It is becoming increasingly clear the NFL San Diego Chargers intend to move to Los Angeles and no longer want to remain in San Diego. When the Mayor and the larger community realize this, they can refocus their attention on an alternative plan.
Plan B for the City should be developing a soccer stadium downtown and working with investors to secure an MLS franchise. In 2011, the City of Houston developed BBA Compass Stadium primarily for the Houston Dynamo of the MLS. The 22,000 seat outdoor stadium is located downtown and cost less than $100 million to build. Of the total cost, the public taxpayer was responsible for about $35 million. This compares with over $300 million taxpayer support suggested for an NFL Stadium but regarded as inadequate by the Chargers.
The MLS plays 34 regular season games compared to 16 for the NFL, and the top 12 teams make it to the playoffs. With more home games, the soccer team should generate more economic benefit than an underutilized NFL stadium. In Houston, the new NFL Stadium (2002) has generated little economic benefit to surrounding neighborhoods while Houston’s downtown is booming supported by baseball and soccer stadiums.
Soccer is popular in San Diego as evidenced by the extensive youth soccer program, the successful staging of games between the US national team and others including Mexico, the large and soccer focused Hispanic population, and historical support for the indoor professional soccer team.
Tickets for soccer would be much more affordable. In Houston, good seats for the Dynamo sell for $30 while similar seats for the NFL Texans typically cost patrons $250. Why should the San Diego taxpayer support a venue that is unaffordable to the average resident when an affordable sports and entertainment venue is available?
The MLS now has 20 teams and is expanding with 4 new teams announced. They clearly want to expand further, building a national platform. San Diego would be an excellent candidate to secure a new franchise if the community can deliver a new stadium.
It is time to say “good bye” to the Chargers and “welcome” to a less expensive MLS alternative.