With the football world's attention focused on Los Angeles Sunday as the Rams play the first regular-season game there in 22 years, it's becoming increasingly likely that the St. Louis transplants share the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with another NFL team in 2017. The San Diego Chargers brass is almost resigned to the fact that a November ballot initiative for a new downtown stadium will not go in their favor, and that a move to Los Angeles is inevitable, according to team sources.
The Chargers would need a two-thirds vote on that stadium-funding referendum, per California law -- a result that would frankly shock ownership based on the team's analysis of the projected results. And sources said that beyond this vote, the team basically has no recourse but to leave and exercise their option to join Stan Kroenke's Rams in L.A. at the new stadium he is building in 2019. In the meantime, sources said, the Chargers would play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018 (the Coliseum extended that invitation to the Chargers for the 2016 season).
It would take a shocking turn of events for this not to be the Chargers' final opening day in San Diego, sources said, with owner Dean Spanos cutting the best deal he could with Kroenke in the event he could not get a new stadium built at his preferred location in San Diego. There is a strong sense in the organization that if the Chargers can't win this vote in November, then they won't ever win one in San Diego.
"It's pretty cut and dry," as one official put it. "There is no unknown solution waiting to surface."
The Chargers were given first right to execute a deal with Kroenke to share his market in the fallout of the NFL voting forward Kroenke's stadium plan back in January. If the Chargers failed to exercise their option to move for 2017, which is now looking like a fait accompli, then the Raiders could opt to join the Rams in Los Angeles.
However, it is far from a forgone conclusion the Chargers would play exclusively at The Coliseum. Some in the organization believe the StubHub Center, in nearby Carson, would potentially be preferable to The Coliseum. It could accommodate only about 30,000 fans but would offer a very intimate, close-to-the-action feel, and that will be under consideration by the team as well if it moves.
Other owners believe Spanos has considerable leverage despite the deal he already struck (which the Chargers are comfortable with). The NFL staunchly does not want the Raiders in L.A. and would not want them to have the chance to exercise that option if the Chargers passed. Some of his peers believe Spanos could possibly negotiate a lower relocation fee now or achieve other concessions as the second team in the L.A. market to further incentivize a move should the vote in November go as the organization fully expects it will.