amid all the talk for more than a year that the team could leave San Diego, the timing is surprising considering that the NFL did not want to have a team relocation occur during the divisional playoff weekend. That’s why the league had pushed back the franchise’s deadline to decide whether or not to move from Sunday to Tuesday, following Monday’s national holiday for Martin Luther King Day.
But the timing didn’t matter. The Chargers made the final decision late Wednesday night and are full steam ahead at moving a few hours north.
The NFL owners who make up the league’s stadium and finance committees met in New York on Wednesday, and it was notable that the Chargers did not attend the meeting, nor did the owners spend much of the 3.5-hour get-together discussing the situation. Most of the time was spent by the committees discussing the Oakland Raiders and their possible move to Las Vegas, which might have indicated that the NFL knew what was coming from Spanos.
Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel writes that the franchise’s move is a microcosm of their time in the NFL: mistake-prone and misguided.
San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, who attempted a Hail Mary pass at a stadium deal recently, is giving his State of the City address Thursday night. But the Chargers’ moves up to this point suggested they were well prepared to enact the relocation. The team secured a location for a temporary training facility just outside L.A. in Costa Mesa in December, and the city’s 11th-hour pitch to keep the team — a projected $1.2 billion stadium to be built on the current site of Qualcomm Stadium — wasn’t enough. Public funds would have come in the form of $375 million for the deal that apparently will never happen now, and there were no indications that the league planned to increase its pledge over the $300 million it has offered to help bridge the funding gap for a stadium.
So the Chargers return to where the franchise was founded, but it will be crowded there with the Rams having relocated last year from St. Louis and receiving tepid TV ratings and local fan support for their first season. Both the Chargers and Rams are coming off losing seasons in which their head coaches were fired, and both jobs remain open. Will fans suddenly embrace a second new NFL team, even one that’s so close geographically? That might be asking a lot.
The NFL had been out of Los Angeles for more than 20 years, but with the Rams and Chargers now there, two teams might be a crowd.
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