NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos acknowledge a crowd of fans. Photo by Chris Stone
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos acknowledge a crowd of fans. Photo by Chris Stone

After spending more than two decades without an NFL team, the Southland became a two-franchise town Thursday when the San Diego Chargers announced plans to begin playing in the Los Angeles area this fall.

Chargers chairman Dean Spanos announced the move in a letter posted on the team’s website. The Chargers will become the second team in the Los Angeles region along with the Rams, who moved to the area from St. Louis last year, giving the Southland its first NFL team since 1994.

The Chargers will eventually share the stadium being built for the Rams in Inglewood. That stadium is scheduled to open for the 2019 season.

While the Inglewood stadium is under construction, the Chargers will play their home games at the 30,000-seat StubHub Center in Carson. There was no immediate word on how much the team will charge for tickets at the facility, which is far smaller than the traditional NFL stadium and is less than half the size of the Chargers’ longtime home at Qualcomm Stadium.

“San Diego has been our home for 56 years. It will always be part of our identity, and my family and I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the support and passion our fans have shared with us over the years,” Spanos said. “But today, we turn the page and begin an exciting new era as the Los Angeles Chargers.”

Spanos noted the Chargers’ inaugural season in 1960 was played in Los Angeles and while the team has had fans there since, the Chargers have “a tremendous amount of work to do” to earn the respect and support of Los Angeles  football fans.

“We must get back to winning,” Spanos said. “And, we must make a meaningful contribution, not just on the field, but off the field as a leader and champion for the community. The Chargers are determined to fight for LA and we are excited to get started.”

The announcement came one day after Spanos was given until Tuesday to decide whether to remain in San Diego or move the team to Los Angeles. That two- day extension was granted by team owners on the stadium and finance committees who met in New York to discuss stadium situations in San Diego and Oakland, home of the Raiders.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the team “worked tirelessly this past year with local officials and community leaders on a ballot initiative that fell short on election day. That work — and the years of effort that preceded it — reflects our strongly held belief we always should do everything we can to keep a franchise in its community. That’s we we have a deliberate and thoughtful process for making these decisions.”

The decision climaxing the Chargers’ long-running search for a new playing facility came two months after San Diego voters defeated of Measure C, which would have raised hotel room taxes to provide the public portion of the cost of building a downtown stadium. Because of the tax increase, the ballot measure required two-thirds approval to pass, but it failed to even get a simple majority.

Even though the team will play in a neighboring city, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti seemed ecstatic at the news.

“Los Angeles is one of the world’s great sports towns. Championship teams and iconic athletes aren’t just memories here — they are legends woven into the fabric of our history. Today, we welcome an important part of that history back with the Chargers returning to Los Angeles,” the mayor said in a statement.

“L.A. already has more visitors than ever before. The Chargers will make our NFL tradition even richer, and give sports fans everywhere one more reason to be in Los Angeles. I congratulate Dean Spanos and the entire Chargers organization, and look forward to the extraordinary contributions they will make to our entire region.”

Added Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts in an interview with KNX 1070: “We’re ecstatic.”

The Chargers also unveiled a logo with a white, italicized LA on a field of dark Dodger blue, with the base of the L in the form a lightning bolt.

Goodell expressed sympathy for Charger fans, noting their “strong and loyal support” for the team over the past half-century.

“As difficult as the news is for Charger fans, I know Dean Spanos and his family did everything they could to try to find a viable solution in San Diego,” he said.

–City News Service

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