Dean Spanos’ quest for a new, publicly subsidized stadium has dominated San Diego public affairs for years.

And it was in January, this year, when the conversation began its march to a new peak. Spanos announced that he would be keeping the Chargers in San Diego for at least another year and he had met with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts: “We all looked each other in the eye, and we all agreed that if united on this thing, there is no reason we can’t get this done,” he told his first interviewer, a reporter for Chargers.com, and his employee.

And so, a giant cast of personalities new and old spent the year debating his plan. Regardless of how many people were involved in the debate, it was Spanos, the team’s owner, who set every single one of the terms of the conversation.

Voice of the YearSpanos’ year started and ended with rejection. It began with one from his fellow billionaire NFL team owners who blocked his effort to move the team to Carson. It ended with voters rejecting his plan to build a downtown stadium.

In between, Spanos made a series of decisions that led to those results, and dominated the conversation in the meantime.

It was Spanos who opted to go it alone in his plan for a downtown stadium that relied on the same hotel tax revenue that the mayor had just weeks earlier said he intended to use for a convention center expansion. It was Spanos’ decision to push forward and assume the city’s business and political leaders would follow. Some did. Some did not. Faulconer ended up supporting the plan when it was already clear it would fail. Roberts never did.

Spanos left some of those detractors alone but taunted others.

In the end, 57 percent of voters decided all of those things Spanos decided weren’t so great.

Now, as the year mercifully draws to a close, it’s Spanos telling reporters he is  leaning toward relocating to Los Angeles.

The Chargers debate is a merry-go-round. Everywhere we go, we’ve been before.

As exhausting as it is, it’s a reminder that in these last 13 years, the names in city leadership have changed. The constant is Spanos, and his desire to get a new stadium on his terms.

His hired guns, like strategist Mark Fabiani and land-use guru Fred Maas, get a lot of attention, but they are not freelancers. Their actions reflect Spanos’ decisions.

In a year dominated once again by the Chargers stadium drama, and which ended in a clear rebuke from city voters, it’s worth remembering that the person calling the plays in the whole thing is Dean Spanos.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year.

    This article relates to: News, Voice of the Year

    Written by Andrew Keatts

    I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

    6 comments
    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    And that's the problem. Spanos is neither intelligent nor capable. He is a guy with an obsession which will always be rejected because it's not framed right. So why keep following the "stadium story" when in reality there is an attitude adjustment that needs to take place first?

    Gregory Hay
    Gregory Hay subscriber

    Rich people DO NOT need subsidies.
    Why don't taxpayers realize this more often??

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    Spanos is the problem, not a solution.Not only have Dean and his father presided over 33 years of mediocrity on the field, with a few occasional highlights to be sure (like L T), but they have failed to develop a rabid fan base of more than a few thousand people. Last Sunday’s crowd of almost all Raiders’ fans was the last straw.Who needs this bunch.All they know how to do is whine about their stadium.Just go!


    LA somehow got by without pro football for well over a decade; San Diego can as well.  Maybe we can get lucky and land a real owner, not a welfare queen.  Raiders, anyone?

    winton quincy
    winton quincy

    Read the following sentence, wait for it, then understand:


    The Spanos' are a real estate development empire... who happen to own a football team, not the other way around.


    The whole downtown idea is first about massive development, then about subsidized football.  Third, and a distant third after luxury boxes, come fans... who can no longer tailgate of course.  The NFL wants a team in SD, and so do most Diegans, and Mission Valley IS the correct response from our City Council, city planners, and taxpayers.  Prop C was voted no by SD CITY residents, not COUNTY residents, who most probably would have voted a landslide defeat.  Downtown is a PITA to get to.  


    Take the $1/year for 99 years gift.  Doze the Q, and massively develop a Stadium and Riverwalk with shopping and eating and other entertainment venues... all with easier access, ample parking, light rail, yada yada.      

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    @winton quincy True. In matters of football Spanos and his family are learning on the job. And they happen to be control freaks. Imagine a control freak who knows very little about the subject matter but his poor ego induces him to interfere so that others think he is in control. It's a very sad story indeed.