Chargers fans rally behind efforts to keep team in San Diego
From famed Super Bowl gatecrasher Dion Rich to an unofficial mascot called Boltman, Chargers fans turned out Monday night to support their team, which is threatening to move to a Los Angeles suburb if it doesn't get a new stadium in San Diego.
Some 400 fans, many wearing Chargers jerseys, packed a lounge at aging Qualcomm Stadium for a public forum held by an advisory group appointed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to recommend a site and financing plan to solve the long-running, contentious stadium issue.
Several hundred more watched on big screens in the stadium plaza. Beforehand, several hundred fans tailgated, just like on game days.
The Chargers and Oakland Raiders recently announced plans to build a $1.7 billion stadium in Carson if they can't get new stadiums in their current cities.
At times, the forum was more like a pep rally.
Dozens of fans addressed the nine-member group, which was forced to move up its timetable due to the team's threat to leave.
Many fans said they favor a new stadium at the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley. A proposed downtown site seems less likely due to the cost of the land and the recent revelation that it would take five to seven years for the Metropolitan Transit System to relocate a bus yard that the Chargers want to build on.
David Agranoff, vice president of a group called Save Our Bolts, said he didn't care where a new stadium is built.
''You could put it in my backyard, as long as we don't have to share it with the Raiders,'' Agranoff told the panel.
Rich, who for years crashed the Super Bowl until the NFL caught on to his act, said it's important to get a new stadium so San Diego can once again host the NFL's championship game.
''It has to be here,'' said Rich, who was wearing a leather jacket with the logo from the previous Super Bowl played here, in January 2003.
In the days before that game, then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he was surprised the game was being played in San Diego and said the city wouldn't get another Super Bowl unless it built a new stadium.
Will San Diego build a new stadium?
''Eventually we will,'' said Rich, whose most famous Super Bowl moment was helping to carry Dallas coach Tom Landry off the field after the Cowboys beat Denver in New Orleans after the 1977 season.
Boltman, aka Dan Jauregui, came in full uniform, including a No. 1 jersey, shoulder pads, football pants and yellow headgear shaped like a bolt - with sunglasses.
''Let's start focusing and lets start informing and educating the taxpayers,'' said Jauregui, 49, who said he's been a season ticket holder since 1995.
''That's the most important thing. Everybody's missing that. Not one person has said that. But at the end of the day, they're the ones that make the decision whether the Chargers stay here or not.''
Advisory group chairman Adam Day called it ''one of most focused, enthusiastic crowds I've seen at a public hearing. ... The testimony we heard tonight is very important. We heard a lot of good ideas. We heard a lot of passion, a lot of support for the team. I think it's a unanimous voice tonight that they want to keep the Chargers in town. It's going to help us focus and get the job done.''
Three days after the Chargers announced plans to partner with the Raiders, Faulconer and Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos met and announced that the advisory committee will speed up its work and present a stadium plan within three months.