Chargers balance awkward dance between San Diego, Los Angeles

SAN DIEGO -- The Chargers announced their intention to move to Los Angeles over a month ago, but the franchise's business and football operations will remain in San Diego through the summer as the team's Costa Mesa practice facility is completed.

Team employees have until March 15 to decide whether to move with the Chargers to Orange County. Longtime receptionist Georgette Rogers' friendly voice greets callers to the "Los Angeles Chargers" from the Chargers Park facility, but it doesn't sound right.

Perhaps no one embodies the twist of emotions more than quarterback Philip Rivers, who has played all of his 13 years in the NFL in San Diego.

Speaking at the annual San Diego Hall of Champions event during Tuesday's induction of his close friend and Chargers teammate, center Nick Hardwick, Rivers' voice cracked as he told the audience he will always represent the city with his play on the field, even though he will likely finish out his career in Los Angeles.

"It has been special to be a San Diego Charger," Rivers said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. "And I hope you can always see me as that. I know it will be different. But I know y'all are understanding in knowing that I will play like crazy and fight like crazy as a Los Angeles Charger, just like I did for you guys. I know y'all can respect and understand that. But I hope you also know that I will always be playing for San Diego as well."

His comments drew a standing ovation.

Last year, the Los Angeles Rams packed up and moved when NFL owners approved their relocation from St. Louis in January, with the business and football operations up and running in L.A. by the draft in April.

But Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn will begin offseason work this April at Chargers Park, and the team will hold organized team activities and mandatory minicamp in San Diego in June.

"It's going to be really smooth," Lynn said about the transition to Los Angeles. "Guys are going to have time to go up and find places for their families, neighborhoods and schools. We're giving them all the time in the world to do that.

"I don't see that as an issue. I think guys are excited now that we're making the move and know that we're going. People are embracing the move and are excited about it."

While hopeful the practice facility will be ready for the opening of training camp at the end of July, the Chargers are looking at alternatives. One possibility is the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, where the team held training camp in 2003 and 2004.

The team continues to work to make inroads in Los Angeles. Cornerback Casey Hayward made appearances on local TV and radio stations in L.A. last week and served as a guest correspondent at the NAACP Image Awards. Fellow corner Jason Verrett attended the Grammys, and defensive end Joey Bosa appeared for a second time on late night's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

"We try to spend as much time in Los Angeles with as many people as possible, from the front office as well as the coaching staff and the players," said Mark Fabiani, a Chargers spokesman. "It's a challenge during the offseason because obviously the players and the coaches are otherwise occupied.

"But at the same time, we've gotten great cooperation so far, and we've managed to place players and coaches in front of a variety of audiences in L.A. And we've had members of the front office up there pretty much on a daily basis meeting with opinion leaders and government officials."

The Chargers also held a tour this week for groups interested in buying season tickets at StubHub Center. The team is expected to sell out the 30,000-seat soccer facility, even with an average ticket price of $192 a seat.

Fabiani said it's a delicate balance of pursuing opportunities in a new market in Los Angeles while trying not to offend fans in San Diego who will continue to follow the team.

"We've made a special effort to reach out to our existing season-ticket holders to allow them to purchase seats at the StubHub Center," Fabiani said. "That process is going on right now. It's too early to say what the results will be, but we're hopeful that many of our fans in San Diego, although they are bitterly disappointed by the team's relocation, they also understand what a difficult process it was. And they understand what Dean Spanos and his family tried to accomplish in San Diego and they want to keep following the team.

"Now, does that mean that they buy tickets, watch us on TV or some combination? It remains to be seen. But obviously we're reaching out to our existing season-ticket holders with the hope that some of them will want to buy tickets."