Comcast to steal Centerplate’s Qualcomm deal?

Changes loom for heavily lobbied stadium food and beverage contract

Qualcomm Stadium
  • Qualcomm Stadium

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, trying to palatably package a billion-dollar-plus Chargers venue, is set to award a new food-and-beverage contract for Qualcomm Stadium, with some of his major campaign donors are already pitching hard for the big-money deal.

Centerplate CEO Desmond Hague kicks a dog

Centerplate, the stadium's incumbent food-service provider, got a taste of worldwide infamy this past September when chief executive Desmond Hague was forced out of his job after being caught on an elevator surveillance camera abusing a dog.

The timing of the incident in Vancouver, Canada, was inopportune for Centerplate's Qualcomm concession, which runs out next month. Faulconer, whose 2014 mayoral election cause received $2000 from a Centerplate employee, according to city disclosure records, avoided comment regarding the controversy, news reports said.

Under Centerplate's current contract, sales totaled about $15.4 million between April 2013 and March 2014, the request for proposal shows. The city got a commission and bonus of $2,291,000, or 14.9 percent, the document says. Negotiating revised terms, presumably as favorable to the city as possible, are key to the current proposal process.

The new deal will have a term of five or ten years, "as may be negotiated," according to the January 8 Request for Proposals distributed by the city. It requires the concessionaire to make "an initial Capital Investment of $3 million dollars."

Additionally, "Concessionaire shall purchase a Suite from the Chargers at the current annual lease rate. In lieu of payment to the Chargers, Concessionaire will credit the Chargers for all Catering purchased annually up to the amount of the Suite rental fee….


"Should Qualcomm Stadium be closed prior to the year 2020 or the year 2025, Concessionaire shall be granted a First Right of Refusal of Concessionaire Services," the request for proposals adds, presumably at a new Faulconer-built stadium located somewhere in town. 


The document notes "Concessionaire will have no rights under this Agreement for Merchandise sales for the San Diego Chargers or San Diego State University.

"However, it is the intent of the San Diego Chargers, at their sole discretion, to negotiate a separate Merchandise contract with the successful Concessionaire.”

To assist in the negotiations, the city has huddled with stadium food service authority Chris Bigelow of Kansas City "to assist with the Food and Beverage [Request for Proposals] alongside with the City’s Purchasing and Contracting Department," say the September minutes of the city's Qualcomm Stadium advisory board.

Lobbying disclosure reports on file with the city clerk's office show that Centerplate has hired longtime city hall influence peddler Richard Ledford, a cousin to the politically powerful Evans Hotel family, to lobby the city to help the firm "retain the contract for concessionaire services at Qualcomm Stadium."

Ledford gave a total of $3500 to Faulconer's mayoral election cause, according to city records.

Bob White

Bob White

To advance its cause, another would-be concessionaire, Ovations Fanfare, L.P., owned by media giant Comcast Corporation, which also owns NBC Universal and a vast cable empire, has retained the services of California Strategies, Inc., the Sacramento-based powerhouse lobbying outfit founded by Bob White.

He was the longtime top aide to Pete Wilson during the Republican's ascent from San Diego mayor to the U.S. Senate and California governorship and has close ties to Faulconer and other Republicans as well as to San Diego State University, a major stadium tenant, where he has been on the Campanile Foundation board.

Records show that employees of California Strategies (including White and his San Diego–based executives Ben Haddad and Craig Benedetto) gave a total of $11,780 to Faulconer's 2014 mayoral bid.

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