City and county officials said San Diego now has the opportunity for a “fresh start” in its quest to keep the San Diego Chargers in town, after NFL owners voted down the team’s proposed relocation to the Los Angeles suburb of Carson.
A key issue is whether the Chargers will return to local negotiations that it exited several weeks ago. Immediately following the Jan. 12 NFL vote to approve the St. Louis Rams’ relocation to Inglewood, Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos said he would be taking the next two to four weeks to explore his options.
The NFL has given Spanos the choice of joining Rams owner Stan Kroenke in his Inglewood stadium project within the next year, or working out new stadium arrangements in San Diego. If he chooses the latter and a deal with San Diego government leaders can be reached – and local voters are on board – the NFL is ready to kick in another $100 million on top of its previously pledged $200 million.
The Chargers have until mid-January 2017 to reach an agreement with the Rams to go to Inglewood if that is their choice, after which the option reverts to the Oakland Raiders. Kroenke said in a post-vote news conference that arrangements could be made to bring the Chargers into the Inglewood project as a tenant or full stadium partner.
At a Jan. 13 news conference, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city and county, and its established team of negotiators, need to hear from the Chargers on what they are seeking if they do remain in San Diego. Faulconer said he is optimistic that arrangements can be made to place a measure before voters – likely in November 2016, but earlier if necessary.
Faulconer said the city is open to discussions about locating a new stadium in downtown San Diego, the preferred choice of the Chargers. That location, however, would require considerably more preparation work than the current stadium site in Mission Valley, as the downtown bus yard site and adjacent parcels previously favored by the Chargers would need to be purchased by the city and cleaned up, among other matters.
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the Mission Valley site already has a completed environmental impact report and financing plan, and has also received fast-tracking status from the governor’s office in the event that a Mission Valley stadium project faces legal challenges. But officials said that doesn’t mean a downtown project can’t be pursued.
“We now have an opportunity to come together on a fair agreement,” Faulconer said. County Supervisor Ron Roberts also said the NFL owners’ vote in Houston presented an opening for a “new chapter” in discussions to keep the Chargers in San Diego.