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San Diego Chargers Gear Up For Season Opener As Team Eyes Los Angeles Move

Photo credit: Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews hurdles obstacles during drills at a training camp open to the public, July 24, 2014.

San Diego Chargers fans are gearing up for the team’s home opener Sunday and they want to know how long the team will continue to call San Diego home.

The city of San Diego and the NFL Chargers have missed a Friday deadline set by Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The goal was to schedule an election on whether taxpayers should help pay for a new stadium, which may stop the team from moving to Los Angeles.

Faulconer wants an election before league owners decide on whether an NFL team will be allowed to return to Los Angeles after a two-decade absence. The decision may happen early next year.

The city and team needed to agree to terms by Friday in order to allow enough time for an election on Jan. 12.

At a lunch meeting of the Albondigas Political Society, Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani outlined a series of missed opportunities that could have led to a deal, including former Mayor Jerry Sanders rejecting a joint stadium-convention center project downtown.

Fabiana also cited current Faulconer's appointment of a task force to study the stadium issue instead of immediately beginning negotiations, and moving ahead with an expedited environmental study of the proposed Mission Valley site.

"As a result, we stand here with our fate in the hands of the NFL owners," Fabiani told members of the organization

Mighty 1090 sports columnist Jay Paris said it's a "weird dynamic going on in this game," between the ongoing threat of the team leaving San Diego and the beginning of a new season with Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions.

The missed deadline is a reminder of the wide gulf between San Diego and the Chargers. Negotiations collapsed in June after three meetings.

The Chargers have been wanting a new stadium for nearly 15 years and have acquired land in Carson, an L.A. suburb, to build their own facility — possibly in concert with the Oakland Raiders — in case they cannot make a deal in San Diego. St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, meanwhile, is aiming to build a stadium in Inglewood, another Los Angeles County city.

NFL owners will have to decide if all, some or none of the teams will be allowed to move into the potentially lucrative Los Angeles market, which has been without a franchise for more than 20 years.

"We can't control that — we don't know what's going to happen," Fabiani said.

Fabiani said such a decision could be made late this year or early next year, and that the Chargers would adhere to the ruling.

In a statement, Faulconer thanked fans and civic officials who helped San Diego make its best case to the NFL owners, and that city and county leaders remain ready to negotiate.

"While it's no surprise that the Chargers have allowed today's deadline to pass for a Jan. 12 special election, San Diego can still hold a public vote on a new stadium during the normal election cycle in June or November — if Chargers ownership is willing to work in good faith with their hometown," the mayor said.

Faulconer's task force proposed in May a $1.1 billion stadium that includes contributions of $121 million each from the city and San Diego County.

In answering media questions after his talk, Fabiani refused to speculate on when or whether the Chargers might return to the negotiating table.

He said the city's existing plan to build a new stadium in Mission Valley cannot be the basis for further talks. The city produced an unusually quick environmental impact report for the proposal in August.

"The quickie EIR is more like curdled milk, which looks worse the longer it sits around," Fabiani said in email Thursday. "In short, the Chargers are unwilling to go along with the city's ill-conceived legal strategies."

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