After two seasons training at a facility in Carson, the San Diego Chargers are moving their summer camp back to San Diego, to the hurrahs of local sports boosters who have worried the team is looking to move to Los Angeles.
"This is great news for San Diego," said Joe Moeller, president of the San Diego International Sports Council. "It's the organization saying to the business and sports community: We want to be here."
When the team moved its four-week camp to the Home Depot Center, fans and local business leaders worried it might be a precursor to fleeing San Diego.
At the time, the Chargers and City Hall were locked in controversy about a lease provision that required the city to pay for unsold tickets at Qualcomm Stadium. The ticket-guarantee provision was eliminated this year as part of a renegotiation.
"San Diego is always a little bit suspicious of Los Angeles and the motives of Los Angeles, and having the training camp in Carson fueled those fears," said Doug Barnhart, local builder and sports council board member. "This will go a long way to stilling those fears."
Part of the San Diego suspicion came from the fact that the Home Depot Center sits on 85 acres leased by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, whose owner, Denver billionaire and sports magnate Philip An- schutz, has shown interest in bringing an NFL franchise to Los Angeles.
Charger President Dean Spanos said, "Bottom line, we don't want there to be any doubt about our commitment to the San Diego community."
The training camp will be held at the Chargers' practice facility in the Murphy Canyon section of San Diego. Before leaving for Carson, the team had held camp at UC San Diego for 16 seasons.
The announcement comes as the team (10-3) appears on its way to a playoff spot for the first time since 1995.
The Chargers have told city officials that the team wants a new stadium to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium. Under the renegotiated lease, the franchise can be "shopped" to other cities starting in 2007.
Jim Steeg, recently hired as Charger executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the split with Anschutz Entertainment Group was amicable. The announcement was made Thursday at a luncheon for Steeg hosted by business and civic leaders.
While getting public backing for a private-public partnership to build a new stadium remains a daunting task, there are indications that the public is again warming to the team, after several losing seasons and caustic controversy over the ticket guarantee, which cost taxpayers $25 million.
Pollster John Nienstedt, whose firm, Competitive Edge Research, conducted a poll for KPBS radio and television, found that a winning team and the removal of the ticket guarantee "has turned a stadium deal from a non-starter into a real possibility."
The poll found, for example, that among county residents, 47% approved of a new stadium and 41% opposed.
"Such a result was probably unthinkable before the start of the season," Nienstedt said.