Move to L.A. has 57-year-old Chargers franchise feeling like 'startup'

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- The end of June and the month of July is usually considered a slow period for NFL franchises as players and coaches look forward to vacation time with friends and family.

That’s not the case for the Los Angeles Chargers. A.G. Spanos, president of business operations for the franchise, said he’s been focused on getting the team’s new facility up and running in time for players to move in when training camp breaks on Aug. 22.

“We’re doing everything for the first time,” Spanos said. “There’s not a lot of historical precedent for the things we’re doing, which is challenging, but also a great opportunity to reinvent things and not be saddled by an old model or an old way of doing things.”

Spanos said the Chargers have had a skeleton crew in the team’s Costa Mesa, California, facility for the last 40 days, with the rest of the team’s 130-person staff now focused on moving north from San Diego.

“Most of the staff is moving during this period that is traditionally more a down time,” Spanos said. “This offseason has been anything but a traditional offseason. Obviously there’s been a tremendous more amount of work that’s needed to be done.

“We’re a 57-year-old franchise, but it feels more like a startup.”

Jack Hammett Sports Complex, where the Chargers will hold training camp, is a few blocks away from the team’s headquarters. The Chargers reached an agreement to use locker-room facilities at nearby Orange Coast College for players during training camp.

Training camp opens July 30, and will be free and open to the public.

John Spanos, president of football operations, said the organization has been planning the transition for months. Those plans include resodding the training-camp fields at Jack Hammett, making sure they are NFL-ready.

He said the team gutted the ground floor of the new headquarters, building locker rooms, a weight room, equipment room, training room and meeting rooms for players that will be larger than the space used at Chargers Park.

The Chargers also are putting in millions of dollars in capital improvements at the StubHub Center, the team’s temporary home for games. That includes resodding the field, a new scoreboard and electronic ribbon boards, wiring upgrades for coaching communication and an NFL replay booth, along with upgrades to the locker rooms and press box.

“It was a surprising choice by a lot of fans, and it showed that we’re not afraid to think different about the fan experience and what we can deliver,” A.G. Spanos said about the Chargers playing at the intimate, 30,000-seat home of the MLS' L.A. Galaxy.

Chargers chairman Dean Spanos gave up control of the day-to-day operations to his two sons two years ago. And while the elder Spanos remains involved -- he was at the team’s last minicamp practice in June -- he is letting his sons handle the transition.

“He’s not as hands-on as he used to be, but he certainly is still around,” John Spanos said about his father. “He’s there for insights and to share his opinion and knowledge.”

A.G. Spanos went on to say his father has been focused on the major decisions facing the franchise in securing a stadium over the past few years, and he remains involved with that as the team’s facility is being built in Inglewood.

The Chargers have a 10-year agreement with the city of Costa Mesa to lease the 102,000 square-foot building for the team’s headquarters, along with holding training camp at Jack Hammett. After that, the team will search for more permanent digs.

“The long-term plan is to build a true state-of-the-art facility,” John Spanos said. “And the location of that has yet to be determined. We’re certainly considering all areas. It’s going to be a very big and thorough search for the right location to do that. We know we’ll be here for a good amount of years, but this not meant to be a long-term, permanent facility.”