Fresh off of news that the Chargers had inked a marketing deal for L.A. and Orange County, the Los Angeles Times today takes a look at the city’s NFL hopes and declares the Chargers its most promising hope.

From the story:

Possible motivations aside, this much is clear: The Chargers, who have been working on a San Diego stadium solution for seven years and so far have been unsuccessful, are better positioned to move than any other NFL team.

Beginning on Super Bowl Sunday — of all days — the Chargers will have a three-month window in which to relocate. And, under the team’s current lease terms with the city of San Diego, that window will reopen every year from this point forward. The city cannot sue the Chargers or the NFL to block a move, provided it is paid a $56-million lease-termination fee that will decrease over time.

And then there was this interesting quote from the team’s stadium point man, Mark Fabiani:

“We’re definitely a lot closer to the end of this process than the beginning,” said Fabiani, adding that the club has spent $10 million to fully explore stadium options around San Diego County, most recently two sites in Chula Vista. “This is not a process that can go on forever.”

At stake for the Chargers is the head start they have over other NFL franchises that also are likely to be mulling relocation. The Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings, for instance, are bound to their cities through the 2011 season.

Indeed, the team has been trying to get a new stadium here since 2002. Los Angeles for a long time was the most tangible threat, and the possibility of the team moving there provided the team and the NFL with plenty of leverage in negotiations here. As I wrote in this 2007 story, that immediate threat faded after Los Angeles’ stadium bids deteriorated, bolstering San Diego’s chance at keeping the team. From my story:

As such, the threat of the team shuttling out of town appears to be less pressing than it was toward the beginning of the Chargers’ stadium quest, a situation that could shift some leverage at the negotiating table and temper the sense of urgency brought about by a Jan. 1 deadline freeing the team to talk to cities outside of San Diego County.

“L.A.’s kind of a mess right now,” said Daniel Rascher, an economist and president of the Berkeley-based consultancy SportsEconomics. He added, “There’s no other city that would be a better place for the Chargers than San Diego.”

However, the story also included this bit of warning:

That isn’t to say that relocation isn’t a distinct possibility. Industry experts were quick to point out that situations can change rapidly — especially if the Chargers were to actively seek other suitors. The NFL has been battling for more than a decade to bring a team to Los Angeles.

The situation has shifted. San Diego County’s greatest hopes for keeping the team is in Chula Vista, where the mayor said yesterday that she hasn’t talked to the team since April.

At the same time, a friend of the team’s owners gained voter approval last week to get stadium financing in an L.A.-area city.

And, just like that, Los Angeles seems like a real threat again for Chargers boosters.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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