So look who’s back in the lineup: John Moores.
Back in the day, he was quite the slugger. No question. The former owner of the Padres was the main force behind the redevelopment of East Village.
However, last we heard of him, he was spending a lot of his time in his home state of Texas, chilling. He was buying thoroughbred horses – a nice, affordable hobby.
Now, he’s back in the game.
He recently re-emerged in San Diego politics by getting involved in the Citizens’ Plan, which would raise a pot of money by increasing the hotel tax. He put up $45,000 to help get signatures to place it on the November ballot. His development firm, JMI Realty, also floated a plan to make the current Qualcomm site — if the Chargers leave — an expansion for UC San Diego and/or San Diego State University. Moores has donated to SDSU in the past.
While Moores may be suiting back up, he’s more Marshawn Lynch than Charles Barkley. As has been his pattern for some time, he’s not saying much to the media. The phones at JMI Realty’s San Diego office don’t seem to work. (A recorded voice says to try again. We did. Again and again.) The email contact on the firm’s website wasn’t working either.
However, Moores did recently release a statement as to why he’s involved in the Citizens’ Plan.
“People have strong feelings about all of these issues,” he said. “But 50 years from now, the choice to provide open space and transit-dependent university use of Mission Valley will be the compelling legacy of this generation of San Diego leaders. I hope that my decision to help will encourage folks to set aside whatever other differences they may have and get it done.”
However, some question Moores’ intentions, particularly his involvement with the Citizens’ Plan. For one, the initiative paves the way for a possible convention center annex — next to property that JMI Realty co-owns, which is between the Convention Center and city-owned Tailgate Park. JMI has considered building a hotel there, but it won’t do so if the annex is not realized, it has said.
And for years, Moores has been trying to land a Major League Soccer team.
So, what does he envision for the Qualcomm site?
A smaller stadium for SDSU football and a possible MLS franchise …
This is how one commentator on GaslampBall.com felt about Moores’ re-emergence:
“[Moores] is interested in one thing, and ONLY one thing … LOOT! His agenda has NOTHING to do with stewardship … it’s all about putting more in his pocket.”
However, former San Diego City Council member Donna Frye doesn’t believe Moores’ motives are suspect. She reached out to him to take part in the initiative, which was proposed by environmental lawyer Cory Briggs.
“Mr. Moores has a sincere interest in helping make Mission Valley something really special for future generations by helping to create parkland and educational facilities,” said Frye, who helped with the initiative. “That’s significant to me because we have almost no public parkland in Mission Valley. My sense is he is more interested in getting something accomplished and has no interest in playing politics.”
There’s a lot of politics going on right now. The Chargers have their own initiative in the works, which would place a stadium and convention center annex in the East Village.
Both of these initiatives could be on the November ballot. Earlier, the Chargers had teamed with JMI in hopes of moving the stadium/convention center annex project forward.
In his statement, Moores said he met with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to make sure the Citizens’ Plan “protected” the mayor’s effort to negotiate with the NFL. Faulconer favors a new stadium being built at the current site in Mission Valley. He has not endorsed either initiative.
For years, Moores has been excited about the opportunity of extending SDSU to the site, said John Kratzer, president and CEO of JMI Realty.
“He literally chewed off my ear over the last five years, reminding me in 50 years that nobody would care about where the Chargers play football or whether we build a new convention center,” Kratzer said, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune article. “But everyone is going to care about our local universities and how we allow them and encourage their growth and prosperity.”
One problem for Moores is that his Padres stewardship didn’t exactly create public goodwill. While he’s done a lot for the community — donating tens of millions to a host of causes — he was criticized often for his handling of the team, particularly after Petco Park was approved and a large amount of public money went into its construction.
The Padres had one World Series showing (a loss) during his reign — right before the public vote was scheduled for Petco Park.
Even after the team moved to Petco Park, a move that was expected to increase the Padres’ revenues, payroll did not spike dramatically. The team only got worse when Moores went through a costly and public divorce, during which he slashed payroll.
He couldn’t even sell the team without controversy. Moores got $800 million for the team four years ago, including $200 million from a lucrative TV contact. (He paid $80 million for the team in 1994.) Critics say he fleeced the team and cramped the new owners financially. The result: more really bad baseball.
“I do not know what other people think about Mr. Moores and the Padres,” Frye said. “What I do know is that he was able to put a team together to build Petco Park and involved the public from the beginning. That is a much different approach than what we have experienced since then.”
She applauds him because he believes in public involvement, she said.
“I prefer to work with someone like Mr. Moores, because his approach respects and supports a public vote before, and not after, the decisions are made.”