Column: Post-Chargers world San Diego sees soccer, Padres and SDSU as winners

Nearly 4 1/2 years have passed since Dean Spanos and siblings moved the Chargers, creating fallout that has raised questions such as this one: Who are San Diego’s biggest winners stemming from the NFL team’s relocation after 56 years here?

The answer is obvious.

San Diego State and the Padres, two institutions whose local roots were deeper than the football team’s, have emerged stronger since the Spanoses planted the Lightning Bolt in Greater Los Angeles.

SDSU, after winning a public vote, was able to buy long-sought land on the Chargers stadium site, while the Padres avoided having to share the East Village with the Chargers and became the only major pro sports team in America’s eighth-largest city.

Even if it was too politically delicate for leaders (or their proxies) of SDSU and the Padres to say it publicly, the Chargers not succeeding at occupying the same turf as theirs — either east Mission Valley or downtown, respectively — was what SDSU and the Padres wanted. A case can be made it’s also what they helped to achieve, though their roles there were likely limited.

Which sport has grown the most locally since Team Spanos moved on?

Answer: Futbol has risen in football’s wake.

The expansion team in the National Women’s Soccer League that World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis is leading joins SD Loyal and 1904 FC as the third professional soccer club to arise in San Diego in the past four years.

“San Diego is a phenomenal, phenomenal site to be in, in terms of fan base and history,” said Ellis, who later added: “We want to kick some ass.”

It hasn’t been a clean sweep for soccer lovers, as San Diego is still without a team in the top U.S. men’s league, Major League Soccer. But the 10-member NWSL, which is expanding to San Diego and Los Angeles in 2022, is the top women’s pro league in the country.

Also, it’s not inconceivable MLS could turn to San Diego. After all, the league’s MVP trophy is named after Landon Donovan, SD Loyal’s coach and top soccer executive.

With construction of a 35,000-seat stadium they can call their own on track for the 2022 season, the football Aztecs of San Diego State have scored a potentially big victory in a post-Chargers world. The Aztecs should reap victories in recruiting and revenues as a result of obtaining their own stadium. The venue is certainly a better fit for the program than the old, 70,000-seat venue that also housed the Chargers and, until 2004, the Padres. A cautionary note arises from Colorado State, where a new football stadium hasn’t become the panacea its supporters claimed it would be.

As for the burgeoning “minor sports” scene, it’s hard to keep track of the professional teams. Along with the three soccer clubs, San Diego has sprouted pro squads in rugby (Legion), indoor lacrosse (Seals), indoor football (Strike Force), the Ultimate Disc League (Growlers) and perhaps others. They join the indoor Sockers, who’ll move to a new arena in Oceanside, the hockey Gulls, who are the top affiliate of the NHL Ducks in Anaheim, and the World TeamTennis Aviators, who play a summer schedule in Carlsbad.

The University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium has become a more popular place since Spanos and siblings announced their decision on Jan. 12, 2017. In addition to hosting Toreros athletic contests, the venue is home to SD Loyal, the Legion and the incoming women’s soccer team, but all have described it as a temporary home.

With the Padres a notable exception, getting a long-term, sports venue was a San Diego challenge that didn’t disappear when Team Spanos headed up Interstate 5.




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