The San Diego Chargers have taken a step closer to a potential relocation to Los Angeles after franchise owners in the NFL American football league unanimously approved the move.
In January, the Chargers signed a preliminary tenant-lease contract with the Los Angeles Rams to share a new stadium that is being developed in the Inglewood area of the city. The teams would share revenue from advertising, suites and sponsorship at the venue, with the Chargers, like the Rams, paying rent to the stadium company owned by Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
In addition, the Chargers have been granted approval for a higher debt ceiling, which will now be capped at $325m rather than $250m. The increased debt would allow the team to borrow up to 50% of the $650m relocation fee that would need to be paid to fellow owners in the NFL.
However, despite this approval, the future of the Chargers remains very much undecided, with the franchise yet to confirm its plans and owner Dean Spanos refusing to declare his intentions until after the current season. The team has until January 15 to exercise its option to move to Los Angeles.
“They've been working for 15 years (to keep the Chargers) in their community,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, according to ESPN.com. “They're a big part of that community. They believe in that community, and they want to be a part of it. It's Dean's option by January 15 to make a determination of whether he thinks he can make it work in San Diego or whether he decides to take the option to Los Angeles.”
The team has been seeking to develop a new stadium in San Diego to replace its existing Qualcomm Stadium, with initial plans setting out a project worth $1.8bn. However, last month city voters overwhelmingly rejected a funding package measure, which included a proposal to increase hotel taxes from 12.5 per cent to 16.5 per cent in order to secure $1.15bn in bonds to help finance the development.
Should the Los Angeles move go ahead, the Chargers, like the Rams, would need to identify a temporary home while the Inglewood stadium is being built. The Rams relocated to Los Angeles ahead of the ongoing 2016 season and will play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until the new venue opens in 2019.
According to reports in the US, the StubHub Center in Carson, as well as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, have been cited as potential locations for the Chargers.
Regarding the viability of two franchises in Los Angeles, Goodell said: “It's a great market. We know we have millions of fans there, but it's also a challenging market. They demand to see that we're doing everything possible to put the best product on the field. I'm convinced the (Inglewood) stadium project itself is going to be world-renowned. I think the entertainment aspect of it, and the stadium itself and around it, is going to be absolutely extraordinary.”