Could John Moores Force Chargers out of San Diego?

Paul PreibisiusAnalyst IJanuary 2, 2010

One of the primary goals for any owner of a professional sports team is to ensure their team has a new, polished stadium.  Football owners are no different, and for a long time San Diego owner Alex Spanos has sought a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers to play.

The desire was temporarily assuaged in 1997, when Jack Murphy Stadium was given extensive renovations. 

In addition to new seats, it also received a new name. Qualcomm Stadium was branded for the $18 million Qualcomm offered to the process.  The team had been seeking a new complex, but settled for the fix.

While the Chargers were seeking their stadium, the San Diego Padres were also on the hunt, trying to get their own stadium built.  John Moores, having purchased the team in 1994, was looking for an angle to get his team a new ballpark.

Moores increased the team’s payroll soon into his tenure, working to rebuild a cellar-dwelling team ravaged by fire sales.  On the power of an increased relevance with a playoff-competitive team, Moores earned the approval by voters of a brand new facility in downtown San Diego.

Construction was began and halted multiple times due to environmental impact studies, lawsuits, and several other concerns.  The project ran over budget and past schedule, but was completed thanks to a $60 million  fee paid by Petco for naming right to the ballpark.

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The park was a success in its inaugural year, seeing a rise in season and overall ticket sales.  Moores however began to trim the team’s payroll. 

The playoff-worthy product taking the field in the late 90’s had sold off several of its major stars, seen others retire, and remained quiet in free agency.

The team began a decline to the NL West cellar that it has failed to emerge from since.  Moores has presently sold the team to a different ownership group, who hopes to put some excitement back into the Padres.

In the meantime, San Diegans felt betrayed by a team promising to use the increased revenue the new park would generate to further improve a competitive ballclub.  Moores was perceived as a bait-and-switch artist, only willing to spend until he had the park approved.

Now the Chargers are once again seeking a new stadium for their own club.  The team announced that its present stadium plans would require public funds to get the complex built. 

“It’s almost certainly going to involve some sort of taxpayer money,” Chargers special counsel Mark Fabian stated.

That taxpayer money would most likely need to be put to ballot.  In a time of economic downturn, voters are likely to look to the San Diego Padres as reason to be leery of approving money for the team to build a new stadium. 

Should a measure fail on the ballot, the team would quite likely find its hopes for a new complex curtailed.

Caught between the Chargers wishes and the taxpayers caution is Los Angeles.  The city of L.A. has been seeking a new team for a long time, and has approved the building of a brand new stadium before they even have a team to play there, an approval made in the hopes of luring a current team to move itself.

Could San Diego elect to make the move if they don’t get a stadium in San Diego?  It is quite possible. 

Should the team choose to make that move, the greatest culprit behind a Los Angeles Chargers team would not be Alex Spanos or the San Diego City Council, but John Moores, owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team. 

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