San Diego refused to be bullied by the NFL and billionaire owners | Les Carpenter

The Chargers are moving to Los Angeles because the city chose to put its own needs before those of a sports franchise and its wealthy backers

Sooner or later the public welfare office for sports billionaires is going to close. American cities will look at the more than $7bn of taxpayer money spent in the last 20 years on football stadiums alone and say: Enough!

On Thursday, the San Diego Chargers announced they will be leaving the city where they have played for the last 56 years, and will move to Los Angeles. They are doing this because the politicians and voters in San Diego did not give Chargers owner Dean Spanos the same golden gift Atlanta and Seattle and all the other capitulating municipalities gave their ridiculously wealthy teams owners.

The Chargers were never going to pay up for what so many others kept getting (in part) for free. Their final plea to the electorate came with just $350m of their own money, as they asked for a 4% hotel tax increase and some city contributions to fund $1.1bn of a $1.8bn project.

Even with the $300m in loans and grants from the NFL, San Diego wasnt buying a bad deal. Not for a stadium that would swallow up valuable downtown real estate and parking lots, and perhaps damage business for the nearby convention center the team said their stadium would help. The whisper of Super Bowls to come always a favorite NFL lobbying trick meant little to the masses. Theyve had Super Bowls before. If theres one thing a Super Bowl city knows once the show goes away, the party was never worth the ransom the powers-that-be demanded. In November, voters shot down Spanoss last offer by 53% to 47%.

For the want of free money that was never going to come, Spanos will move his team to a 30,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson. Then, in 2019, the Chargers will relocate to Rams owner Stan Kroenkes new stadium in Inglewood, where they will become second-tier tenants taking little income for themselves but paying a fabulously low price for the space.

One estimate has the team nearly doubling in value to $3bn with a move to LA, so presumably becoming Kroenkes annoying renters is worth abandoning San Diego.

While it is easy to look at San Diego heroically in this fight, painting the city as more concerned with funding schools than stuffing the wallet of a greedy owner, Spanoss fight to get a stadium more-than-half paid for by someone else was always a loser. His biggest mistake was asking for public money in a state that had nothing left to give.

In another time, San Diego might have given Spanos a new stadium. They could have built it with some kind of financing scheme like the $235m in municipal bonds and $53m in redevelopment funds that voters awarded the citys other sports team, baseballs Padres, in 1998 for a $456m stadium. The problem was that the Chargers had already cut an ugly deal with the city in the mid-1990s, one that turned scenic Qualcomm Stadium into a concrete urn. It also forced the city to buy any unsold Chargers tickets for 10 years to guarantee sellouts and bypass a foolish league rule that pulled games off television in any markets where a stadium was not fully sold.

And yet even with that sham, San Diego might have come through for Spanos, had Californias economy not fallen into near-ruin this century. Not long after the Padres got the funding for Petco Park, Californias sports goody bag was empty. The baseball stadium in San Francisco and the arena in downtown Los Angeles built in the early 2000s were constructed almost completely with private funds, just like Kroenkes new palace in Inglewood. The lone California exemption was the 49ers new home in Silicon Valley, a $1.2bn building, which received $114m in local hotel tax money from Santa Clara, the city in which it was built.

No way was San Diego handing out $1bn for a stadium that would sit empty for most of the year. Even assuming the special tax which would have raised the citys take on hotel bills to 16% wouldnt have pulled money that could have gone to schools and roads, the effort to raise the tax would have taken energy away from tending those schools and roads. Giving Spanos $1bn, regardless of where it came from, would have sent a terrible message.

He is less marching his team to LA than slinking away with a cheap new logo that looks like a broken lamp plug. Thursday is not historic; it is sad. The Chargers are an institution in a city that doesnt have many. As someone who entered this world on the hilltop behind Qualcomm Stadium and was raised by a father who had grown up dreaming of professional football in his hometown, the thought of the Chargers playing in LA leaves a pit in my stomach. San Diego might seem blas about sports but it is also a community, a provincial place; nothing like the megalopolis to the north.

Having the Chargers mattered to San Diego. The yellow lightning bolt was a big piece of the citys identity. Keeping the team was important. But not even civic pride is worth giving a billion dollars to a billionaire.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jan/12/san-diego-chargers-los-angeles-move-nfl-owners

The post San Diego refused to be bullied by the NFL and billionaire owners | Les Carpenter appeared first on Soccer Elite Group.

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