Northbound: The Las Vegas Chargers?

To my fellow North County fans of the San Diego Chargers, I wanted to take this week to share my thoughts on a scenario almost no one has talked about in town: the Chargers moving to Las Vegas.

This year, the focus in San Diego has been on team President Dean Spanos making a personal appeal to fans, and rallying support for Measure C, a hotel tax increase on the November ballot that would fund the public’s portion for a proposed $1.8 billion football stadium and convention center annex in East Village. Polling suggests public support is anemic, and well below the 2/3rds vote threshold needed for passage.

Most political insiders in San Diego seem now to be waiting for a chance to somehow negotiate a different stadium proposal with the Chargers after Election Day, when Measure C fails to pass. I’m of the view they’ll never get the chance. The Chargers said as much via team spokesman Mark Fabiani last year. The team’s 14-year stadium search has been a systematic evaluation and elimination of sites and scenarios across the county. East Village is the last, best option on that list — and if Measure C fails after millions of dollars and the backing of local political heavyweights, then San Diego has squarely fits into the team’s narrative that a stadium deal just can’t get done here. No one’s made promises the team would try again, and why would they, after a good faith effort, and especially if you have other options?

Which brings me to Las Vegas. Ostensibly, the $1.9 billion football stadium proposal being debated in the Nevada legislative special session right now is for the Oakland Raiders, but the team has made no firm commitment that they’ll move, keeping their options open in Inglewood and Oakland. Ultimately, it’s a leverage game the Chargers and Raiders are playing, to get the best deal in the business of football for a new stadium.

Maybe, this entire time, Inglewood was never a real option for the Chargers, but it was for the Raiders.

I think the Raiders are a far better fit anyway as a tenant in Inglewood at Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s stadium, and a better fit for Los Angeles than the Chargers. Dean Spanos has previously told NFL owners he wasn’t interested in being a tenant at Inglewood, and Kroenke isn’t obliged to offer the partnership status Spanos prefers.

Some San Diego fans I’m sure will be outraged if this is the final destination on the Chargers’ quest for a stadium, but I’d adamantly disagree. Moving to Las Vegas would spare local fans the anguish of supporting a Los Angeles team; it would protect San Diego taxpayers and valuable downtown real estate that’s better reserved for community uses; and the Spanoses get their own stadium and can avoid having to work with Kroenke.

Las Vegas is about a 4 1/2 drive from North County, one which I’m sure die hard Chargers fans would be more willing to make than a drive to Inglewood. I’d happily tailgate with fellow fans in Vegas and watch the team play at least once a season. Would you?

Vince Vasquez is a Chargers fan and an economist based in Torrey Pines. He is a  Carlsbad resident.

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