By David Oates
Here in San Diego, the top story has been the Chargers apparent snub of the Mayor’s initiative to build a new stadium and keep the NFL team in town. Unbeknownst to anyone outside of the team’s offices, conversations with the city of Carson, about 100 or so miles to the north, were underway to build a stadium and split the costs with a bitter rival, the Oakland Raiders. The irony was not lost on most, and now Southern California fans are panicking that the Chargers will finally do what they’ve been threatening for more than a decade: skip town.
Emotions aside, there raises a larger question. What would the true loss of the Chargers be to the region if they left town? I asked that question on the San Diego State University’s School of Hospitality & Tourism Management‘s LinkedIn page. Here were two answers I got back:
- Yes. I think it will hurt more than hospitality. The Chargers visiting teams often have large followings. This total room night volume may not necessarily be great but every televised game is a commercial for San Diego. Whether planning a vacation or where to open your next business or relocate a family. The more top of mind the better. I hate to see it happen but I don’t see San Diego embracing this team. As a native, it’s sad to see how shortsighted some can be. I think the move will happen and we may never know the true impact.
- I believe the loss of the Chargers will have a significant impact on the local hospitality industry as well as the city’s ability to draw tourists and businesses to it. The great weather and pictures of all of our attractions and beaches is worth a million words when people see Charger games on TV. The Chargers are also a part of our civic pride and a rallying point for many in our community! I hope they stay. I also believe their move to LA will hurt them as an organization too!
The big argument made by both individuals is that San Diego’s brand would suffer significantly, that the city would be less top-of-mind to those outside the Southern California region and the draw for visitors would be directly, and negatively, impacted. That would be true if we lived in Green Bay, Wis., or Buffalo, NY, where the Packers and the Bills are synonymous with those towns. But i’s not even close to being the case here.
San Diego is known first and foremost for its weather, beaches and world-class zoo. The city draws conventioneers and tourists for these reasons; not because they see the Chargers struggle each year to make the playoffs. Furthermore, the sports brand in this region is spread across multiple teams; including the resurgent Padres, top-ranked San Diego State University men’s basketball, the perennially popular Farmers Insurance Open, the return of professional hockey to the city and others.
From a pure dollars and cents standpoint, keep this in mind too. The San Diego Convention Center generated a $1.3 billion economic impact to the region while upkeep of Qualcomm Stadium came at a $10 million net loss to the City of San Diego.
The bottom line is this. Keeping the Chargers in San Diego is not debatable on its brand value to the city, but more on the public will. If the citizens desire to pay for such a luxury then so be it. But San Diego’s persona will be just fine one way or the other.
David Oates is president of Stalwart Communications and a 20-year marketing and public relations veteran whose clients include agency, corporate and government organizations.
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