The Los Angeles Rams just finished their first season in a new city after relocating from St. Louis during the 2016 offseason, but they will be joined soon by another team. The Chargers will move from San Diego to Los Angeles for the 2017 season.
Both the Chargers and the Oakland Raiders were in lengthy battles with their home cities to secure new stadiums, while Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland continue to deteriorate.
Both teams aimed to move to L.A. a year ago, but the Rams won the sweepstakes. However, the Chargers were given the option to join the Rams in L.A., although the NFL promised to kick in $100 million of funding toward the effort to keep the Chargers in San Diego.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos announced the team would stay in San Diego for the 2016 season, but the Chargers were given until the 2017 offseason to decide if L.A. would be the team’s new home.
"If they do not exercise that option," Roger Goodell said in January 2016, "the Raiders would have the option also to move to Los Angeles with the Rams."
The Chargers eventually took the option, ruling out Los Angeles for the Raiders. But Las Vegas has quickly emerged as a possibility for the Raiders in the last 12 months.
Why would the Chargers move to Los Angeles?
Prior to Qualcomm Stadium opening in 1967, the Chargers played one season in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in 1960 and six seasons in Balboa Stadium — a small, 34,000-seat stadium in San Diego.
Qualcomm Stadium was built for $27.75 million and served as the home of MLB’s San Diego Padres as well, until the Padres moved into the newly built Petco Park in 2004.
Without a baseball team to share with, and a stadium that is among the oldest in the NFL, the Chargers spent most of the last decade trying to secure a new home in San Diego built specifically with football in mind.
There were renovations done to the stadium in 1984 and 1997, but the building is obsolete and the Chargers needed a new home. The problem was that securing one in San Diego didn’t happen.
In November, San Diego voters rejected a measure that would have raised the city’s hotel tax to help fund a new stadium, dealing a tough blow to the franchise’s chances at staying in San Diego
“In terms of what comes next for the Chargers, it's just too early to give you an answer,” Spanos said in a statement after the vote. “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.”
Without further public funds, the Chargers were left spinning their wheels in San Diego trying to secure a new stadium. The saga reached a conclusion, with the Chargers announcing their relocation plan in January.
Why would the Raiders move to Las Vegas?
Like the Chargers — and essentially every pro sports franchise to ever relocate — the Raiders’ problem is that they also want a new stadium.
Oakland was the original home of the Raiders, who played four seasons in a temporary home before moving into the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum when it opened in 1966. Only Soldier Field and Lambeau Field — the homes of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers — are older full-time homes than the stadium that houses the Raiders.
When Raiders owner Al Davis asked for renovations to the stadium — primarily the addition of luxury boxes — he requested a move to L.A. when it was denied. NFL owners rejected to relocation, but Davis won an antitrust lawsuit and took the Raiders to L.A. for the 1982 season, filling the void at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after the Rams moved to Anaheim in 1979.
The same lack of luxury boxes became a problem in L.A., though. And in 1995, the Raiders returned to Oakland to a stadium that underwent a $25.5 million renovation to add luxury suites.
But now the stadium is 51 years old and — like Qualcomm Stadium — was built with the idea of sharing with a baseball team. The Oakland Athletics still call the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum home and it’s the only stadium that hosts both an NFL and MLB team — a now mostly abandoned practice.
The Raiders’ attempt to move to L.A came up short, though. The Rams took one spot and the Chargers grabbed the second one, leaving the Raiders with no choice but to come to an agreement with Oakland or find another potential suitor.
Las Vegas quickly emerged as that possible location and already approved $750 million in public money toward a new stadium in the city to host the Raiders. The plan took a hit when Sheldon Adelson backed out, but may have been saved by Bank of America.
How likely is relocation?
Plenty of teams threaten relocation and toy with the possibility of moving to eventually strong-arm their local market into buckling under the pressure. Before getting the Rams, Los Angeles was long dangled as a threat for any team in the market for a new stadium.
So even with the amount of talk about the Raiders going to Las Vegas, there’s still a chance that a late initiative could save the day for Oakland.
However, things don’t look good.
“There just isn’t any opportunity in Oakland or San Diego,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters during a league meeting in December, via the LA Times. “As owners, we’re aware of that. It’s unfortunate, you don’t like to see it, but it’s reality.”
Th sound defeat of a request for increased public funding was the nail in the coffin for the Chargers staying in San Diego.
Oakland’s chances at keeping the Raiders look a little more optimistic than San Diego’s chances were with the Chargers after a plan came together in December for a $1.3 billion stadium with $350 million in public funding. But the NFL seemed to dismiss that idea.
“We have not made great progress in Oakland and San Diego,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, via the LA Times. “There is not a stadium proposal on the table that we think addresses the long-term issues of the clubs and the communities. So we need to continue to work at it.”
The Chargers are on the way out of San Diego, but Oakland is still in danger of not seeing NFL football in 2017.
NFL teams are “obligated to work diligently and in good faith to obtain and to maintain suitable stadium facilities in their home territories.” Relocation is looked at by the NFL as a last resort, and so the standards to move are high.
But if the league determines that every effort to stay in a market was made and that no suitable option is available, owners can approve a move by a three-fourths vote.
That still comes with a costly relocation fee, though. It cost the Rams $550 million to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles in January 2016 and it will be similarly expensive for the Chargers. A move to Las Vegas also wouldn’t be cheap for the Raiders.
The full policy for relocation:
Spanos had until Jan. 17 to announce whether or not the Chargers will move to LA, and officially announced the relocation near the deadline. But the Raiders’ fate likely won’t be decided until the NFL owners meetings in March, according to Pro Football Talk.
Jan. 11: The NFL stadium and finance committees will meet in New York to discuss the possible relocation of the Chargers. According to USA Today, Spanos could be seeking additional funding from the NFL to bridge the gap and keep the team in San Diego.
Jan. 17: The Chargers’ official deadline to accept the option to move to LA. The deadline was originally set for Jan. 15, but the league extended it due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the Divisional Round games over the weekend.
Jan. 19: The Raiders officially filed paperwork for relocation to Las Vegas.
March 26: The NFL owners’ annual league meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. is scheduled for four days and is expected to be the time when the Raiders’ possible relocation to Las Vegas is decided.