“San Diego-What Kind of Sports City Are We?”
San Diego, home of a great year long climate, with some of the highest housing prices in the US, is a city looking for an identity….in sports.
For 55-years, the home of the Chargers, till the greed of the Spanos family yanked the franchise from our grasp despite decades of loyalty, and just 12-winning seasons in 33-years under the Spanos family flag.
Since 1969, Padres baseball has been a mix of constant ownership change, and even more upper level management changes, has given us 2-World Series seasons, some divisional titles, but more losing seasons than ever. Better days are coming with the wild spending spree to rebuild the farm system but it’s not here yet.
We have warring factions, getting ready for a November ballot vote on a soccer-college football stadium.
San Diego may be ranked the 18th biggest ‘media market’ in the country in terms of radio and television, but it seems much smaller than that.
We don’t have a lot of Fortune 500-corporations here. We have more suburbia than we have a vibrant downtown. Our population base might be 3.5M in the county. Our ability to get things done, stadiums, facilities, schools, libraries, civic improvements, has been an enormous challenge.
Voting on financing has never been easy. Quality leadership from the Mayor’s office has been questionable up till recent times.
So who are we in the sports world?
We have 1-pro team, the Padres, plus 2-university athletic programs very few have come to embrace, despite the success on the field at SDSU and the quality of the institution that USD is.
We are Portland, without the rain, a Rose City that calls the NBA-Trailblazers its proud franchise. They have thePortland Timber soccer team, and the Oregon Ducks-Oregon State Beavers down I-5.
We are Buffalo, without the snow and cold. They have the Bills and the Sabres, so they are actually better than us.
We are Jacksonville, without the heat and humidity. They have the Jaguars and that’s all.
Here in San Diego we keep getting all kinds of feelers, of teams and leagues arriving.
MLS Soccer seems on the horizon, but until FS-Investors wins the November election, for a Stadium, that would give them an inside track to get one of the last expansion teams to be given out. But is MLS a real game-changer?
A 2nd soccer franchise wants to build a smaller stadium for a team in the second division, the North American Soccer League. Even less impactful.
The legacy of the indoor franchise, the San Diego Sockers has eroded away as the leagues crumbled under the weight of heavy contracts.
The Aztecs want to build their own stadium as part of a Campus expansion, but until SDSU can configure a way to join a Power 5-Conference, the Big 12,nothing changes in terms of their identity support.
USD has basketball, an also ran in the smaller West Coast Conference, an elite non scholarship football program,that few pay attention to.
UCSD is moving up to Division 1-status in the Big West Conference, but that is four years in the making to engineer that move, and questions remain if a big league city would pay attention to an off the radar conference. Just ask USD about that.
College baseball, despite being based in a huge recruiting era, has never put either of its teams in Omaha, home of the college World Series.
The San Diego Gulls have found a niche, leading the American Hockey League in attendance, but it is indeed minor league.
The Alliance of American Football will unveil plans to put a 2019 spring league team here, with a former NFL head coach Mike Martz to run it. But the reality is, each NFL team has 90-players on its off season rosters, that’s a total of 2,880-players under contract in OTA and mini camp workouts. Will displaced Chargers fans get excited about seeing players #2,881 thru 3,000 making up AAF rosters in the spring.? Maybe if the prices are low.
And the Valley View Casino Center is taking about bringing in a new team in a new Arena Football League. The old AFL has pretty much ceased operation, though there is a legacy of guys who wound up in the NFL, the Kurt Warner’s of the world, who made it to the NFL. But that era seems over. Would fans show up just to do something in off season? Maybe.
Add in the arrival of rugby and lacrosse, plus so-called World Team Tennis in the short summer schedule, and you wonder if anyone is really interested.
And what does it say about our city, to be banking its hopes to revitalize its sports image by importing all these second tier events?
I remember the night the Chargers left, and the Mayoral press conference of Kevin Falconer and his comments “San Diego will be alright-and the Chargers made a bad decision’.
The Bolts may have made a bad decision, in LA, where they are an after-thought on that sports landscape. But San Diego is not alright either. .
We lost our NFL team, and we have lost out sports identity, no matter how many so-called teams and leagues show up here to call San Diego its home.
Who are we? How do we get better? How do we change our image?
What kind of a sports city are we right now? Not much, sadly.