Column: For Carson Mayor Albert Robles, Chargers’ final game in the city is bittersweet
Carson Mayor Albert Robles will not be at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday when the Chargers play their final home game in his city against the Raiders, a team he had hoped would also call Carson home.
Nearly five years ago, Robles and other Carson officials held a news conference to announce plans for a $1.7-billion stadium that would serve as the home of the Chargers and Raiders. Robles, then a councilman, arrived in a split Chargers-Raiders jersey.
It did not go over well.
“No one liked that jersey,” Robles said. “The Raiders fans didn’t like the jersey. The Chargers fans didn’t like the jersey … I haven’t worn it since. My friend wanted it to wear it to the game on Sunday, but I told him that wasn’t a good idea.”
The idea of the Chargers and Raiders sharing a stadium in Carson seemed like a long shot to some people, but the NFL’s six-owner committee on Los Angeles opportunities voted 5 to 1 to recommend the Chargers and Raiders’ relocation bid to Carson. But in the end, NFL owners voted 30-2 for the Rams’ relocation to Inglewood in 2016 and gave the Chargers the chance to join them, an option they exercised one year later.
The Rams can earn an NFC wild-card berth with wins over the 49ers and Cardinals, and Vikings home losses to the Packers and Bears.
It was the third time Carson had been in the running as the home of an NFL stadium. In 1999, Michael Ovitz, co-founder of Creative Artists Agency and a former Walt Disney Co. president, gave then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue a tour of the same site with the idea of building an NFL stadium and shopping center called “the Hacienda.” Four years later, the NFL again looked at the city and committed $10 million for feasibility studies on a Carson stadium. The last attempt, spearheaded by Bob Iger, Walt Disney Co. chairman and chief executive, died with the owners’ vote in 2016.
“Carson is no stranger to the NFL and its antics,” Robles said. “When the NFL owners committee voted overwhelmingly for the Carson project, our hopes grew stronger that it was finally going to happen after multiple broken dreams of getting an NFL stadium.”
Carson didn’t get to become the permanent home of an NFL team, but it did become the temporary home of the Chargers for three seasons as the team set up shop at Dignity Health Sports Park. The 27,000-seat soccer stadium, formerly known as Home Depot Center and StubHub Center, was built for the Galaxy in 2003 and is a great venue for Major League Soccer. It was never intended to be the home of an NFL team.
A little-known fact about the Chargers and Raiders partnership in Carson is that if that if NFL owners had approved that proposal, the plan was for the Raiders to temporarily play at what was then StubHub and for the Chargers to play at the Coliseum. The Coliseum Commission had no interest in serving as a temporary home of the Raiders after its previous experience with the team, and the Rose Bowl never had any interest in either team.
“Raiders home games in Carson would have been fun,” Robles said. “All the Raiders games here have been sellouts months in advance.”
Chargers prepare for home finale against Raiders
Although Robles is happy the Chargers played home games in Carson for three seasons, he said he never felt like the team embraced the community. The team’s training facility is in Costa Mesa, and the focus has always been on moving into the Chargers’ new home in Inglewood.
Chargers officials rejected that characterization and said the team was donating 100 tickets for Sunday’s game to the Carson High football team, Carson Chargers youth football team and the Boys & Girls Club of Carson. The Chargers have also been involved in a number of community initiatives and programs in the city over the last three years.
As Carson’s time as an NFL city comes to an end, Robles is optimistic about the future. The 157-acre property that had been the proposed site of an NFL stadium is finally seeing construction activity. A $400-million outlet mall is being built, set to open in the fall of 2021.
“It didn’t turn out the way we had hoped,” Robles said, “but at least we had the NFL in Carson for three years and the rest of the country got to see what a great city Carson is.”
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