Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani likes to say that the team has spent more than 10 years and $10 million looking for a new stadium in San Diego.
The team’s current home at Qualcomm is creaky, but its shoddy condition isn’t the main reason the Chargers want to replace it. The team wants what Qualcomm doesn’t have – amenities that could make them a lot more money.
Fabiani ran down some of them for me:
• There’s no modern restaurant and club spaces in the stadium to allow for naming rights, signage, sponsorships and other things businesses would want to pay for.
• The stadium doesn’t have enough ways to offer fans premium services, meaning the team can’t charge as much as it could for club seats.
• The stadium’s original kitchen and restrooms weren’t built to handle the fact that the stadium’s capacity has increased over the years to 70,000.
• Since the stadium originally was built for baseball and football, certain sections of the stadium have bad views. “A great many of our seats are outside the goal lines, significantly reducing what customers are willing to pay for them,” Fabiani said.
In recent years, the NFL is coming to grips with the fact that fans would rather stay at home with their giant, high-definition televisions than go to the stadium. At home, you can watch several games at once, pay way less for beer and nothing for parking. At the stadium, you’re out in the sun all day.
So the league is in an arms race to make going to the stadium better than staying at home. In Atlanta, there are plans for seats that shake when someone gets tackled. In Dallas, the scoreboard is 72 feet high and 160 feet wide, the largest in the world. In Miami, the fight between the stadium and home is the most explicit. Stadium designers there are planning “living room” club seats on the 30-yard lines, filled with recliners, iPads and big-screen televisions.
The more audacious the idea, the thinking goes, the more the team can charge and the more they can make. Qualcomm has none of it.
Still, let’s not forget that the Chargers have a pretty sweet deal here. Most of the dollars fans spend on game days, from hot dogs and soda to parking, go to the team, not the city. All told, the city actually pays the Chargers to play here. The Chargers, like the rest of the teams in the NFL, just want more.