Chargers set to announce move to LAJanuary 12, 2017 8:00am

Jan. 12-- SAN DIEGO-The Chargers have decided to leave San Diego, their home of 56 years, and move to Los Angeles, ESPN reported Wednesday night.

A source confirmed to The San Diego Union-Tribune that team Chairman Dean Spanos has called a staff meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday, at which time he is expected to inform his employees that the team will be moving. Spanos then plans to be in Los Angeles later in the day.

The ESPN story by writer Adam Schefter also said that a league source cautioned "Spanos has yet to send a formal relocation letter to the NFL, yet to notify public officials in Los Angeles or San Diego of the team's move, or even tell the members of the San Diego organization about his plans. The source insisted nothing is final."

But, Schefter wrote, "the Chargers have notified NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and other league owners, of their intent to move to Los Angeles for the 2017 season."

Chargers' counsel Mark Fabiani refused to confirm or deny the report but added he "may have more in the a.m."

A spokesman for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he had no word from the team about a move.

"The Chargers have not contacted the city," spokesman Matt Awbrey said in an email.

The Chargers have been seeking a new stadium in San Diego for more than 15 years, and a year ago were given a deadline of Jan. 15 to move to a stadium the Los Angeles Rams are building in Inglewood. Earlier Wednesday, the NFL extended that deadline by two days, to Tuesday.

The lack of a modern football stadium in San Diego-and the additional revenues generated by such elaborate facilities-prompted the departure of the team, which has been one of the region's most popular and recognizable civic institutions.

The Chargers have agreed to become tenants in a $2.66 billion stadium Rams owner Stan Kroenke is building in Inglewood. It is not publicly known where the Chargers would play until that stadium opens in 2019.

The report of the move comes two months after San Diego voters rejected a tax increase for a combined stadium and convention center annex the Chargers proposed for downtown. Measure C was supported by 43.6 percent of voters, far less than the two-thirds required for approval.

That proposal came after the team pursued at least nine different stadium solutions beginning in 2004, though some say many of those proposals lacked financial details.

In fall 2015, the Chargers declined to consider a proposal from county and city officials for a new stadium in Mission Valley on the site of the team's current home-Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967.

While experts say the local economic damage from the team's departure will probably be minor at the most, San Diego's image could suffer outside the city and local community pride could take a hit, especially among the team's more enthusiastic fans.

The Chargers' pending departure would leave San Diego with only one franchise among the nation's four major sports leagues: the Padres. The Clippers' departure in 1984 cost the city its NBA franchise, and San Diego has never had an NHL team.

Many say the arrival of the Chargers turned San Diego into a real sports town and also helped put the city on the national map. While the team never won a Super Bowl and only made it to one, it made the playoffs many times.

San Diego is the eighth largest city in the nation by population, but its relative lack of suburbs compared to other major cities leaves it with the 28th largest TV market.

The city also has relatively few large corporations to buy luxury boxes in stadiums and support pro sports in other ways, such as paying for stadium naming rights.

The departure of the Chargers could start a whole new process in San Diego of trying to get another NFL franchise. Since the Colts left Baltimore for Indianapolis in 1984, every city to lose NFL football has successfully fought to get the nation's most popular pro sports league back.

However, St. Louis, which got the Rams to replace the departed Cardinals in 1995, ended up losing the Rams to Los Angeles last year.

NFL officials have said they still consider San Diego a viable NFL city, partly because it served as a popular Super Bowl venue in 1988, 1998 and 2003.

The Oakland Raiders have been frequently mentioned as a possible replacement for the Chargers in San Diego, but the Raiders have been exploring a possible new stadium in Las Vegas.

And the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley, which is considered the most likely spot for a new NFL stadium, is already being eyed by local community leaders for other uses.

They include a river park, new facilities for nearby San Diego State University and a small stadium that could be jointly used by the SDSU Aztecs and Major League Soccer.

If the Chargers had chosen not to exercise their option in Inglewood, the Raiders would have gotten the opportunity to do so.

The Chargers and Raiders in 2015 proposed a joint stadium in Carson, but the NFL last January chose the Rams' proposed stadium in Inglewood instead. The league, however, gave the Chargers one year to decide whether to join the Rams.

In early December, the NFL approved a final tenant-lease contract between the Rams and Chargers and a payback plan for the $550 million relocation fee the Chargers must pay the league.

An announcement of a move would end speculation that Chargers Chairman Spanos would give San Diego another chance to cobble together a viable stadium plan that would prompt the team to stay.

Spanos met Dec. 22 with Faulconer, County Supervisor Ron Roberts and San Diego State President Elliot Hirschman to discuss the potential financial framework of such a proposal.

The proposal included $200 million from the city, $100 million from the university and $75 million from the county.

Chargers officials said the dynamics of their long pursuit of a new San Diego stadium shifted significantly in 2014 when Kroenke, the owner of the Rams, first proposed moving his team to Inglewood into a large stadium he envisioned at the former site of the Hollywood Park racetrack.

Ironically, previous owner Barron Hilton moved the Chargers in 1961 from Los Angeles to San Diego, where they played in Balboa Stadium until what is now Qualcomm Stadium opened six years later.

The Rams currently are playing at the L.A. Coliseum and the University of Southern California's lease allows for only one NFL team to join the university's football team there. Rose Bowl officials declined to make that venue available when the NFL was exploring temporary stadium sites in 2015.

There was talk of the Chargers temporarily playing at StubHub Center in Carson, a soccer venue, which seats only 27,000.

The Chargers recently leased a new headquarters and training facility in Costa Mesa in Orange County, roughly 40 miles from Inglewood.

The Costa Mesa lease covers 101,000 square feet of office space next to Interstate 405 in The Hive complex and an adjacent 3.2-acre parcel for training and practices.

The team could make the site its new permanent headquarters. But other sites would also be considered, a team official confirmed.

The Chargers said before Christmas they were working with the city of Costa Mesa to obtain permits to prepare practice fields and occupy the office space.

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(Staff writers Michael Gehlken and Lori Weisberg contributed to this report.)

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(c)2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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