In what can only be described as the last act of a desperate city, four members of the San Diego City Council have defied all convention to try to secure a future that includes the San Diego Chargers staying put in the city’s greater metropolitan area.
City of San Diego Makes Desperation Plea to Chargers
According to the Associated Press, the measure of desperation takes the form of a letter from the council to Chargers’ owner Dean Spanos, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 31 other owners of National Football League franchises. In the letter, the city offers to revise the Chargers’ lease to extend over a period of 99 years, and significantly reduce the team’s lease on Qualcomm Stadium to just $1 annually.
The hope isn’t that the Chargers will actually agree to play the next 99 seasons in Qualcomm Stadium, even for the ridiculously low cost of just a dollar. The hope is that the offer will convince Spanos to forego taking the option to move his team to Los Angeles despite the quickly-approaching deadline on that decision. The further hope is that the team will return to negotiating on a stadium deal with the city, which is something that hasn’t happened since June of 2015.
The Other Options for the Chargers
As previously reported, the Chargers only have until Jan. 15 to decide whether or not to relocate to Los Angeles and share the currently under-construction facility in Inglewood, Calif., with the Los Angeles Rams. While there is a clause in the Chargers’ permission to relocate from the NFL which states that the deadline can be pushed back another year, that’s only in the case of the Chargers getting a deal done for the funding of a new stadium in San Diego. A simple renegotiated lease of Qualcomm doesn’t fit that bill.
If the Chargers don’t opt for that move by Jan. 15, the option to join the Rams in Los Angeles passes to the Chargers’ AFC West division rival Oakland Raiders. If the Raiders were to pass, it’s uncertain whether the Chargers would get another crack at that possibility later, but betting on that possibility seems unwise.
History of Negotiations Between the City and the Chargers
If the Chargers accept the amended lease offer and return to the negotiating table with the city, it will be the first time that the team and the council have discussed the options for the two parties face-to-face in a year and a half. In June of 2015, there was a joint proposal by the city and San Diego County that would have erected a new structure on the current site of Qualcomm Stadium. Citing a belief that the proposal wouldn’t withstand challenges in court, the Chargers rejected the plan.
In hindsight, this offer to amend the lease could be seen as the city acquiescing to demands that the Chargers made over a decade ago. In 2004, the team asked for the land that Qualcomm occupies in exchange for the Chargers handling the development of a new stadium themselves. The city rejected the request at the time, but now is offering the Chargers essentially what they asked for a dozen years ago in exchange for much less than a new stadium and the promise of a future that includes the team on an indefinite basis.
There may be an upside to taking the amended lease for the Chargers even if they decide to take the option to join the Rams in Inglewood. The Inglewood stadium won’t be ready for use until the 2019-20 season, and obviously the Chargers will need a place to call home for the next two seasons. The city is likely to retract the amended lease if the Chargers take the option to relocate, however, forcing the Chargers to find a venue in the Los Angeles area for the next two seasons.
Both the city and the Chargers are in a time crunch, and that situation has put the city in position to do whatever it can to keep the Chargers. In only a matter of weeks, fans will find out whether it was enough.