Charg­ers bolt to Los An­ge­les

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Bernie Wil­son

SAN DIEGO >> As an­gry fans gath­ered out­side to say good­bye to the fran­chise they’ve loved for decades, Charg­ers chair­man Dean Spanos an­nounced to his em­ploy­ees that the team is mov­ing to Los An­ge­les, where it will join the re­cently re­lo­cated Rams to give the na­tion’s sec­ond­largest me­dia mar­ket two NFL teams for the first time since 1994.

Spanos told his em­ploy­ees Thurs­day morn­ing that the team will re­lo­cate for the 2017 sea­son. The team posted a let­ter Thurs­day on its Twit­ter ac­count, which was re­branded as the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers.

“San Diego has been our home for 56 years. It will al­ways be part of our iden­tity, and my fam­ily and I have noth­ing but grat­i­tude and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the sup­port and pas­sion our fans have shared with us over the years. But to­day, we turn the page and be­gin an ex­cit­ing new era as the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers,” Spanos said in the let­ter.

The move had been in the works for years, as a long, bit­ter saga failed to re­sult in a new sta­dium to re­place ag­ing Qual­comm Sta­dium.

Still, the fi­nal blow was hard for some fans to take. While they sup­ported the team it­self, many are an­gry at Spanos for his scorchedearth tac­tics the last two years.

As Spanos was driven to the air­port to fly to Los An­ge­les to meet with civic of­fi­cials, fan Chuck Homenick got close to the SUV and yelled an ob­scen­ity.

“Pretty hor­ri­ble. Born and raised here in San Diego and been go­ing to these games, and just can’t be­lieve they’re leav­ing,” Homenick said. “I knew the de­ci­sion was com­ing up soon and I was hop­ing they were go­ing to stay. Busi­ness de­ci­sion, but when it comes to fan sup­port and loyalty, they’re not go­ing to have much sup­port, fans.”

Joseph MacRae held a sign that read, “Alex Spanos would never leave SD! You failed us Dean.” Charg­ers owner Alex Spanos turned over con­trol to son Dean years ago.

“It’s re­ally a dark day in San Diego sports his­tory,” said MacRae, 30, who wore a Charg­ers jacket. He said he’d been go­ing to Charg­ers games since he was 7. “That’s what it was all about, Septem­ber through De­cem­ber, foot­ball on Sun­days.”

The Charg­ers are leav­ing be­hind a loyal fan base that cheered for Dan Fouts, Char­lie Joiner and Kellen Winslow dur­ing the Air Co­ryell years in the 1970s and early 1980s; for Ju­nior Seau, Stan Humphries and Na­trone Means on the Charg­ers’ only Su­per Bowl team in 1994; and in re­cent sea­sons, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tom­lin­son and An­to­nio Gates.

The Charg­ers’ de­ci­sion to move comes less than three months af­ter San Diego vot­ers re­sound­ingly re­jected team-spon­sored Mea­sure C ask­ing for $1.15 bil­lion in in­creased ho­tel oc­cu­pancy taxes to help fund a $1.8 bil­lion down­town sta­dium and con­ven­tion cen­ter.

The Charg­ers pri­vately ad­mit­ted they be­lieved Mea­sure C wouldn’t pass. Spanos had spent 2015 try­ing to get ap­proval for a sta­dium in Car­son near Los An­ge­les that the Charg­ers would share with the ri­val Oak­land Raiders. That plan was voted down by fel­low own­ers, but the Charg­ers were then granted the op­tion to move to LA.

“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, point­ing out that the Charg­ers de­layed ex­er­cis­ing the op­tion to move to LA that was granted a year ago.

“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.”

How­ever, the Charg­ers didn’t work with City Hall and the city’s pow­er­ful tourism in­dus­try in writ­ing Mea­sure C. Mayor Kevin Faulconer en­dorsed the mea­sure a month be­fore elec­tion day, only af­ter Spanos agreed to cer­tain con­di­tions that weren’t legally bind­ing.

The Charg­ers will be­come a ten­ant in the sta­dium be­ing built in In­gle­wood for the Rams. Be­fore then, the Charg­ers will make their tem­po­rary home at the 27,000-seat StubHub Cen­ter in Car­son.

Re­la­tions have been strained for years be­tween the Charg­ers, who’ve sought a big public sub­sidy to re­place ag­ing Qual­comm Sta­dium, and City Hall, which has been be­set by scan­dals and var­i­ous eco­nomic crises.

Faulconer formed a task force in 2015 to try to find a sta­dium so­lu­tion, but the Charg­ers didn’t like its rec­om­men­da­tion and walked away from ne­go­ti­a­tions with the city and county. Faulconer re­cently met with Spanos, and helped cob­ble to­gether a $375 mil­lion pack­age from the city, county and San Diego State, which also plays foot­ball at Qual­comm Sta­dium.

DE­NIS POROY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Joseph Macrae holds up a sign in front of the San Diego Charg­ers head­quar­ters af­ter the team an­nounced that it will move to Los An­ge­les, Thurs­day in San Diego.

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