Last week, the chairman of the San Diego Chargers Dean Spanos announced that his team will be relocating to Los Angeles. The unapologetic Spanos gave the following statement to ESPN during a phone interview: “I spent half my life [in San Diego]. I leave behind a lot of friends and lot of great memories, but life goes on. There are always a lot of changes in life, and we know this is not going to be easy. But we made a decision, we’re committed to it, and our family is 100 percent behind it. What’s happened has happened.” The Chargers operated in San Diego for over half a century.

San Diego’s Economics

Of course, the decision to relocate the team came was based on more than just emotions. Local politics and economics played a large role. Back in November, Spanos was seeking to have a new stadium built for his team in San Diego. Despite the fact that the Spanos family’s net worth is well over $2 billion, the team wanted the new stadium to be publicly financed. Total costs for the new downtown stadium, which included a convention center, were projected to be $1.8 billion. San Diego taxpayers would be expected to fund $1.15 billion, leaving the Spanos family and the NFL to collectively cover the remaining $650 million.

 

San Diego’s Politics

Since Spanos’ stadium plans included such a heavy tax increase for the city, the citizens of San Diego were asked to vote on the measure this past election cycle. The stadium construction plan needed to be approved by two-thirds of the voters. When all of the city’s ballots were accounted for, only 43% of San Diego’s voters supported Spanos’ stadium plans. In a city of over 1 million people, only 127,000 wanted to help the Chargers build a new, publicly financed stadium. Following the result of the ballot measure, Andrew Brandt, a former executive member of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, said that the vote was “probably a sign [for the team] look elsewhere.”

 

Who Really Said Goodbye?

So did the San Diego Chargers leave for LA, or did the San Diego citizens kick their football team out of the city? How one answers this question is entirely subjective, but all economic factors indicate that the citizens of San Diego are the real winners for several reasons. First, its is clear that Spanos did not really want to be in San Diego. A man who is willing to pay $550 million in relocation fees to the NFL, yet is not willing to personally pay more than $350 million in fees to construct a new stadium in his current location, clearly does not care to maintain a relationship with the people of San Diego. Additionally, as Jeffrey Dorfman explains in an article for Forbes, publicly financed stadiums almost never generate the tax revenue needed to cover the costs the taxpayers spent upfront for their construction. In the end, with an owner seeking to leave a city not interested in losing money, San Diego left the Chargers, not vice versa.