SBD/September 18, 2017/Franchises

Chargers Fail To Sell Out Opener At StubHub Center; Redskins Fans Take Over L.A. Coliseum

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Dolphins-Chargers at StubHub Center drew just more than 25,000 fans
The NFL may have "overestimated the appetite for professional football" in L.A, as empty seats in L.A. Memorial Coliseum during yesterday's Redskins-Rams game was "not a great look," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. There also was the Chargers' "inability to sell out their first regular-season game" in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center. It is "by far the smallest facility in the league," and yesterday's Dolphins-Chargers game "drew only 25,381." Adding that number to the "official attendance figure of 56,612 tickets distributed for the Rams' game, you get a total of less than 82,000" (AP, 9/17). But CBS Sports Network's Amy Trask noted critics should not "conclude too much from attendance right now in the Coliseum." She said, "L.A. hasn’t had a new football stadium since 1923 when the Coliseum was completed. The Rose Bowl, a year earlier in 1922. ... If the stadium that [Rams Owner] Stan Kroenke is building in Inglewood is as magnificent as expected, I think we’re going to see something different.” Trask: "If the teams play well, the buildings are going to fill up” (“That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 9/17). In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore notes the Rams and Chargers are taking a "long-play approach" in L.A. Upon relocating, both teams "understood the challenges they faced finding their long-term place among a crowded sports landscape." And they understood that "three factors would ultimately play the biggest role: Creating an L.A. identity, moving into the state-of-the-art" $2.6B venue being built by Kroenke and "consistently fielding compelling, entertaining football teams." Chargers Chair Dean Spanos: "It’s not something that will happen in a year or two. It’s a process that will take years. And we understand that" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/17). NBC's Mike Florio said, "I just feel like L.A. didn't want the Chargers and nobody bothered to realize it until the Chargers moved to L.A." ("PFT," NBCSN, 9/18).

HOME-FIELD DISADVANTAGE? In California, Jeff Miller notes StubHub Center "featured an abundance" of Dolphins fans who, in this case, "lustily chanted 'DE-fense' when the Chargers had the ball late and 'Let’s Go, DOL-phins' all afternoon." The stadium was "evenly divided" among Chargers and Dolphins fans, "at least vocally" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/17). ESPN.com's Arash Markazi notes there were "approximately 12 moments in the game in which the noise level at StubHub Center broke 100 dBA." But Dolphins fans accounted for "five of them," including Dolphins K Cody Parkey's "go-ahead 54-yard field goal with 1:05 left" (ESPN.com, 9/18). Meanwhile, in DC, Scott Allen notes the Redskins yesterday had "thousands of burgundy-and-gold-clad fans in the stands" at L.A. Coliseum. By the end of the game, the "loudest cheers were from the Redskins fans in attendance, some of whom sang 'Hail to the Redskins.'" Allen: "Judging by Sunday’s showing, the Redskins should expect a similarly warm reception when they make a second trip out to Southern California to play the Chargers in Week 14" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18).

TWITTER REAXSports Illustrated's official feed tweeted, "Need fans in L.A.? The NFL may want to look into the cost of Hollywood extras." ESPN's "SportsCenter" feed: "The attendance for the USC game was more than the Chargers and Rams' attendances combined." L.A. Times' Lindsey Thiry: "The optics at the Coliseum are not good when it comes to attendance. ... Really thought more fans would come out this week after the Rams routed the Colts, and looked exciting, last week." SB Nation's Ryan Van Bibber: "L.A. went from zero NFL teams to two NFL teams that nobody cares about." ESPN's Markazi: "I would say the crowds are appropriate for the product on the field although StubHub Center was about 95% full after halftime to be fair. ... LA was without the NFL for 21 years. Is it expected that bad teams sell out stadiums regardless of how they do?"

CAN'T FIND A FRIEND: In L.A., Bill Plaschke notes the Spanos family was "publicly thanked" during Pro Football HOFer LaDainian Tomlinson’s "brief but emotional halftime speech, and the place erupted in boos." During the game, Chargers fans were "just as loud, just as often" as Dolphins fans. But Plaschke asks, "Should it even be a contest?" The Chargers "just don’t belong" in L.A. yet. They "stormed the town last winter without warning and, just as many predicted, the town has mostly sighed and shrugged and turned its back." The Chargers are "hemmed in by anger from the south and apathy from the north." Before yesterday's game, a plane "flew above the neighborhood with an attached banner reading, 'Worst owner in sports? Dean Spanos, pay your rent.'" And nearby, there was a "digital billboard purchased by a San Diego fan that displays messages ripping the NFL and Spanos" (L.A. TIMES, 9/18). In San Diego, Kevin Acee noted every 62 seconds, one of five different images is "shown on the digital board, where it can be seen for six to eight seconds." Altogether, the images will be "shown 1,000 times a day through Oct. 3" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/17). 

GONE FOR GOOD: The UNION-TRIBUNE's Acee wrote the Chargers are "not coming back." Whatever the "optics of a less-than-full toy stadium, however disgusted other owners might be, however embarrassing the start of this new era is to the country’s biggest professional sports league, the Los Angeles Chargers are for the long haul." Acee noted if the Spanos family "sold the Chargers" before '21, they would have to give 20% of the revenue from the sale "to their fellow owners." But if Spanos "waited until after" '20 to sell, the penalty "drops" to 10%. After five years, it "begins a deescalation" of 1% a year for 10 years. One thing "people around the league do acknowledge -- even marvel at -- is the amount of money the Spanos family will be putting out over the next decade." The Chargers have "spent tens of millions moving costs, building a new facility and upgrading StubHub Center -- and have to pay off the relocation fee" at $65M a year beginning in '19. Acee: "The Chargers will be fine in Los Angeles. Maybe embarrassed. Maybe derided. Maybe mostly ignored. But in Los Angeles nonetheless" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/16).
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