The man most responsible for the expansion of Qualcomm stadium for the Chargers in 1997, ultimately handing the team a taxpayer-funded venue and a controversial ticket guarantee — along with an out-of-town exit pass — is against the team's current bid to move downtown.
In February 1997, Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs and his Qualcomm, Inc. cut an $18 million, 20-year deal with then-mayor Susan Golding to put the company's name on what was then called Jack Murphy Stadium.
The arrangement — which also included renaming nearby Stadium Way to Qualcomm Way — ultimately ended efforts to put the Chargers deal before San Diego voters when a judge ruled that public approval was not required for the team's stadium expansion, ticket guarantee, and a team-shopping clause, financed with $78 million in taxpayer debt.
"I’m super excited about it,” said Jacobs of his company’s windfall.
Five years later, Mark Fabiani, special counsel for the Chargers, said it was time once again for the citizenry to ante up, or else.
"We’ll do everything we can to stay here while also convincing the people that the stadium issue must be tackled — and may have to be tackled sooner than expected,” he told Union-Tribune sportswriter Nick Canepa in May 2002.
The next year, in March 2003, the Chargers-owning Spanos family exercised its contractual right to shop the team to other cities.
When the city balked, the Chargers sued, and a subsequent settlement allowed the team to move at will. The rest is a tortuous history of subsidy seeking, leading finally to November's Measure C, for which the Spanos clan has put up almost $5 million to date.
In a September 2, 2016 letter, Jacobs and tourism industry allies urged San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer to stick with the advice of last year's stadium task force to build the new facility on the current Qualcomm site in Mission Valley.
But the mayor subsequently flip-flopped andendorsed the Chargers downtown venue, leading Jacobs to contribute $5000 on October 11 to a political committee calling itself "No Downtown Stadium - Jobs and Streets First! - No on C.”
The same day, the San Diego Lodging Industry Association's political action committee came up with $20,000 for the committee, according to a financial disclosure filing.
Though Qualcomm'a naming rights deal with the city expires next year, Jacobs himself is likely to keep his own name on a big chunk of Balboa Park, if his current behind-the-scenes negotiations with Faulconer for a giant road building and parking garage plan come to fruition.
On December 11, 2015, Faulconer’s infrastructure director, Katherine Johnston, wrote Jacobs, "The Mayor's Office is working to develop literature that outlines the existing public process for donor recognition within City facilities. This effort will assist in facilitating the development of new public/private partnerships and further connect private philanthropy to long-term efforts to build a stronger and more vibrant Balboa Park."
Johnston followed up with a four-page December 24 letter outlining her research into naming rights possibilities for Jacobs and his backers.
"Recognition of significant financial or civic contributions at City facilities is valuable in fostering the development of public/private partnerships critical to building a stronger and more vibrant San Diego."