San Diego Chargers: A New Stadium Will Do More Than Keep the Team in San Diego

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IDecember 2, 2010

SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 22:  Mike Tolbert #35 congratulates Jacob Hester #22 of the San Diego Chargers after scoring a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2010 in San Diego, California.  Chargers defeated the Broncos, 35-14.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In November of 1998, Proposition C was passed by the city of San Diego to build a brand new downtown ballpark for the San Diego Padres. It would eventually cost $450 million, 17 lawsuits and a political scandal to build.

Petco Park finally opened in 2004 and has been a huge part of downtown San Diego. It's been given a big face lift complete with high rise hotels, office buildings, and condos. To say the least, the area is no longer the eye sore it used to be.

Not only that but the Gas Lamp District, one of the most popular spots in all of downtown, is one of the most hopping places during the baseball season as well as on the weekends with some of the best restaurants and bars around.

As for the San Diego Chargers, the only other professional sports team in the city, they remain where the Padres used to play. Qualcomm Stadium.

There has long been an outcry from their fans, as well as some of the local media, for a new stadium to be built. If for no other reason than to make sure the team isn't moved out of town.

It's the one thing that Charger fans fear the most. 

After news came out a few days ago that Hall of Famer, and long time Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson had teamed up with an investment group for one ultimate goal, bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles, Charger fans began to freak out. They were terrified their team is the one Earvin Magic Johnson is looking at.

But, one thing fans there can take solace in is the Minnesota Vikings are also a team on the relocation radar.

With that news alone, talk about a brand new downtown San Diego stadium has heated up and there's even been a virtual rendering on where the stadium would be, what it would look like, and the distance from the Padres' downtown ballpark.

However, as Craig Elsten of 619 Sports told me, there are still bad feelings over the process of building the Padres' new downtown ballpark. "The city of San Diego and the city council has had a very hard time getting out of its own way for decades.  There was just enough of a whiff of scandal and "bait and switch" surrounding the improvements voted on for Qualcomm Stadium after the Padres' 1998 World Series run to leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth."

Elsten went on to say, "realistically, the best place for a new football stadium remains the very site on which Qualcomm Stadium stands, but the city will never agree to a workable deal with the Chargers there."

No disrespect to the Padres, but the Chargers seem to be the team that is just this close to breaking the championship curse that seems to be hanging over the city. They're just that close to bringing a parade to a sports town that hasn't had much to celebrate.

The last time the city had anything close to a championship was in 2009 when the little league baseball team from Chula Vista, a city in the south part of San Diego County, brought home the Little League World Series title.

San Diego has always been known by some as a "mediocre sports town." They've been known as having two professional teams who got close, but who could never do what it took to win the big one.

This is a city that has long waited for a championship to be brought to San Diego. They've long waited for a team to just get close, but neither the Chargers nor the Padres have done that since the Padres were in the World Series back in 1998.

The last time the Chargers got close? How about the 1994 Super Bowl. A game they were blown out of by the San Francisco 49ers.

Since then, there have been unexpected playoff exits and disappointment.

What will a new stadium do for San Diego? Not only will it guarantee the Chargers will stay, but it will bring big time revenue into the city by being in the Super Bowl rotation. There's no question the NFL would love to have the sports' biggest game in a warm climate town. Especially with a brand new state of the art stadium.

The longer the holdup takes, the more chance of the Chargers moving out of town. Though they aren't the front runner to be moved, they have been a team that's been rumored to be on the move over the last few years.

"A new stadium is absolutely necessary to keep the team in San Diego," said Elsten. "The Spanos' have said it practically since the day renovations were done on The Q. The last time the Super Bowl was here it was made clear by the NFL that they would not return unless/until there was a new stadium in San Diego.  While it's still viable to play for a long time in Mission Valley, the Chargers will have their eye on LA every minute there's not a new stadium here."

San Diego does not want to lose the only other professional team they have in town, especially not to Los Angeles. They'd never hear the end of it. 

Though, the one thing they can hold over that city is the fact that they've been able to hang on to their NFL team while Los Angeles has had two and lost them both.

The latest rumors that have surfaced were regarding a man by the name of Phil Anschutz who either had interest or had purchased a 35 percent share in the Chargers from the Spanos' family.

Anschutz is the guy who has long been trying to build a new football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. However, the talk around town now is that the United States has lost out on the bid to bring the World Cup here, a new stadium in Los Angeles isn't a foregone conclusion anymore.

However, it doesn't mean that Johnson and Anschutz won't still try to go after San Diego's NFL team and pull an Art Modell by packing them up in the middle of the night and moving them north.

"The revenue streams are better for the Chargers no matter what if they go to Los Angeles," said Elsten. "The franchise will be more valuable simply by picking it up and setting it down there. To stay in San Diego, the Spanoses would have to have a loyalty to the city which they've been signaling for years is waning.  So that means, new stadium or bust." 

The one big thing that scares San Diego is this. If they lose the Chargers to Los Angeles, there is no getting another NFL team for them. They aren't going to be on Roger Goodell's radar anytime soon. Elsten and I talked about that very thing and he summed it up nicely.

"If the Chargers leave San Diego, good luck getting a football stadium built here. We'd have better hope building a soccer-only stadium. If there's no new stadium [for the Chargers], good luck getting another NFL team to relocate here, or an expansion team. It's the Chargers or nothing for our city."

The waiting game might be a long one but the talk may get hot and heavy now that there's a real possibility of the team being moved. The only question at this point is whether it's too little too late.

So, if I'm on the San Diego city council or I'm the mayor of San Diego, I start working as hard as I possible can to make sure this team doesn't leave the city. If that doesn't happen, Qualcomm Stadium sits empty with exception to the occasional San Diego State football games, and you lose millions of dollars in revenue.

California is already hurting financially, this would be a huge blow to one of the best cities in the state.

A new downtown stadium needs to get done, and it needs to get done soon.