The Union-Tribune this morning (August 9) conceded on its editorial page something all but the most rabid Chargers fans already know: the team wants to get to Los Angeles, and its highly publicized attempts to find a home in San Diego were never credible. There is nothing San Diego can say to the National Football League (NFL) tomorrow (August 10) to keep the team in San Diego.
Jill Lieber Steeg, a distinguished writer and wife of Jim Steeg, former National Football League and Chargers executive, states the obvious: the Chargers desperately want to move to Los Angeles. Further, she states something that was only obvious to a few people: "For the past decade or so, the Chargers have talked about nine stadium 'concepts' [in San Diego] but none of them were full-blown proposals with legitimate financing plans and completed environmental studies. The Chargers never saw any of the nine through to fruition. All were dropped, tossed to the side or outright abandoned by the team, but always blamed on other people or things."
When the Chargers tell the league they have been rebuffed in efforts to find a home in San Diego, they will be telling a fat fib.
Steeg doesn't mention it, but through those years, Chargers critic Bruce Henderson was stating that these phony stadium proposals were "intellectually insulting."
On October 4, 2002, my column in the Union-Tribune stated, "The Chargers are going down two tracks. They would like to move to the lucrative Los Angeles market if the opportunity arises, but if it doesn't, they want to get a new stadium commitment from San Diego." I have stressed that position ever since, in the U-T and the Reader.
Steeg also points out something that Henderson has been saying for some time: the Chargers tried to strike a deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group, which at the time wanted to build a stadium in downtown L.A. The deal would have been "in exchange for a portion of the team ownership. The Spanos family reportedly balked at at the ownership stake AEG demanded."
This brings up something I have been emphasizing. It is likely that the Chargers will have to sell themselves — or part of the team — to get to L.A. Steeg brings up another possibility: going deep into debt — supposedly worth it financially because the value of the team would triple. (I would argue the value would double, not triple. Also, the Spanos family is in a highly-leveraged business, real estate. It may not be able to take on that much more debt. The patriarch, in his 90s, has serious dementia. His wife may not want to sell part of the team while her husband is alive. There are a lot of children and grandchildren. Would they approve of a huge debt burden?)
Steeg ends up telling San Diego that "if you continue to stay focused on the end goal of building a new stadium, the NFL may one day give you another look." She seems to be saying that San Diego should do what St. Louis and Tampa Bay did: build the stadium without a team to play in it. I can't think of worse advice.
Jim Steeg, the husband of Jill Lieber Steeg, worked for the NFL for 35 years and the Chargers for six years. Was Jim Steeg looking over his wife's shoulder when she penned this piece? Was she doing it at the direction of the Chargers? We don't know. We do know that most of her points are sound ones.