The Chargers are going to leave San Diego and relocate to join the Rams in Los Angeles. The news was first reported Wednesday night by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and the team made it official on Thursday morning.
A letter from Dean Spanos pic.twitter.com/rTNIvrsN1A— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) January 12, 2017
Like the Rams, the franchise’s move is a return to Los Angeles, though the Chargers’ roots have firmly been in San Diego. Established as one of the original teams in the American Football League (AFL), the Chargers played just one season in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before relocating to San Diego.
While the Chargers finished with an average of 57,024 fans per game in 2016 — an NFL-worst 80 percent attendance — it isn’t the team’s recent lackluster support that ultimately spurred the move. The Chargers struggled to land a new stadium in San Diego amid the declining state of Qualcomm Stadium, the team’s home since 1967.
The Chargers spent more than $10 million campaigning for a pair of measures voted on by San Diego voters in November that would have increased hotel taxes to free up public funding for a new stadium, but both were soundly defeated.
“In terms of what comes next for the Chargers, it’s just too early to give you an answer,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a letter to fans after the election. “We are going to diligently explore and weigh our options, and do what is needed to maintain our options, but no decision will be announced until after the football season concludes and no decision will be made in haste.”
But the team’s 2016 scramble for a new stadium came after the Chargers made an effort to move to Los Angeles last year. Following the 2015 season, the Rams’ bid to relocate was approved, while the Chargers were given the option to relocate as well, although the NFL offered to kick in $100 million to the team’s efforts to remain in San Diego.
“For more than a decade, the San Diego Chargers have worked diligently toward finding a local stadium solution, which all sides agreed was required,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Thursday. “These efforts took on added intensity in the last two years. A year ago, NFL owners granted the Chargers an option to move to Los Angeles. Rather than immediately exercising that option, the team spent the past year continuing to work on finding a stadium solution in San Diego.
“The Chargers worked tirelessly this past year with local officials and community leaders on a ballot initiative that fell short on election day. That work – and the years of effort that preceded it – reflects our strongly held belief we always should do everything we can to keep a franchise in its community. That's why we have a deliberate and thoughtful process for making these decisions.
“Relocation is painful for teams and communities. It is especially painful for fans, and the fans in San Diego have given the Chargers strong and loyal support for more than 50 years, which makes it even more disappointing that we could not solve the stadium issue. As difficult as the news is for Charger fans, I know Dean Spanos and his family did everything they could to try to find a viable solution in San Diego.”
In January 2016, Spanos announced the Chargers would remain in San Diego for another season, but it came at the same time the franchise agreed in principle with the Rams to share the new stadium project in Inglewood, Calif. that is scheduled to be finished in 2019.
The decision to return to San Diego made for an awkward end to the team’s nearly six decades in the city. After a tearful goodbye at the end of the 2015 season that appeared as though it would be last in San Diego, the Chargers’ real last game was a 37-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that drew boos from the Qualcomm Stadium crowd.
“It’s hard to reenact a goodbye which is what we thought it was last year. It’s hard to do it again,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said after the team’s Week 17 loss, via ESPN’s Arash Markazi. “It’s like leaving at the airport and you say your goodbyes then the plane gets delayed. You can go back and say it again or say you’re already driving away.”
More awkwardness is on the horizon in San Diego, as the team isn’t going to leave right away:
As it stands now, Chargers will still hold offseason program at Chargers Park. Team's lease runs until July 1. https://t.co/8mJ1UqVHeP— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) January 12, 2017
In 56 seasons in San Diego, the Chargers posted a 416-427-11 record and won the AFL Championship in 1964, but never a Super Bowl — losing in the franchise’s only appearance, Super Bowl XXIX, in Jan. 1995.
When the team arrives in Los Angeles, it will have a new head coach at the helm after firing Mike McCoy at the end of the 2016 season.