A year after relocation, Chargers still a work in progress in Los Angeles

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- A year to this day, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos announced the team's relocation to Los Angeles after 56 years in San Diego with a statement that included these words: "L.A. is a remarkable place, and while we played our first season there in 1960 and have had fans there ever since, our entire organization knows that we have a tremendous amount of work to do."

Those words remain true for the Spanos family in 2018.

The official announcement sparked a wide range of emotions from the team's fan base, with some holding signs and crying in front of Chargers Park while others showed their anger by burning Chargers' gear in the parking lot.

That anger continues to linger for some, with banners disparaging the owner flying overhead before games at the team's temporary home, the StubHub Center.

Meanwhile, the Chargers found new digs in Costa Mesa, the Hoag Performance Center, a 101,000-square foot facility. They created a new training camp facility at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex, a few miles away from their headquarters.

They brokered new television and radio deals in Los Angeles and have held community events in their new home to try to earn fan support.

Starting 0-4 did not help endear them to fans in L.A. and made them the butt of jokes nationally, with opposing fans taking over the stadium. However, new coach Anthony Lynn kept the team together, and the Chargers finished the season winning nine of 12 games, building hope for the upcoming season.

"We've come a long way in the last 12 months," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said. " ... It's been a lot of change and a lot of challenges, but we're on the right pace. We're going in the right direction. I can tell you the commitment and the support from Dean, John and A.G. [Spanos] -- they're the big reason we were able to navigate these last 12 months and get us in position for next year."

Telesco also singled out Lynn for leading the team on the field through a turbulent season.

"Probably the one thing that really stuck out to me as far as the difference from this year to 2016 is I really saw a high level of grit and determination that we just lacked last year," Telesco said. "And I credit Anthony Lynn for that. Anthony has instilled that in this football team. I think that you saw it week after week. I think we saw it after our 0-4 start.

"That was some tough times right there. We're talking about a team in a new market, new stadium trying to get used to their surroundings. We started off poorly at 0-4. Right now, what are we going to do about it? And our head coach never flinched once. I think our players saw that. I know our players saw that and reacted well to that."

The Chargers sold out seven of eight games at the StubHub Center, a 27,000-seat soccer stadium. However, ticket prices were much higher than the league average because of the smaller stadium capacity. And according to the team, net gate receipts were higher than nearly 20 percent of the NFL.

Team merchandise sales were up 50 percent during training camp compared to 2016. The Chargers also gained approximately 100,000 followers on Twitter last year, so more fans are following the team on social media.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, television ratings in San Diego for Chargers telecasts predictably declined more than 40 percent in the first season after the team's move to Los Angeles.

The Bolts' 16 regular-season games averaged a 14.2 rating in San Diego in 2017, nearly 42 percent lower than the average of 24.4 for the 2016 season.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chargers averaged a 6.0 rating in Los Angeles in 2017, compared to an 8.0 rating for the Los Angeles Rams.

The Union-Tribune reports that, according to Nielsen, one rating point in San Diego, the No. 29 TV market in the nation, equals 10,028 homes, while one rating point in Los Angeles, the No. 2 market, equals 54,768 homes.

So combined, an average of nearly 500,000 homes watched the Chargers in San Diego and Los Angeles on game day.

Rome was not built in a day, and the Chargers understand they still have much work to do in order to build up a fan base before the team moves into a sparkling new Inglewood Stadium facility in 2020.

Longtime NFL agent Leigh Steinberg, intimately familiar with the Los Angeles market, says that even though the team had an ignominious welcome to L.A. with a slow start, they created an engaging experience for fans at StubHub Center.

Steinberg attended the Chargers' game against the Cleveland Browns in Week 13.

"The good news is the way they finished is by playing exciting football and winning," Steinberg said. "Had the order of the games been reversed, it would have been a disaster. But as it was, it sent a message that they were a winning team and got people excited.

"It just takes time. For a first year, it was a credible start. ... There will be a limit to their growth as long as they are playing in a 27,000-seat stadium with high ticket prices. So they're battling that. But if they can continue steadily building off the success they had on the field and be very aggressive in marketing off the field, their big jump will come in 2020."