The good news for the Los Angeles Chargers is that they will have plenty of seats available when they play their home games in Carson next fall.
StubHub Center holds 27,000, and that should be more than enough to accommodate whatever fans the Chargers will have left from their days in San Diego and whatever stragglers they can scrape up in L.A.
They’ll be in danger of only one sellout next season, and that’ll be when pretty much all of the fans will be wearing silver and black when the Raiders come to town.
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Surely you remember when the Chargers played in Los Angeles before, as recently as the inaugural season of the old American Football League in 1960. They averaged 15,767 per game, with an exciting team coached by Pro Football Hall of Famer Sid Gillman. They scored hundreds of points and won the Western Division before losing to the Houston Oilers in the championship game.
The Chargers played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which held about 103,000 in those days. The visuals of empty seats were so bad the league moved the championship game to Houston, even though the Chargers had a better regular-season record. The Raiders of the modern era know what that’s like, giving up home-field advantage in the playoffs – to Houston last weekend – even though they were three games better than the Texans during the season.
At least it won’t look as bad on television in The Stub as it did in the Coliseum. This assumes, of course, that the 2017 Chargers draw as well as the 1960 team, a 50-50 proposition. They’ll probably have trouble selling tickets even at reduced prices, sold on StubHub.
Maybe you saw the welcome wagon L.A. Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke rolled out for the Chargers on Thursday, when the team announced its move to Carson:
“We. Don’t. Want. You.”
Team owner Dean Spanos would have been better off moving the team here, to Sacramento, instead of Carson. The Republic FC could have allowed them to play at Bonney Field, where the 11,000 seats would have been plenty.
Spanos moved the Chargers out of San Diego because he couldn’t get the town to build him a new stadium. His family is supposedly worth something like $2.5 billion. You’d think somebody with that kind of money could find the resources to build a new stadium without public help. The $650 million relocation fee to move the team out of town would have made a nice down payment.
Instead, the plan calls for him to pay rent to the Rams in their new 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, where it will be even harder for him to hide the empties.
San Diego will find that there is life after the NFL, just like L.A. did for 22 years when the Rams split for St. Louis and the Raiders went home to Oakland. There wasn’t a huge clamor down there for pro ball. Mainly, it was the NFL that realized it needed Los Angeles a lot more than Los Angeles thought it needed the NFL. L.A. seemed happy with the Trojans and Bruins, who pulled in record crowds in the absence of the professionals.
Hopefully, San Diego State can also pick up some additional popularity now that it’ll be the only major-league kind of football team in town. The Aztecs averaged 37,289 in Qualcomm this past season with the 25th-ranked team in the country in the final Associated Press poll. They don’t seem to have any big problem with Qualcomm Stadium, which was so horrible that the NFL only played three Super Bowls there.
On the Oakland front, the Chargers’ move to L.A. cuts off one of the Raiders’ relocation options. The NFL last year lined them up to move in with the Rams in Inglewood, if they wanted to and the Chargers didn’t. The Chargers decided to exercise the second-fiddle relocation option when only 43 percent of the voters in November backed a bond measure to keep them in San Diego.
Staying in Oakland remains the best option for the Raiders, although their owner, Mark Davis, is throwing the dice on the hope that he can make more money and his team can become more competitive if he moves it to Las Vegas.
He should do some research on how well other gamblers have done there over the years.
There was an interesting twist to the Raiders-Vegas story this week. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that if Davis can’t work out his increasingly troubled relationship with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Goldman Sachs will step in to finance the team’s proposed new stadium in southern Nevada.
This should hearten the Stay in Oakland crowd. If Goldman Sachs, a notorious investment-banking company, can finance a stadium in Las Vegas, you’d think they’d be able to help Ronnie Lott and his group put some cash together to build one at the current Coliseum site in Oakland. Goldman Sachs could use the PR, the way they’ve been pilloried in the press in recent years, from left to right and beyond.
Figure that Mark Davis will put up the $500 million he’s willing to commit to Las Vegas, that Goldman Sachs can take care of the $650 million that Adelson was going to throw down, and that the city of Oakland and Alameda County would kick in $200 million. Add it all up and you’ve got plenty of money to build a very nice Oakland Coliseum replacement.
They wouldn’t have to worry about filling the seats, either.
Andy Furillo: 916-321-1141, @andyfurillo