The raw power of San Diego's big money politics is again on display with news that a company founded by ex-Padres owner John Moores will take over development of San Diego State University's proposed Mission Valley stadium.
"On behalf of SDSU and in collaboration with SDSU Athletics, JMI Sports and Legends will manage the stadium project as part of the proposed campus expansion at SDSU Mission Valley.," per a May 17 announcement posted online by the school.
The cost to state taxpayers of the arrangement was not disclosed.
"This is an exciting collaboration, and this joint venture will greatly enhance our capacity to create the types of experiences our students, faculty, staff, regional community and visitors have yet to see," said SDSU President Adela de la Torre in a statement posted three days later on JMI's website.
"With the proposed stadium, campus and other features, the new neighborhood environment we plan to build will create the types of social, intellectual and economic benefits that will invigorate our entire region," de la Torre said.
"I am proud of our team. I am also grateful for the vision we have defined and will now carry forward with our partners in JMI Sports and Legends."
L.A.-based Legends, which describes itself as "a holistic experiential services agency" specializes in arranging naming rights for a cut of the action. Its latest client is the L.A. Rams and ex-San Diego Chargers' Inglewood stadium, set to open next year.
Per JMI's release, "JMI Sports and Legends will plan, strategize and execute ticketing, premium sales, naming rights and founding partnerships for the proposed stadium. As proposed, the 35,000-capacity multi-use stadium will serve primarily as the home of SDSU football and will accommodate professional and collegiate soccer matches, concerts, other events, and can play host to a number of academic and integrated experiences."
The only holdup now, according to a statement by SDSU athletic director J.D. Wicker, is the deal to be cut between the city council and the California State University system to turn over the real estate formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium, as permitted by voters last year.
Secret negotiations between SDSU and San Diego Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer are continuing.
SDSU's rough and tumble campaign, one of costliest in city history, drew backing from money men with prospective financial interests in the Mission Valley deal, including Moores, who four days before the election personally kicked in $98,500.
The same day, Kara M. Kratzer, whose husband John is CEO of Moores-owned JMI Realty, gave an equal sum, city campaign disclosure records show. JMI itself earlier gave a total of $122,000.
Inside observers note the SDSU project would have been dead on arrival without backing and behind-the-scenes direction from Moores and his minions.
Topping the list is ex-city manager and former Moores executive Jack McGrory, now a California State University trustee who was head cheerleader and behind-the-scenes money mover for SDSU's takeover of the roughly 132-acre Mission Valley site.
McGrory, chief rainmaker for the university's campaign, run by an ostensibly independent political fund calling itself Friends of SDSU, personally kicked in $170,000. That represents a significant chunk of the total $204,922 that McGrory has come up with for city political campaigns over the last decade.
SDSU's takeover of the city's Mission Valley stadium site was first promoted by JMI in a $35-a-person dog-and-pony show hosted by the university in April 2016, entitled, "A New Vision for SDSU: JMI Unveils Its West Campus and Stadium Plan." Observers now look for future real estate development deals to materialize once the land is in SDSU’s hands.
"The JMI team (represented by President John Kratzer and Steve Peace), working in concert with Steve Black of Cisterra Development, another prominent San Diego developer (and SDSU alumni), will unveil their proposal to develop the Qualcomm Stadium site into a civic gem that all SDSU alumni and San Diego County residents will claim proudly," said a widely circulated invitation.
Black subsequently came up with $50,000 for the Friends of SDSU campaign drive on October 3, 2017, records show.
Founded in 2006 as JMI Sports, the Moores affiliate now running the stadium show at SDSU has had a scandal-fraught relationshipwith the school. In 2011, the firm made fallen SDSU athletics director Jeff Schemmel head of its operations.
"I'm thrilled to be part of a company that provides a much-needed array of services on this ever-changing intercollegiate athletics landscape," Schemmel said in a September 26, 2011 statement.
"I'm equally thrilled to be working alongside people I respect as much as I do Erik Judson and John Moores, and the advisors on our JMI Sports team."
Tagged for traveling on the taxpayers' tab to see his Mississippi mistress, Schemmel had departed his SDSU job after being paid a $116,000 settlement fee and other deal sweeteners. He later exited JMI to found his own sports management venture, College Sports Solutions.