Charg­ers bolt San Diego for Los An­ge­les

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - By BERNIE WILSON

The Charg­ers are head­ing from San Diego to Los An­ge­les, join­ing the re­cently re­lo­cated Rams to give the na­tion’s sec­ond-largest media mar­ket two NFL teams for the first time since 1994.

Charg­ers fans knew for sev­eral years that this dreaded day could be com­ing, that their beloved NFL team might move up the free­way to tap the per­ceived riches of Los An­ge­les.

That didn’t make it any eas­ier Thurs­day, when the San Diego Charg­ers ceased to ex­ist af­ter 56 sea­sons.

They’re now the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers, set to join the re­cently re­lo­cated Rams to give the na­tion’s sec­ond­largest media mar­ket two NFL teams for the first time since 1994.

Team chair­man Dean Spanos, who tried to move to LA a year ear­lier, an­nounced the move to his em­ploy­ees at a morn­ing meet­ing at Charg­ers Park. At the same time, the team posted a let­ter on its Twit­ter ac­count, which was re­branded as the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers.

Just like that, decades worth of Sun­day af­ter­noons spent cheer­ing orig­i­nal AFL stars Lance Al­worth and Keith Lin­coln; Air Co­ryell guys like Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow and Char­lie Joiner; and on through to Ju­nior Seau and LaDainian Tomlinson, be­came even more dis­tant — and now bit­ter­sweet — mem­o­ries.

The Charg­ers were born in Los An­ge­les in 1960 and were moved to San Diego the fol­low­ing year by Bar­ron Hil­ton. They gave San Diego a unique iden­tity, with the dis­tinc­tive light­ning bolt logo on their hel­mets and pow­der blue jer­seys. Al­worth, known as “Bambi,” and Keith Lin­coln, the “Moose of the Palouse,” helped de­liver the 1963 AFL ti­tle, the city’s only ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

In a state­ment, Spanos lauded the pas­sion of the fans. “But to­day, we turn the page and be­gin an ex­cit­ing new era as the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers,” he said.

In re­turn, fans lashed out at the fam­ily that bought the team in 1984.

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

Homenick said Spanos’ de­ci­sion was “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 money vs. fan sup­port and loy­alty, they’re not go­ing to have much fan sup­port up in L.A.”

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.”

Through­out the day, more fans gath­ered at Charg­ers Park. Many tossed jer­seys, hats and shirts onto a grow­ing pile in the park­ing lot. Some­one tossed a hel­met onto the pile and be­gan smash­ing it with a piece of wood.

While many fans still sup­ported the team de­spite sev­eral sea­sons of lack­lus­ter per­for­mances, they were an­gry at Spanos for his scorched-earth tac­tics the last two years.

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

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 an­nex.

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.

Civic lead­ers were an­gry at Spanos.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the Charg­ers could have worked out their dif­fer­ences on fi­nanc­ing a new sta­dium but the team in­sisted on more tax­payer money than the city could ever agree to spend.

“In sports, teams win and in­di­vid­u­als lose. The Charg­ers were ul­ti­mately never will­ing to work with us as a team so we could achieve shared suc­cess,” Faulconer said. “Dean Spanos made a bad de­ci­sion, and he will re­gret it. San Diego didn’t lose the Charg­ers. The Charg­ers just lost San Diego.”

San Diego County Su­per­vi­sor Ron Roberts said the Charg­ers quickly dis­missed pro­pos­als by lo­cal lead­ers for a new sta­dium at the team’s ex­ist­ing site and launched a “quixotic quest” for a down­town sta­dium with­out any pub­lic in­put. He said vot­ers wisely re­jected the Charg­ers’ plans.

“We have a lot of great mem­o­ries but, when it comes to the pub­lic trea­sury, there are lim­its to what you’re will­ing to do to keep some­thing like this here,” Roberts said.

“I can’t sug­ar­coat this. This is a very dis­ap­point­ing day for us. It’s a day in in­famy in sports his­tory here in San Diego,” said Roberts, who turned emo­tional at times and com­pared Spanos to Don­ald Ster­ling, who moved the NBA’s Clip­pers from San Diego to Los An­ge­les in 1984.

Even San Diego State Univer­sity Pres­i­dent El­liot Hir­sh­man ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for Charg­ers fans. “I am truly sorry, and you do not de­serve this,” he said.

“We had count­less good­faith dis­cus­sions (with the Charg­ers). Un­for­tu­nately, we didn’t have a good-faith partner,” he said.

SDSU also plays foot­ball at Qual­comm Sta­dium. The school is in­ter­ested in ex­pand­ing onto the Qual­comm Sta­dium site, in­clud­ing a new sta­dium that could be shared with an MLS team.

Other pro sports teams piled on about a new logo the Charg­ers un­veiled Thurs­day, an in­ter­lock­ing LA sim­i­lar to the Dodgers logo.

It’s un­clear if the team will keep that logo, but the Dal­las Stars and Tampa Bay Light­ning were among teams pok­ing fun at the logo change on Twit­ter.

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