The decision leaves the door open for the Chargers to remain in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Updated at 7:43 p.m. Jan. 12, 2016.

National Football League owners Tuesday approved a stadium project in Inglewood for the St. Louis Rams, and gave the Chargers an option to move there if the team cannot reach a viable stadium deal in San Diego.

The decision opens the door for the city and county of San Diego to reopen negotiations with the Chargers to keep them from moving, while giving the team a safety net if such talks break down again.

In a statement, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos said his goal was to safeguard the future of the Chargers franchise while respecting the will of fellow NFL owners.

“Today we achieved this goal with the compromise reached by NFL ownership,” Spanos said.

“The Chargers have been approved to relocate to Los Angeles, at the Inglewood location, at any time in the next year,” Spanos said. “In addition, the NFL has granted an additional $100 million in assistance in the event there is a potential solution that can be placed before voters in San Diego. I will be working over the next several weeks to explore the options that we have now created for ourselves to determine the best path forward for the Chargers.”

He was noncommittal when asked during a news conference whether he was willing to reopen talks to keep his team in San Diego.

“I’m going to look at all our options — I want to take a little bit of time here — we do have some options,” Spanos said. “It’s very difficult to say right now I’m going to do this or I’m going to do that.”

He said the relocation process has been “excruciating for everyone.”

According to a resolution approved by owners on a 30-2 vote, Spanos will have until Jan. 15, 2017, to decide whether to join the Rams in Inglewood. If San Diego voters approve a financing package for a new stadium, the option could be extended for another year.

Spanos could decide to make the move in time for the 2016 season, according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

If the option expires, the Raiders will have a chance to become the second team in Los Angeles.

Both the Chargers and Raiders could receive an extra $100 million from the NFL to build stadiums in their home markets, on top of the $200 million the league already offers for such projects.

Former NFL executive and San Diego resident Jim Steeg, interviewed on KUSI-TV, said Spanos will have to consider his options but will need to move quickly.

“He went into this thinking one thing was going to happen and he came out of it another way,” Steeg said.

“This thing has got to move very fast,” Steeg said. “He’s still got the option to move, and if he’s going to do that, it’s going to happen very quickly if he’s going to move up there, because he’s got to start selling tickets and everything else, and the Rams are going to hit the ground running.”

He said it’s incumbent on San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Supervisor Ron Roberts, who has led county efforts to keep the team from moving, to reach out to the Chargers.

Faulconer and Roberts released a joint statement that said, “Today, NFL owners rejected the Chargers’ bid to move to Carson. If Mr. Spanos has a sincere interest in reaching a fair agreement in San Diego, we remain committed to negotiating in good faith. We are not interested in a charade by the Chargers if they continue to pursue Los Angeles.”

San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman, whose district encompasses Mission Valley, the site of aging Qualcomm Stadium — and, maybe, it’s future replacement — said, “The San Diego Chargers are an important part of our cultural fabric. If the organization is willing, the door has always been open to come back to the table.”

Earlier, a proposal by Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis to build a facility in Carson failed to garner enough votes for approval.

Before the vote took place, final pitches were made for each project, with Disney CEO Bob Iger joining Spanos and Davis to push the Carson proposal.

It turned out not to be enough, as a proposal to have the Rams and a second team play in Inglewood, on land Rams owner Stan Kroenke controls at the old Hollywood Park racetrack, received more votes.

Negotiations ensued to select the second team, and under what conditions it would move to the facility, which will take a few years to construct.

Spanos has wanted a replacement for San Diego’s aging Qualcomm Stadium for around 15 years, a quest stymied thus far by the city’s fiscal problems of a decade ago, the recession and difficulty in finding a suitable site.

When Kroenke about a year ago proposed building the Inglewood stadium, the Chargers and Raiders responded by announcing plans to construct the Carson facility. The Chargers contend that 25 percent of their business comes from Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.

Faulconer established a task force that has recommended building a new facility next to Qualcomm Stadium, but the Chargers broke off negotiations on the proposal last June. The team’s refusal to restart talks prevented what could have been a citywide vote on the proposal this month.

On Saturday, Goodell distributed a report to owners that said plans by San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis to keep their teams are “unsatisfactory and inadequate.” Among other things, the league objects to uncertainty created by San Diego’s demand that plans for a stadium project be put before voters — something the Chargers once supported.

Chris Melvin, an attorney and lead negotiator for the city and county of San Diego, said Sunday that the Chargers created their own uncertainty.

“We could have already gained voter approval of a stadium under the plan laid out this summer by the city and county,” Melvin said. “But the Chargers stonewalled, rebuffed attempts to negotiate a term sheet, and refused to act. Despite all this, San Diego has proven that it’s a region that supports its major league teams.”

As the owners deliberated how to facilitate a move to Los Angeles, a handful of Raiders fans gathered outside their hotel in Houston — along with one Chargers fan who traveled from La Jolla.

Richard Farley told 10News it would hurt if the Chargers were given the go-ahead to move after a 55-year stay in San Diego.

“It would be like a shot to the heart,” Farley said. “As far as going up to (L.A.), I would probably stop being a fan. It just would not be the same.”

— City News Service

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