San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos has already decided to torture his fan base by keeping his team in San Diego for one more season before deciding, next January, if he will move it to L.A. for the 2017 season. Based on Spanos’s recent comments, he’s going to ramp up the torment by dangling the possibility of a new stadium getting built in San Diego over the fans’ heads.
Speaking to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Spanos made it clear that he is prepared to spearhead a campaign aimed at securing public funding for a new stadium that would keep the Chargers in San Diego:
“Whatever we need to do,” Spanos said, “we’re going to do what we need to do to get this done ... We’re trying as hard as we can. I can’t do it myself. It’s going to take the effort of the mayor; politically we need support. The business community needs to step up. I think once we have a definitive plan in place they’ll get behind us and support us. It has to economically make sense for the voters, and I think (the business community) will help make that case down the line and they’ll support us.”
This is a dramatic shift in tone for Spanos, who didn’t seem at all interested in working out a deal to stay put when it looked like he was a good bet to score his desired move to Carson. So why the sudden change of heart? Part of it is that the NFL has thrown another $100 million on top of the $200 million it was already willing to spend on a new stadium in San Diego. Part of it is that Spanos has figured out a way to try and secure public funding without having to deal with the local politicians who have previously been resistant to giving him any money. He’s going to fund a citizens’ initiative, which would aim to collect enough signatures to get a November ballot measure passed.
It’s hard to miss the inherent cruelty of this strategy. Chargers fans already lived through a nightmare season, and now Spanos’s people are going to come knocking on their doors, essentially saying, “Hey, don’t you want to help save the Chargers? All you have to do is be a good fan and help us strongarm the local government into giving us a bunch of money. Sign here!”
Meanwhile, Spanos has $300 million of the NFL’s money burning a hole in his pocket and is up another $550 million from the relocation fee he ended up not having to pay. But he still needs that public money, for some reason, and he needs the fans and the politicians and the “business community” to go and get it for him. It’s a nice scam he has working: If the efforts to keep the Chargers in San Diego break down and he ends up going to L.A. anyway, it will look like everyone’s fault but his own.