Stadium Watch: Thousands attend Chargers rally headlined by Philip Rivers, Roger Goodell and LaDainian Tomlinson
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego Chargers held a pep rally as part of their signature drive for the proposed downtown stadium and convention center expansion mid-day Saturday. Thousands of fans attended the event, held to gather support to qualify the initiative for balloting in November. The petition requires 67,000 valid signatures from residents of the city of San Diego.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former Chargers superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson, current Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, Chargers chairman Dean Spanos, Chargers special adviser Fred Maas, and politicians Juan Vargas, Darrell Issa and Scott Peters all spoke during the event. The crowd roared and chanted throughout the presentation, showing support for a franchise that’s been a part of San Diego for 55 years.
"The Chargers do belong here in San Diego," Commissioner Goodell said while he was on stage addressing those in attendance. "But we’ve got a little job to do."
"We have to start by getting our signatures, then we have to get a vote in November, and then we have to build this stadium right here," Goodell said of the impending process. "Then we’ll have a new home for the Chargers and a perfect place for the Super Bowl."
Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos thanked the "overwhelming" outpour of support from those in attendance, then made a promise to the people of San Diego if stadium litigation passes through the long process ahead. "Once we win it, I assure you there’s going to be a stadium right where we’re sitting, right here. And it’s going to be something all of you, everybody in San Diego, is going to be very proud of for decades to come."
Politicians in attendance spoke of dreaming big to accomplish great things for the city of San Diego. "Don’t let them tell you we can’t do something great," Congressman Scott Peters said. Congressman Juan Vargas directly called for support from Mayor Kevin Faulconer. "Mayor, get behind this. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the only viable option here. It’s a great option for San Diego."
"We truly live in the greatest city that anyone can choose to live in," Congressman Issa added. "Great cities have to dream big. They have to have the leadership to believe they can do more, and that’s San Diego as I know it."
LaDainian Tomlinson stepped up to the podium to a resounding "L.T." chant from fans who haven’t forgotten the nine seasons he spent piling up yards and touchdowns at Qualcomm Stadium. The all-time great sported a bright bolts blue sports coat and looked at another great who loved the community for inspiration as he spoke.
"55 years since the Chargers have been in this community, which happens to be your favorite son, the late Junior Seau’s, number. 55," Tomlinson said. "Let me say this; if Junior was here, you know where he would be. He would be sitting right here. In fact, he probably would go to each door in this community because this is where he’s from to get those votes. That’s how special he is."
"Please, don’t let the Chargers leave here. Let’s get those votes."
Tomlinson wasn’t the only Charger to rile up the crowd. Philip Rivers took the stage to "MVP" chants and was so amped by the energy he opened his portion of the speech by saying he wished the Chargers were playing Saturday afternoon. Rivers went on to talk about how he could stand in front of the crowd to speak about football all day with ease, but being a part of San Diego has become something equally a part of his life.
"It’s also easy for me to talk about San Diego because I love San Diego. My family and I are so thankful we’ve been able to call San Diego home for 12 years," Rivers said. "Last year the last game against Miami — I know you all felt it as well as we did — it was very emotional because we thought it was over. We thought it might be over. I was thinking about all of the memories."
"It just makes sense, right. Let’s get [the stadium] done. I hope I’m still around to play in it," Rivers concluded.
The Chargers’ 119-page ballot measure, fully named the "San Diego Integrated Convention Center Expansion/Stadium and Tourism Initiative," must gather the 67,000 signatures needed to qualify the initiative for voting by June 10. This rally served as an important first step as the franchise looks to extend a 55-year relationship with the city and community of San Diego.