Thousands of fans welcomed the Los Angeles Chargers to their new headquarters in Costa Mesa on Sunday morning as the team opened training camp for the upcoming NFL season with a practice at the Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex.
The franchise, newly relocated from San Diego, caused quite a buzz as the largely jersey-clad crowd watched the players run through drills.
Bleachers built to offer seating for about 3,000 people were packed, and many more fans filled the standing-room space.
Onlookers roared as longtime quarterback Philip Rivers threw passes to his receivers and handed the ball to primary running back Melvin Gordon.
Apart from the on-field activity, interactive games let fans try their hand at things like throwing a football at small targets on a board. A wall with full-size pictures of players enabled fans to see how they measure up to pros like Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who is 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds.
Guests also could visit a variety of food trucks, a pro shop with team merchandise and the Charger Girls for photographs.
Rivers told reporters that the fan showing was better than he anticipated. He said he had once endured a day of training camp where “like 12 people” showed up.
Cornerback Jason Verrett and defensive end Melvin Ingram said the fans have been amazing since the team arrived in Costa Mesa.
Kyle Evans, 25, of Costa Mesa said he’s a longtime Chargers fan and that it’s great to have the team in town. He said he’s hoping for a Super Bowl victory parade in Costa Mesa in coming years.
Costa Mesa resident Molly Speer, 27, liked that she could ride her bike to training camp instead of having to drive to San Diego. She said she’s seen players around the city and that they’ve become part of the community.
After the two-hour practice, players signed autographs. Joining them at the event was former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who recently was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Chargers have a lease agreement to use two fields at the Hammett Sports Complex for annual preseason camp for up to 10 years.
They will hold 12 more public practices there this summer — Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Aug. 7, 8, 11, 15-18 and 22. The sessions Aug. 17 and 18 will be joint practices with the New Orleans Saints.
The Hammett complex is at 2750 Fairview Road. All practices are from 10 a.m. to noon. Admission is free, though fans are encouraged to reserve bleacher seats at chargers.com/schedule/training-camp-schedule.
Parking is available for $10 in the Gate 3 parking lot at the nearby OC Fair & Event Center, off Fairview Road.
The Chargers open the regular season Sept. 11 and will play their home games the next three seasons at the StubHub Center in Carson before joining the Los Angeles Rams at a new stadium in Inglewood in 2020.