For the last nine years, the Chargers have scoured San Diego County looking for a place to build a new football stadium. They started off at the Qualcomm Stadium site, flirted with Oceanside, Chula Vista and Escondido before moving back within city limits to downtown San Diego.

For all the talk and attention this has received over the better part of the last decade here in San Diego, consider this: There’s never been a formal plan that’s been ready to put before voters or politicians. They’ve all fizzled out or failed to pencil out before decision time.

The team always needed a development partner or government (or both) to help shoulder the risks and costs of what could be a $1 billion project.

Plus, the Chargers never really had the kind of leverage that could force a deal through — the leverage created by an aggressive and realistic suitor in another city. We’ve heard of all the different places the team could end up if it didn’t get the stadium it wanted in San Diego.

Los Angeles, of course, was the most logical. We’d also heard about Las Vegas, San Antonio, Portland and Birmingham. I even heard it suggested that Chicago could support two teams.

But there were serious setbacks with all those places. Los Angeles was more of a vague threat. While the concept of the NFL in the country’s second-largest media market seemed logical, there was no credible stadium plan and any effort there would likely face the same anti-public-subsidy backlash that the Chargers would deal with in San Diego.

That all changed Tuesday in a big way.

A billionaire sports magnate with venues and teams across the globe took a significant step toward building a new stadium, and he did it by not just resurrecting the moribund concept of stadium naming rights, but by redefining it with a $700 million deal with Farmers Insurance. It not only just feels more real now that the stadium has a name (Farmers Field), a backer and a logo, the project now has the deep well of momentum that efforts like this need.

So, for the first time in this whole spectacle, it’s possible to actually visualize where the Chargers would go and how they would get there.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean the Chargers are headed out of town after rush hour subsides. Considering the remarkable time and resources they’ve put into searching here in San Diego, it’s difficult to question their sincerity about wanting to stay here. The L.A. deal has a long way to go before it’s real.

But if Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in killing redevelopment, another San Diego stadium plan will be trashed. And, after a decade of searching here, that Los Angeles project would have to look pretty good. So good, in fact, that the competition might just shift from who can build the Chargers a stadium to which team can get to Los Angeles the soonest.

You can reach me at andrew.donohue@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526. Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewDonohue.

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