Chargers expanding marketing efforts in Los Angeles, Orange counties

SAN DIEGO -- As if the LaDainian Tomlinson-A.J. Smith spat isn't enough for San Diego fans to digest, the Chargers signed a deal with Wasserman Media Group on Monday to market Southern California's only NFL team in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Merriman gets involved

Chargers star linebacker Shawne Merriman has told the San Diego-Union Tribune that he wants the feud between LaDainian Tomlinson and A.J. Smith to cease. **More ...**

Any tie-in between the Chargers and Los Angeles always leaves San Diegans wondering if it's a precursor to the team moving up the freeway to the nation's second-biggest market, which has been without an NFL franchise since the Raiders and Rams bolted before the 1995 season.

This one isn't, said attorney Mark Fabiani, who has been trying since 2002 to get the Chargers a new stadium deal in San Diego County.

In a deal that was first reported on the Los Angeles Times' Web site, Wasserman Media Group will help the Chargers sell luxury suites and club seats to fans in L.A. and Orange counties.

"It's a side issue," Fabiani said. "It has nothing to do with a stadium search. We continue to search for a solution in San Diego County. Nothing has changed about that."

Fabiani said he understands why people might read between the lines, much as they did when the Chargers moved their training camp to the L.A. suburb of Carson for a few summers earlier this decade.

"People should also understand that if they want us to re-sign our top players, if they want us to have enough revenue to be able to pay all of our stars on a long-term basis, to do that you need to generate additional revenue," Fabiani said. "Orange County and Los Angeles County are two of the most lucrative markets in the world. They're both unserved right now by an NFL team, and we don't see any reason why we shouldn't try to improve our financial position by marketing there."

Casey Wasserman, the grandson of the late Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman, is chairman and CEO of L.A.-based Wasserman Media Group. Wasserman, who owns an Arena Football League team, has wanted for years to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles.

Wasserman Media Group said in a statement that its marketing deal with the Chargers "is unrelated to any prior public speculation involving Casey Wasserman and the Los Angeles football market."

The Chargers say they need a new stadium to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley. The team has narrowed its search to two possible sites in suburban Chula Vista, south of downtown San Diego.

From Sunday through May 1, the Chargers are free to move out of the county if they pay the city $56 million to cover the bonds issued for the 1997 expansion of Qualcomm Stadium.

"I want to be clear -- we've been at this for seven years now, we've spent more than $10 million, and my judgment is that we're a lot closer to the end of the process than we are the beginning," Fabiani said. "It's not a process that can go on forever, but for the time being, we're continuing to focus on San Diego County."

Last Tuesday, voters in the City of Industry, a tiny town about 15 miles east of Los Angeles, approved a bond measure that would provide $150 million for infrastructure improvements at a 600-acre site where a stadium has been proposed to lure an NFL team.

The results support a proposal by billionaire developer Ed Roski's Majestic Real Estate Co. to build an $800 million stadium if an NFL team agrees to move there.

Roski is friends with the Spanos family, which owns the Chargers. The team told Roski last summer that it would continue to search for a stadium site in San Diego County.

The Chargers are currently in the midst of a tiff between Tomlinson, their star running back, and Smith, the hard-nosed general manager, that started when the team said it's debating whether to trade or release Tomlinson because his salary-cap number will be $8.8 million next season.

After Tomlinson said on his Web site last week that he wanted to stay in San Diego, Smith mocked the 2006 NFL MVP in comments to the San Diego Union-Tribune, mimicking L.T.'s comments practically word-for-word.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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