SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Chargers say they will play in San Diego in 2011.
Beyond that is anyone's guess.
The team told Mayor Jerry Sanders on Wednesday that it will not exercise its 2011 escape clause. The announcement came amid recent speculation that the Chargers could be headed to Los Angeles.
"We decided to make it now, especially given all the rumors that have circulated over the last week or so about Los Angeles," Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said. "It seemed to be the right time to do it."
Last week, a report that sports and entertainment powerhouse Anschutz Entertainment Group was buying 35 percent of the team fueled rumors the Chargers would move if AEG succeeds in building a stadium it has proposed for downtown Los Angeles. Fabiani denied the report. He said on Wednesday that there are no offers pending or imminent.
The Chargers recently announced that owner Alex Spanos is looking to sell a minority stake to help with estate planning. The 87-year-old Spanos, a billionaire developer who lives in Stockton, revealed two years ago that he suffers from dementia.
Spanos and his wife, Faye, own 36 percent of the team. Their four children, including Dean, the team president, each own 15 percent. Two minority owners control the other 4 percent. Fabiani has said the Spanos family will continue to hold a controlling majority stake.
The Chargers declined to make Dean Spanos available for comment.
In a statement, Sanders said: "The Chargers understand, as we all do, the tremendous challenges now facing our region during these historically difficult economic times. But, even in the face of these challenges, we will be able to work through 2011 with the Chargers on a stadium solution downtown that works for both taxpayers and the team."
Embroiled in a contentious search for a new stadium since 2002, the Chargers have long been rumored as a possible tenant if a new stadium is built in Los Angeles. The team began play in 1960 as the Los Angeles Chargers of the AFL. After attracting small crowds at the Coliseum, it moved to San Diego prior to the 1961 season.
"We don't have a crystal ball," Fabiani said, "so we cannot predict what will happen beyond the next year, year and a half. We understand that people would love us to make a forever commitment, but we also hope people understand that in their own lives or their own business, no one would reasonably ask someone to make a commitment so far down the road. That's not how the world works. We also hope people understand we are doing everything we reasonably can do. To say otherwise would not be responsible. It would not be honest."
Between Feb. 1 and April 30 of each year through 2020, the Chargers can announce their intentions to leave if they pay off the bonds used to expand Qualcomm in 1997. That figure is currently around $26 million.
The Chargers are exploring building a $750 million stadium on a downtown parcel east of Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres. That site has been described as the last, best chance to make something work in the county. The Chargers eventually could seek hundreds of millions of dollars in public assistance.
The Chargers are determining whether a measure can be placed on the ballot in 2012.
"Obviously if we get something on the ballot in 2012, we'll be playing here in 2012," Fabiani said.
"If at the end of 2011 there's no support for a financing plan from city leaders, obviously at that point we'd have to look at other options. Again, you're asking me to predict something I can't predict. We just don't know," Fabiani said.
Los Angeles has been without the NFL since the Raiders and Rams moved after the 1994 season.
"The L.A. thing has a life of its own," Fabiani added. "We can't control what goes on in L.A. They're going to do whatever. They're not going to do it because of us. We're going to be one of the two or three teams that will be part of this story. We hope fans recognize that to build a stadium anywhere in California is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do."