San Diego Chargers moving to downtown Los Angeles, will play in Farmers Field

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The NFL’s returning to Tinseltown.

Naming rights to a stadium in L.A. have sold for 30 years worth a figure between $600M and $700M to Farmers Insurance, AEG and Farmers announced at press conference this morning … and the shiny new building (which has yet to be fully approved) will have a tenant.

The San Diego Chargers will move back up the coast for the first time since 1961. The move would likely come in 2015, but could be as soon as 2014, and as late as 2016, even before construction on the stadium would be completed. The Chargers would play in the Los Angeles Coliseum prior to taking up residence in the downtown facility.

The source spoke on a condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

The stadium rights were announced the same day the Chargers were able to opt out of their current lease. Between January 1 and April 30 of each year through 2020, the Chargers can announce their intentions to leave if they pay off the $26 million in bonds used to expand Qualcomm in 1997. AEG’s Phil Anschutz, who had been rumored to be interested in buying the Chargers in December, looms as the benefactor who will step in to the Chargers aid.  They are expected to make the announcement this year, once the new CBA has been struck.

It’s also entirely possible a second team – sources say either the Vikings or Rams – could be joining the Chargers, as the naming rights deal amps up to $1 billion if the city is able to secure two tenants.

The move has been a long time coming for the Chargers organization, as the city’s recent push for a Nov 2012 ballot measure authorizing the spending of public money on a new stadium hasn’t generated much political (or public) support in a city with a lengthy history of ambivalence toward Chargers brass and the Spanos family in particular.

The Chargers have been trying to negotiate a new stadium in San Diego since March 4, 2003, when the Chargers activated the Trigger in their lease agreement.

Ever since 2004, when the team’s “seat guaranty” deal ended (a bargain that cost the city over $36 million for empty seats, to give the Chargers a “guaranteed sellout” worth of revenue), the Chargers have been trying to coax money out of the city, including a failed 2006 referendum for a football-only facility.

The Chargers needed that public funding to stay in San Diego, but the naming rights dollars put up by Farmers, plus the inclusion Anschutz, makes the move too attractive to pass up, with or without public funding set in place.

The San Diego mayoral office has gone on record saying the cash-strapped city, running at an over $45 million deficit, could not put up more money to build a new stadium, but although the city council successful in amending the Chargers lease to permit the team to look elsewhere in the county for new stadium locations, none surfaced as an attractive offer.

Much more as it develops.

Unbuilt Downtown Los Angeles Stadium gets $600 million naming rights deal [IB Times]

Los Angeles Columnist says Chargers L.A. Bound [Sign On San Diego]

Bernie Wilson Twitter [Twitter]

Jane Wells Twitter [Twitter]

The sad, sad story of Shawne Merriman

There was once a time when Shawne Merriman was the most feared linebacker in the NFL. That period, however brief, has long since faded.

The Chargers placed Merriman on IR today, effectively ending his career in San Diego. Policy mandates his release upon returning to health, terminating his contract.

He could technically be re-signed in the off-season, but after numerous injuries and transgressions, A.J. Smith’s seen just about enough of the player once nicknamed “Lights Out.”

In his first three seasons, Merriman recorded 39 1/2 sacks – including 17 in a suspension-shortened 12 game season in 2006.

Then came the injuries.

In 2008, he underwent reconstructive knee surgery, missing the entire season. The following year, he was banged up with more knee and foot problems and recorded just four sacks. This season, he re-injured his calf and is now done.

It doesn’t help that he’s been mouthy about the Chargers front office, and he was arrested after domestic violence charges were levied against him by his then-girlfriend, ex-Myspace hottie Tila Tequila.

He’s a troubled man with an injured body and soul. He’ll get another shot, as all men with his freakish tier of talent do. But he won’t be the same player he was when he was young and wild, playing with the same reckless abandon as the way he’s lived his life so far.

San Diego to release Shawne Merriman if he gets healthy [ESPN]