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Chargers Announce Plan to Bolt for Los Angeles After 56 Seasons in San Diego

Fans in San Diego began leaving their jerseys in front of the team's headquarters shortly after the announcement

The Chargers announced Thursday that they're ready to leave San Diego, their home of 56 seasons, for the potentially more lucrative but crowded Los Angeles market.

The team announced Thursday on its web site that it plans to move back to LA, where the Chargers played their inaugural season, for the upcoming NFL season.

"(San Diego) 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," Chargers team president and CEO Dean Spanos said. "LA is a remarkable place, and while we played our first season there in 1960 and have had fans there ever since, our entire organization knows that we have a tremendous amount of work to do. We must earn the respect and support of LA football fans. We must get back to winning. And, we must make a meaningful contribution, not just on the field, but off the field as a leader and champion for the community."

Fans in San Diego began leaving their jerseys in front of the team's headquarters shortly after the announcement. A move would leave behind a loyal fan base that cheered for Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow during the Air Coryell years in the 1970s and early 1980s, and for Junior Seau, Stan Humphries and Natrone Means on the Chargers' only Super Bowl team in 1994.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed the Chargers back in a statement Thursday morning.

"Los Angeles is one of the world's great sports town," the mayor said. "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."

On Wednesday, hours after the Chargers were granted a two-day extension to exercise their option to relocate to Los Angeles, reports surfaced Wednesday night that the team plans to move. The Chargers notified NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the owners of other teams, of their intent to move to Los Angeles for the 2017 season.

A move requires three-quarters approval by NFL owners. 

Goodell said in a statement that relocation would be painful for San Diego fans, but that Spanos exhausted all options for keeping the team there.

"Relocation is painful for teams and communities," Goodell said. "The fans in San Diego have given the Chargers strong and loyal support for more than 50 years, which makes it even more disappointing that we could not solve the stadium issue."

Relations have been strained for years between the Chargers, who've sought a big public subsidy to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium, and City Hall, which has been beset by scandals and various economic crises.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer formed a task force in 2015 to try to find a stadium solution, but the Chargers didn't like its recommendation and walked away from negotiations with the city and county. Faulconer recently met with Spanos, and helped cobble together a $375 million package from the city, county and San Diego State, which also plays football at Qualcomm Stadium.

The announcement comes less than three months after voters resoundingly rejected a team-sponsored measure asking for $1.15 billion in increased hotel occupancy taxes to help fund a $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center.

San Diego would become a tenant in the stadium being built in Inglewood for the Rams if the Chargers exercise that option. If not, the Oakland Raiders would have the option to join the Rams in the L.A. area, though Raiders owner Mark Davis has indicated his intention to seek a move to Las Vegas.

Until the stadium is ready in 2019, the Chargers will play at the StubHub! Center in Carson. Capacity for Chargers games will be 30,000. The team announced a fully refundable $100 deposit offer for fans interested in tickets. The offer grants priority for 2017 seats and those at the new stadium in Inglewood.

San Diego was given the option to move to LA after owners rejected a proposed shared stadium for the Chargers and Raiders in Carson, and accepted the Rams' plans for Inglewood. The owners gave the Chargers and Raiders each an additional $100 million to try to make stadium deals in their home markets.

The NFL's stadium and finance committees met Wednesday for about 3 1/2 hours to discuss relocation of the Chargers and Raiders. The fact-finding meetings mostly centered on the Raiders' plan for a potential move to Nevada. No filings for relocation were made; Oakland has until Feb. 15.

"There was little to no discussion on the topic of the Chargers," league executive Eric Grubman said.

And no decisions were planned nor made at the meeting, in which all members of the two committees took part, some by teleconference. Those owners are finance chairman Bob McNair of Houston, along with Atlanta's Arthur Blank, Tampa Bay's Joel Glazer, Kansas City's Clark Hunt, Indianapolis' Jim Irsay, Jacksonville's Shahid Khan, New England's Robert Kraft, Philadelphia's Jeffrey Lurie and Miami's Steve Ross.

Participating from the stadium committee were chairman Art Rooney of Pittsburgh, Arizona's Michael Bidwill, the Jets' Woody Johnson, Dallas' Stephen Jones, Chicago's George H. McCaskey and San Francisco's Jed York.

The owners did talk about possible relocation fees, though Rooney said no specific numbers were discussed. PJT Partners, which analyzed what the relocation fee for the Rams' move from St. Louis last year should be, has been hired by the league to do the same job again. The Rams paid $550 million to move to L.A.

Much of the meeting was taken up with the Raiders presenting financial updates. Rooney and Grubman said there was no discussion of Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson's potential role in the Raiders' relocation. Rooney noted NFL rules and policies that would prohibit a casino owner from having ownership of a franchise.

"It would have to be in compliance with our rules," Rooney said. "The Raiders are looking at the potential of doing without Mr. Adelson if it comes down to that."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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