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Best of 2016: #1, San Diego Chargers

Preliminary Chargers Stadium Design

We end 2016 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Football Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #1: The San Diego Chargers’ attempt to build a new stadium in San Diego and potential move to Los Angeles.

The year 2016 ends right where it began for the San Diego Chargers.

With a January deadline of decision drawing near once again, the Chargers appear to have one cleat out the door of ancient Qualcomm Stadium, looking to find paydirt a few miles north in Los Angeles.

After a failure-filled year of attempting to secure a new stadium in San Diego, the Chargers still retain the option to move to Los Angeles that expires on January 15, 2017. If that option is exercised, the team will likely move before the 2017 season, playing in a temporary venue in the Los Angeles area for at least two years until construction on an Inglewood, CA, stadium is completed.

There was talk in early December that the Chargers would look to extend that option, but timing is a factor for both the Chargers and Rams owner Stan Kroenke, according to

“[Chargers owner Dean Spanos] has said that he wants everyone to be able to focus on the remainder of the Chargers’ season, and so [he] won’t be making any final decisions until after the season is over,” said Mark Fabiani, the point person on the stadium situation for the Chargers. “That hasn’t changed.”

The Chargers have a tenant-lease agreement with Rams owner Stan Kroenke that lowers the team’s risk because they do not have to borrow money for construction of the $2.6 billion project.

The Rams and Chargers would jointly share revenue such as naming rights, suites, sponsors and advertising. The teams would be on their own to sell season tickets and personal seat licenses.

Kroenke has motivation to complete a deal with the Chargers, because he cannot begin selling personal seat licenses until reaching a decision on whether the Chargers or Raiders will relocate to Los Angeles.

When 2016 began, it appeared the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles was a done deal. The Chargers, Rams and Raiders were all eyeing a Los Angeles solution, and though the Rams were the frontrunners to leave St. Louis and assume the role of landlord for a new Los Angeles-area stadium, one of the two existing California franchises were also expected to go Hollywood as high-priced renters.

In the end, only the Rams made the move to LA in 2016, while the Chargers were given the first opportunity to leave San Diego at the Jan. 15, 2017 deadline, but only after exhausting every opportunity to come up with a viable stadium plan to remain in San Diego.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos and the NFL offered to make a good-faith effort, promising to cover $650 million in what was expected to be a $1.8 million project to build a stadium and convention center in the downtown area, not far from Petco Park. But such a plan would require a hike in the city’s hotel tax from 12.5 to 16.5 percent to cover the other $1.15 billion, and it required a two-thirds majority vote from the citizenry of San Diego in the November elections in order to pass.

The Chargers put on a solid public relations campaign for its “Measure C” stadium proposal, but complicated by a competing stadium proposal from a citizen’s group also on the ballot and doomed by public wariness toward committing tax funds to a stadium deal above other municipal needs, the stadium measure failed spectacularly on Election Night, leaving the Chargers with few options other than taking the Los Angeles deal.

Toward the end of 2016, the wheels for such a move were put in motion, with NFL owners approving and agreement between the Chargers and Rams to share the new Inglewood, CA, stadium when it opens in 2019.

And in the final week of 2016, another indication of the team’s potential impending move: A report that the team signed a lease for team operations in Costa Mesa in Orange County.

Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2016 List:

#2: Oakland Raiders Mull Move to Vegas

#3: Hard Rock Stadium Overhaul

#4: Los Angeles Rams

#5: Turner Field

#6: College Football Stadium Renovations

#7: Washington Redskins Search for Stadium Site

#8: Colorado State Preps for New Stadium

#9: Mercedes-Benz Stadium

#10: Buffalo Bills’ Stadium Debate

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August Publications