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The Daily News of Los Angeles
SAN DIEGO - There was indecision and misgiving in the eyes of Dean Spanos last January as he stood outside a ballroom at a Houston area hotel.
In one hand the San Diego Chargers owner held a ticket to Los Angeles, where fellow NFL owners had just green-lighted him to relocate after years of banging his head against the wall trying to get a new stadium deal in San Diego.
In the other hand was his heart and soul and everything he and his family had built for the last 32 years in San Diego.
The business side of him screamed to take the certainty of moving to Los Angeles to join the Rams, who were approved on that same night to move to L.A. from St. Louis.
But his heart wasn't ready.
Not yet, anyway. And not like this.
Now, nearly a year later - and more than a month after San Diego voters rejected the Chargers' downtown stadium measure - multiple sources who have spoken to Spanos say indecision about moving the Chargers to Los Angeles has given way to clarity, and resignation replaced by excitement.
Meanwhile, whatever hope Spanos held that something can work out in San Diego has nearly vanished.
That doesn't mean it's 100 percent certain he will pull the trigger on L.A. before his option expires on Jan. 15.
But according to multiple sources close to Spanos, who did not want their names used because of the sensitive nature of the situation, it's looking more and more like he will join the Rams in L.A. to eventually share the $2.6 billion stadium Rams owner Stan Kroenke is building in Inglewood.
"(He's) still hoping for a miracle in San Diego but is resigned to moving to L.A. if not," is how one high-ranking NFL source put it.
And as another high-ranking NFL executive described it: "That miracle has to happen in a week."
Spanos has maintained he will not make any decision until after the Chargers end their season Jan. 1. He's content to enjoy the final two weeks of the season - and whatever remaining time he has in San Diego - but unless something drastically changes in San Diego, the Chargers will make the move 120 miles north to L.A., the sources said.
As for San Diego, there is nothing on the table or happening behind the scenes that gives Spanos hope anything changes between now and Jan. 15.
Even if a plan did emerge, Spanos would have to weigh the likelihood it will get approved when so many others have failed over the years, and the risk of waiting another two years for a vote if it means losing his option in Los Angeles in the process.
All of that, coupled with a finalized partnership with the Rams, has created as much momentum as ever for a Chargers move.
NFL owners ratified the partnership last week in Dallas, and those familiar with the deal say there is little risk to the Chargers other than a $550 million relocation fee. The Chargers have an option to finance that fee over 10 years or pay it in full immediately.
The Rams will foot the entire bill for stadium construction and the Chargers will play rent-free while pocketing all game-day revenue.
"It's a very good deal (for the Chargers)," said a high-ranking NFL source.
As a result, the Chargers are already formulating plans to play in Los Angeles for the 2017 season, with the Coliseum or the StubHub Center the most likely home stadium until the Inglewood stadium opens in 2019.
And while the Chargers would be returning to their Los Angeles roots - they called L.A. home in their first year of existence in 1960 - don't be surprised if they consider re-branding entirely, as the Houston Oilers did upon moving to Nashville or the Cleveland Browns did after moving to Baltimore.
The Oilers became the Tennessee Titans and the Browns became the Baltimore Ravens and both franchises have flourished in their new cities.
With the Rams the obvious heritage team in L.A. and cornering a significant portion of the market as a result, the Chargers could arrive in town offering fans a chance to create history with them.
In doing so, they could cast an even wider net to attract fans not yet on board with the Rams, or fans of existing NFL teams that might not jump ship to root for the Chargers but might be enticed if, say, it was the Los Angeles Stallions.
That doesn't mean a Chargers move to L.A. in January is certain.
But it's looking more and more like Los Angeles will be getting a second team soon.
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