Even though the Chargers' temporary home in Los Angeles holds no more than half the seats of a regular NFL stadium, the team has had trouble selling it out, and games there are marked by an unusually high proportion of fans on hand to root for the opposing teams. The situation has caught the attention of other NFL owners, according to a report Wednesday, and they have discussed the “viability” of the Chargers remaining in a place where they have gone from a disliked downstate rival to a distant second fiddle to the Rams.
That’s according to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, who reported that the Chargers' plight was a “major discussion topic among NFL owners/executives at this week’s league meetings.” Citing sources, Wickersham added that the team has struggled to sell personal seat licenses for the new stadium, set to open in 2020, that it will share with the Rams, and that the Chargers are “expected” to drop their initial revenue goals for that season from $400 million to “around” $150 million.
Given that the ultimate point of NFL relocations is to make more money for those squads and the league as a whole, the sharp decrease in revenue expectations from a facility expected to boast the latest in state-of-the-art stadium design and amenities has to have come as worrisome news for other owners. The Chargers’ president of business operations, A.G. Spanos, tried to spin it Wednesday as a positive for fans, who could take advantage of unusually low prices for tickets (between $50 and $90) and PSLs ($100) for over 26,000 seats at the new stadium.
“Each decision throughout this process has been made with the fan in mind, and we think the pricing announced today reflects this fact,” Spanos said in a statement. “When you look at the pricing levels for general seating, you can confidently say there is a season ticket opportunity for just about everyone. I think this model also reflects our view that it’s not just about pricing for one person. A family of four should be able to buy season tickets for the entire family and not need a second mortgage to do so.”
The Chargers have played at the StubHub Center, a 27,000-seat facility in the Los Angeles County city of Carson designed to house Major League Soccer’s Galaxy, since 2017, when Spanos’s family moved them north after 55 years in San Diego. The relocation didn’t appear to be a slam dunk at the time, given that the Chargers were viewed with antipathy by many Angelenos still loyal to the division-rival Raiders, whereas the Rams, who moved back from St. Louis in 2016 after spending most of their existence in Los Angeles, were able to tap into a large swath of supporters excited to have them back.
It didn’t help that the Chargers got off to an 0-4 start last season before missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record, while the Rams, who had struggled for years, suddenly became the darlings of the league with an innovative offense and an unexpected NFC West title. In addition, the stadium is being built by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, with the Chargers set to be tenants, rather than partners in the project.
A former San Diego Chargers executive told NBC 7 Wednesday that the move to Los Angeles was “a bad decision from the word go.” To NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, though, the issue is rising to the challenge of being able to “build that relationship back with our fans.”
“Frankly, we were out of the [L.A.] market for a long time, and we have to earn our way back with our fans,” Goodell said in New York, where the league has been holding its meetings (via NFL.com). “... It will be something that we have to work at over a period of time. They both have very exciting young teams, and I think that will be helpful also. But I think all of those of things will come together, but over the next two years there is some work that needs to be done.”
The problem for Goodell and other league officials is that the Chargers don’t have many options other than to try to make their way in a market that suddenly went from no NFL teams, after the Rams and Raiders departed in the mid-1990s, to two. The team left behind a decidedly poisoned atmosphere in San Diego, after years of acrimonious negotiations with municipal officials over public money for a new stadium there, and the Raiders took another potentially viable destination off the table by agreeing to move from Oakland to Las Vegas.
Offering tickets at markedly lower prices than will be available for Rams games could attract some attendees, but it’s tricky to plan on budget-conscious fans leaving their homes, where they can watch NFL games for free, to battle the notorious Los Angeles traffic to see Chargers games in person. Given the locale, many of those fans could decide that a better way to spend a Sunday would be at a beach, which are also free for the most part and feature a much cooler version of doing the wave.
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