The Chargers will become Los Angeles’ newest football team in 2017. But will the team be able to generate much enthusiasm in the city it left more than half a century ago?
The move has been expected since San Diego voters said no to raising taxes to subsidize a new stadium for the team in November. Owner Dean Spanos, who had his eye on Los Angeles even before that, made it official Thursday. The shift was even pre-approved by the National Football League, which granted the Chargers the option of relocating to Los Angeles last year.
But football fans here already have a local football team. After two decades away, the Rams left St. Louis last year — blaming poor ticket sales (albeit for a team long absent from the playoffs) — and returned to play in the City of the Angels, reoccupying Memorial Coliseum until a new stadium can be completed. Now, within a year, another one? It’s not necessarily the case that L.A., which went without an NFL team for decades, will have the energy and enthusiasm to welcome a second NFL team.
And, no disrespect intended, but the Chargers aren’t exactly champions.
San Diegans supported the team for 56 years — perhaps even longer than the team deserved. Spanos has been agitating for a new stadium for years, threatening the host city with abandonment if it couldn’t come up with a replacement for the aging Qualcomm stadium. The final straw came when voters in November rejected a measure that would have raised hotel taxes to help pay for a new stadium and convention center complex.
The decision to leave San Diego was also about money — and so was the decision to come to L.A. Spanos, it seems, has found his new stadium. The plan is for the Chargers to eventually share the stadium Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke is building with private funds in Inglewood. In the interim, the team will play in StubHub Center in Carson.
But Spanos should remember this: A city’s love for a team depends on the love the team shows back by investing in the community and a quality product. Angelenos could be forgiven for wondering how long it will be before Spanos decides that sharing a stadium isn’t ideal and that taxpayers here should build him a new one — or else.
If that happens and the Chargers move to yet another city, well, that’s just the way it seems to be with professional sports these days. The Green Bay Packers aside, this is a big business whose foremost loyalty is to the bottom line, not to the people and cities that support it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And as long as Angelenos keep this in mind, Thursday’s announcement could be the beginning of a perfectly acceptable relationship.