“Revisionist History-Full of Lies-Half Truths-Mistakes”
The use the old NFL term fits here, ‘we’re on the clock’.
We being the San Diego Chargers fans, the media, the mayor, the city and the county. On the clock, wondering if the Chargers-Rams negotiations will strike a deal to move the NFL team to LA, or whether an 11th hour deal can be worked out before the clock strikes midnight.
Those who don’t know in the media, and there are lots of them, wonder how it ever got this way, where we could lose a valued NFL franchise. The simplest word to describe everything about the Chargers approach to business, then and now, is greed. Always has been, always will be.
Alex Spanos bought the franchise from Gene Klien at the tail end of the great Air Coryell years, where an aging Dan Fouts saw the franchise fall apart around him. Great offense, bad defense, and then the architect, the coach, was gone.
The Chargers and Padres shared what was then Jack Murphy Stadium. Cramped offices. Poor practice facilities at the end of the parking lot, and a dislike for the other tenant, the baseball team, which had been successful, led by the personality that was ‘Trader Jack McKeon’.
As Spanos wandered thru the tight hallways at the Stadium, there was yelling, doors were slammed, people shied away from looking up from their desk That was the way the old man ran things. You had to know that walking into the tiny lobby, where there were no Chargers team pictures, nor action shots, just a shot of Alex Spanos.
The team wasn’t very good, and the owner wasn’t very educated about how to turn a franchise around. Missteps like Steve Ortmayer as GM set the program back, but the hiring of Bobby Beathard as GM set the franchise on a better path.
The town got turned onto the Boss Ross approach of doing things, and started to win. San Diego could still be a destination point for another Super Bowl, but stadium upgrades were necessary. Here came the 78M of city funds for additional seats, locker rooms, and the Murphy Canyon practice facility. And that’s where it all started to go wrong, somewhere in the late 1990s.
Instead of saying thank you, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue insulted San Diego at their last Super Bowl press conference here. They’d never come back without a new stadium, and this just after the city had spent all that money.
Within 3-years, Spanos was screaming he needed-wanted a new stadium, eventhough there were lots of bonds to be paid off for all those additional seats, and by the way, the luxurious sky box he and his family sat in weekly. It led to a war of words. Then Mayor Dick Murphy called them ‘welfare queens’, a phrase that has stuck to the Spanos name ever since.
There was the stain of the ticket guarantee, negotiated by another bad mayoral leader. The insistence of Dean Spanos, then running the team, ‘they gave us the deal-don’t blame us’. the losing and the reality the stadium was crumbling. And it was also at that point where cities across America got ‘mad as hell, and said they wouldn’t take it anymore’. No more public funding for new football stadiums.
Here came the new Padres ownership, the Moores-Lucchino team, with a vision for a new stadium downtown. They invited Spanos to join them. They were tossed out of the Chargers office, end of luncheon meeting.
Baseball got it done, revitalized the Gaslamp Quarter, and moved up and on, in terms of facilities. The Chargers fell apart.
The younger Spanos kept proposing new ideas, new locations, snazzy schematics, slick sales brochures, but never a financing plan. Guess the message never got to the Fortress, no public money for you, especially after the last experience.
So we arrive at this point. Spanos and Stan Kroenke negotiating face to face, looking for a deal for the two team partnership in Los Angeles. San Diego waiting to hear if they can sit and finally talk to the owner.
It didn’t have to get this way.
The Spanos family had no vision, aside from give us this, give us that. Every proposal came with some wild eyed idea, like give us all 166-acres of land at the Qualcomm sight, and we will build it. Nobody gives away property of that magnitude.
They should have banked the 78M they got for the Super Bowl Seats, taken the G-4 funds, created naming rights, and some sort of mini-PSL, and could have built a 450M stadium in 2000. They didn’t, they wanted to do it their way, and now 15-years later, they want to move. Now it cost you 1.1B to build something here.
New stadiums got built with a wide variety of financing plans in the interim. Yes the Taj Mahal with Jerry Jones money in Dallas. But also the Meadowlands, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Cleveland and others. There was no vision on Friars Road, just an owner always walking around with his hand out, looking for a bailout.
Smart people around the NFL, from old school people like the Maras and Rooneys, to the new breed Daniel Snyder, all found creative ways to make it work. The Spanos team never did. never had the business acumen. With all the developers they knew from theri apartment building empire,you’d think they would have brought somebody with cash and cache to the table. Never happened. No stadium, and now maybe no team going forward hear.
On the clock yes, and sadly possible running out of time too. No matter what revisionist history the Chargers write, the bottom line is they never knew how to put a deal together, they never wanted to put their own money into it, they wanted someone else to pay for it.
Team Spanos never had the proper ‘currency’ to develop the type of civic relationships to execute something here of this magnitude. The John Moores and Larry Luccino team did. The Spanos-from-Stockton team never did. Enter Mark Fabiani and his scorched earth policy, approved by you-know-who, son Dean.
Lies, half truths and mistakes got us to this point. Most them created by the father and son, the owners of the Chargers.