SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers face a big decision: take the option to move to the Los Angeles area along with the Rams, or accept an extra $100 million from the NFL and try to repair their badly damaged relations with San Diego in working out a deal for a new stadium.
Team chairman Dean Spanos looked stunned at the decision Tuesday by fellow owners to let the Rams leave St. Louis and build a stadium in Inglewood.
There was a feeling the Chargers would make it to L.A. one way or another, either with the rival Oakland Raiders in a joint stadium they proposed to build in Carson, or with the Rams in Inglewood.
But after a day of negotiations in Houston, owners approved the Rams' move in a 30-2 vote, with a first option for San Diego to share the $1.8 billion stadium Rams owner Stan Kroenke is building in Inglewood.
Spanos said he will spend the next several weeks exploring his options. He described the process as "excruciating, for everyone."
"The goal from the start of this process was to create the options necessary to safeguard the future of the Chargers franchise while respecting the will of my fellow NFL owners," Spanos said in a statement.
The Chargers have time to try to get something done in San Diego, if they choose, although any deal would need approval by the voters in either June or November. That would require reconnecting with a fan base that loudly claimed it felt abandoned by Spanos' scorched-earth tactics, carried out by attorney Mark Fabiani, as the Chargers tried to position themselves to win the race to Los Angeles.
As rough as relations were with City Hall, the Chargers went 4-12 and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.
The Chargers walked away from negotiations with the city and county in June, instead focusing on that stadium project in Carson.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts issued a pointed statement Tuesday evening.
"Today NFL owners rejected the Chargers' bid to move to Carson. If Mr. Spanos has a sincere interest in reaching a fair agreement in San Diego, we remain committed to negotiating in good faith. We are not interested in a charade by the Chargers if they continue to pursue Los Angeles."
The Chargers have been trying since 2002 to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium. The long-running stadium saga turned nasty in the last year as Fabiani fiercely opposed Faulconer's proposals to keep the team in San Diego.
The city and county have proposed a $350 million public contribution toward a $1.1 billion stadium. The city-county proposal calls for the Chargers to contribute $353 million with the NFL adding another $200 million in a loan. Naming rights could be credited toward the Chargers' portion.
Finances were never discussed during three brief negotiating sessions between the team and the city and county. Instead, the Chargers raised concerns with a hastily conducted environmental impact statement they felt could get tied up in court.
Faulconer's top political strategist, Jason Cabel Roe, said in October that if the Chargers resume negotiations, they need to come without Fabiani because he has no credibility with elected officials.
Roe reiterated that position Tuesday night.
"If the Chargers' organization decides to re-engage on our stadium proposal, they could demonstrate the sincerity by dumping Fabiani as their negotiator," Roe told The Associated Press.
The Chargers didn't comment on Roe's suggestion.
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