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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Chargers Not Bolting to L.A. , At Least Not This Year

The San Diego Chargers is telling fans they should be concerned about the team’s future in San Diego, but not because of a recent agreement with a Los Angeles marketing firm.

“If you’re a Chargers fan, this marketing agreement shouldn’t change your level of concern. If you were concerned before about the future of the team in San Diego, you still should be concerned,” said Mark Fabiani, the football team’s designated point person for building a new stadium in the county.

The Chargers contracted with the Wasserman Media Group for an undisclosed amount to help sell luxury boxes, club seats and other seats for the 2009 season, which begins in August. Fabiani says that while all eight regular-season home games were sold out last year, not all the luxury suites and other club seats were sold. He declined to say how many of the 114 luxury suites were unsold, but said it was a sufficient number to seek outside help.

Jim Steeg, the Chargers’ chief operating officer, says of the 70,000 seats at Qualcomm Stadium, about 9,500 are on the club level or in luxury boxes. Season ticket prices for boxes range from $120,000 to $150,000, he says.

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The luxury box vacancies varied from game to game but ranged from a few to about 10, he says.

Fabiani says about 30 percent of the Chargers’ premium seat sales come from Los Angeles and Orange counties, so the marketing agreement makes sense.

“This is obviously a difficult economic time and it’s a challenge for every NFL team as well. You don’t know who is going to renew (season tickets) until they pay and you don’t know who’s going to pay until they actually pay in April,” Fabiani said.

Ominous Sign?

Some say the marketing agreement is yet another sign that the team is paving the way for its eventual relocation to Los Angeles.

Last month, developer Ed Roski passed another hurdle to building a football stadium in the City of Industry, which is in San Gabriel Valley 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles International Airport, when voters approved issuing infrastructure bonds for the estimated $800 million project.

Fabiani says while the Spanos family and Roski are friends, there’s no intention of selling the team, or moving it north.

Jim Lackritz, associate dean at San Diego State University’s College of Business Administration and co-founder of its Sports Business Management MBA Program, said the Chargers appear to be trying to find a stadium site locally, “but they have their price in mind, and conditions in mind and if those conditions are not met, they will go elsewhere.”

From Feb. 1 until May 1, the Chargers have a legal window when they can notify the city that they are leaving Qualcomm Stadium, but the team is not leaving, Fabiani says.

Should the Chargers leave this year, they would have to pay off the remaining $56.2 million on bonds the city issued in 1997 to expand the stadium. In 2010, the amount would drop to $53 million, and fall to $26 million in 2011.

Looking South

Fabiani says the Chargers are still committed to finding a site in Chula Vista, where there are two possible locations, at the city’s bay front where a power plant exists, and a 500-acre site in the eastern part of the city. The team is also talking with city officials about possibly shifting to another bay front site that opened when Gaylord Entertainment abandoned its plan of building a hotel/convention center last summer.

While the Gaylord project would have occupied 32 acres, Fabiani says that through land deals, it could be expanded to 100 acres.

Fabiani says the team has been working on a new stadium since 2002, and has spent $10 million in the effort. “We’re a lot closer to the end of the process than at the beginning,” he said. “But I can’t say we’re going to do this for another seven years and spend another $10 million.”

Lackritz says just because a new stadium is planned in Los Angeles doesn’t mean the Chargers will move as soon as it’s built.

Roski is seeking a sizable percentage of the team’s ownership, and the Spanos family has said it is not interested in selling, Lackritz says.

“It has to be an offer that they cannot refuse, and they’re nowhere near that.”


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