What the Chargers Have To Do to Keep the Team in San Diego

By Jeremy M. Evans, Esq.

The St. Louis Rams are now the Los Angeles Rams. The San Diego Chargers have the one-year option to stay or become the Los Angeles Chargers as co-tenants in the new $2.7 billion dollar stadium and development complex with the Rams.

The following is a revision of an article written in 2015, entitled What the ’15 Chargers can Learn from the ‘98 Padres?” Here, we will add some updates for our readers and discuss what the Chargers and the City of San Diego can and should do with the blessing of a second chance to keep the home team home.

Let us start here. In the affirmative, the Chargers need to . . .

Win Public Opinion & Government Officials Favor to Obtain the Stadium and Contract/Financial Terms to their Liking

Chargers Owner Dean Spanos and his family need to do some serious and dedicated public relations and relationship building with fans and San Diegans in general if they want a stadium to their liking, in look, feel, location, and in contract/financial terms, in San Diego. Spanos did not do himself any favors by hosting a Chargers Television interview not open to the public on the verge of the National Football League (NFL) Owners meetings where he basically said the City of San Diego did not do its job to secure it needs and wishes.

The City, under Mayor Kevin Faulconer, has bent over backwards to work with the Chargers. As a matter of fact, the City has been trying to work with Ownership since the 1990s on the new stadium. The problem, whether right or wrong, has been that the terms offered by the City have not been to the liking of the Chargers or the NFL.

Mayor Faulconer has a tough task, however, because in his role of convincing the public that the Chargers should stay with the fans is one thing, but it is a tough political position to maintain with the general public where the City paid the team to stay in San Diego under the current lease from 2006-2013. Yes, you read that right: rent credits, Americans with the Disabilities Act litigation, and the lease terms made sure that the City paid the Chargers to play at Qualcomm Stadium, not the other way around.

This needs to change and will be discussed below.

Ask Nicely and Work Diligently to Secure the East Village/Downtown Location

In 2008 and 2015, the Chargers and the economy prevented the redeveloped Mission Valley site from coming to fruition. As for the Mission Valley site, there have been claims about an underground gas plume on site, crowded freeways, and freeway accessibility issues with an expansion of housing, office space, and commercial businesses planned in the area. The Mayor’s Task Force recommended a redeveloped Mission Valley site, but is not the place for the future if the team is to stay in town. Three times is unlikely to be a charm and it should not be the site for the Chargers future home.

The prosperity of San Diego is in Downtown for the foreseeable future and it is the best place for a football stadium based on available land, location, access, existing, and future development. The cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and more are examples of ballparks and stadiums in the same area. Unfortunately, for the Chargers, the East Village land is not as cheap as it once was before the Padres home Petco Park arrived. Fortunately, for the Chargers, the land is developed where a downtown stadium could be located. The Chargers can profit immediately with more community expansion planned and to be completed before a proposed stadium completion date in the East Village.

Spanos has been somewhat silent on the location, but downtown would be a different option than Mission Valley, which has not worked twice. The City and the Chargers will have environmental hurdles in Mission Valley and Downtown (even with the “fast track” approved by Governor Brown for the Mission Valley redevelopment site). The point here is that if you are going to fight for something, you should fight for something you want and that is advantageous and prosperous.

Forget about your Differences: Bridge the Gap to a Fair Deal

Often when two sides to negotiation focus on their differences, they fail to make a deal. This is really common sense, which sometimes is not so common, as the saying goes. The NFL sees a future for professional football in San Diego or else they would have allowed the Chargers to move outright. The sides should focus on what has worked in the past, what has failed, and what needs to be completed to get a deal done. In the end, a fair deal for San Diegans is what matters. Tax payers should not be stuck with a bill other than what they vote on and pay for in terms of season tickets and merchandise. If the sides can secure a deal that the public supports, the Chargers will be in San Diego for the future.

This article originally appeared in the Sports Litigation Alert, Volume 13, Issue 1, January 22, 2016.

About the author: Jeremy M. Evans is the Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer, representing sports and entertainment professionals in contract drafting, negotiations, licensing, and career growth. He provides legal advice and general counsel services for businesses, which includes development, contract drafting, review, negotiations, protection, and compliance. He is the Director of the Center for Sports Law & Policy at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California, where he is also an Adjunct Professor of Sports Law. Evans is an award-winning attorney and community leader. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com or via his website: www.CSLlegal.com.

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.