Column: Chargers’ low ticket prices for new stadium say something about their footing in L.A.

Chargers quarterbacks Geno Smith, left, and Philip Rivers watch Rams quarterback Jared Goff lead the team at the Coliseum.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers rolled out their season-ticket plan for the Inglewood stadium this week, positioning themselves as the market’s family-friendly option, with ultra-affordable prices for the $3-billion palace that opens in 2020.

Had they made that pitch three years ago when competing to move to Los Angeles, they would have been laughed out of the room by NFL owners.

Rock-bottom pricing is not what that collection of billionaires had in mind for the nation’s second-largest market.


The Chargers announced Wednesday that their new home will feature more than 26,000 seats priced between $50 and $90 per ticket, plus a personal seat license fee of $100. By comparison, the least expensive Rams seat license is 10 times that.

So that means if the Chargers sell all their seat licenses for the top third of the stadium — money that goes to the staggering construction costs — they will generate a one-time amount of $2.6 million, or about the annual salary of a middle-of-the-road kicker.

No question, ticket affordability is great. Fans rightly will applaud inexpensive seats, especially in a league where the prices can be absurd. But pricing their tickets so low is an admission: The Chargers don’t move the needle in L.A.

If their plan all along was to appeal to the budget-conscious crowd, they wouldn’t lead the league as they do in average ticket price ($199, compared to the second-place New England Patriots at $127), or charge $100 for parking at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center.

They dropped their prices because they need to fill the new stadium. And the NFL needs them to fill it. The early results from this two-team experiment are not encouraging, and other owners around the league are concerned.

To say, “Everything will get better when we move into the big new stadium,” is like saying, “My wife and I will stop bickering as soon as we have kids.”


When they were in San Diego, the Chargers made it central to their case that L.A. fans love a winner and will make a beeline for whichever franchise is successful on the field.

That hasn’t happened so far. The Chargers, who have won four of their last five, have an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers, a defense that could go from good to great when Joey Bosa returns from injury and a legitimate chance to get to the Super Bowl if they stay on this trajectory.

If they were convinced that winning would be a cure-all, they would have waited to announce their 2020 ticket prices. Let it ride and see where this winning streak takes them. They’re running a business, not a charity, and they will charge what they think the market will bear.

StubHub Center is a home away from home for visiting teams, the stands awash in Kansas City Chiefs red, Philadelphia Eagles green, Denver Broncos orange ...

When the Oakland Raiders come to town, their fans take over. That’s not to say there aren’t Chargers fans in the building, but a typical game is about 50/50 home fans to visiting fans.

This hasn’t been an easy path for the Rams, either. But they have a history in the city, a dynamic young coach in Sean McVay, the NFL’s only undefeated team and an owner in Stan Kroenke who singlehandedly set the wheels in motion for the NFL to return to the market after 20 years.


The Chargers will be tenants in the building but are helping pay for construction with a $200-million G4 loan from the NFL, as well as the sale of seat licenses and 125 joint Rams/Chargers suites. They are also paying a $650-million relocation fee to the league as part of their relocation, as are the Rams.

On Wednesday, the last day of the NFL’s annual fall meetings in New York, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham tweeted that the Chargers sharply revised their original goals for seat-license sales from $400 million to $150 million. The report was later confirmed by The Times.

Were it not for Kroenke taking the first step toward the West Coast with the willingness to privately finance a stadium, L.A. still would have a flashing vacancy sign.

It isn’t often that one NFL owner heaps praise on another. But at the league meetings in New York this week, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said: “The main star of Los Angeles, in my mind, is Stan Kroenke.”

The Chargers are still looking for their spot in the constellation.


Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer