An estimated 2,500 cheering Charger fans flocked to a meeting Monday night of the mayor’s stadium advisory committee to plead the case for building a new stadium to keep the team from moving to the Los Angeles area.
At a parking-lot rally before the meeting, recently retired Charger star Nick Hardwick led the boisterous crowd in a cheer that has become the fight song of the movement to retain the team: “Save Our Bolts.”
Other fans watched the three-hour meeting on the giant screen above the playing field – and tweeted their comments to the committee.
A young boy, wearing a Chargers jersey, told the committee that if the team left, it would destroy his dreams: “I really really like the Chargers.”
Dion Rich, 85, former nightclub owner and self-described master of gate-crashing 35 Super Bowls, reminded the committee that if the Chargers move, San Diego will never get another Super Bowl. “Go Chargers!,” Rich said, exiting to cheers.
‘’There is a lot of emotion in the room,” said committee Chairman Adam Day.
To lose the Chargers to Los Angeles and the Raiders would be a "double slap in the face," one fan told the committee. Another said it would be disrespectful to the memories of Charger greats like Junior Seau and Don Coryell to have their names adorn a "ring of honor" in a distant city.
"You could put it (a new stadium) in my backyard, as long as we don't have to share it with the Raiders," said David Agranoff, vice president of the Save Our Bolts committee.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer has given his committee until late May to recommend a site and financing plan to build a replacement for Qualcomm Stadium. Faulconer has promised to submit the plan to voters.
Day said the committee believes it can meet the deadline. "We wouldn't be here if we didn't," he said.
Rafael Alvarez, a season-ticket holder since 1992, said that only by keeping the Chargers in San Diego can the city continue to call itself America’s Finest City.
For 14 years, the Spanos family, which owns the Chargers, has said that although it prefers to remain in San Diego, it needs a new stadium to remain financially competitive with other NFL teams.
The possibility has long loomed that the Chargers might move to Los Angeles, a much larger, more lucrative market, one bereft of an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders departed after the 1994 season.
In his Jan. 14 state-of-the-city address, Faulconer vowed to have a stadium plan for the ballot by the end of 2016. That promise came with the caveat that any plan must protect taxpayers and make financial sense for the city, not just the Chargers.
At the time of the speech, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke had announced plans to build a stadium in Inglewood, a possible first step toward moving the Rams back to Southern California.
When the Chargers and Oakland Raiders said on Feb. 19 that the two organizations plan to build a stadium in Carson, the surprise announcement greatly increased the sense of urgency – some might say panic – in San Diego.
Winning support from a fiscally-conservative electorate for a public subsidy will be a daunting task. People who oppose any such funding plan and believe the Chargers should pay the cost of a new stadium did not attend the meeting.
“The billionaires who own sports teams are not stupid,” emailed former City Councilman Fred Schnaubelt. “They don’t even love sports. They love politicians who love to spend taxpayers’ money on sports.”