La prensa

SDSU Stalling Requests for Sports Arena Documents

Author: La Prensa
Created: 30 March, 2024
11 min read

By Arturo Castañares

San Diego State University has arbitrarily delayed disclosing documents requested by La Prensa San Diego beyond the timeline allowed by California law.

The requested documents are related to discussions in 2022 between SDSU officials and a Denver-based development company to build a new sports and entertainment arena as part of SDSU West in Mission Valley. 

La Prensa San Diego submitted several requests for documents under the California Public Records Act starting on March 15th for documents related to a trip SDSU President Adela de la Torre led to Austin and Houston, Texas, in May 2022. 

The existence of the trip had never been disclosed before last week’s article. 

The first request included documents “related to any proposal, offer, or other conveyance of interest received by SDSU from any group, company, or individual in developing an arena or other similar facility within the SDSU Mission Valley site since January 1, 2021.”

A second request sent on the same day asked for “any emails, memos, or other documents related to any conversations or commitments regarding SDSU basketball teams playing at a proposed new arena at the current site of the San Diego Sports Arena.”

On March 23rd, La Prensa San Diego sent a request for “documents related to a trip taken by SDSU staff/administrators to Austin, TX to tour the Moody Center, including emails, calendar entries, expense reimbursement requests, and the names of participants who traveled on the trip from San Diego.”

This week, an SDSU representative sent an email acknowledging that ”disclosable public records” related to the requests for documents exist but that the University would not respond until April 29. 

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“We will let you know when we have gathered all the records. It will be necessary to redact from them any personal and otherwise privileged information before they can be made available to you. SDSU estimates the records will be available April 29, 2024,” wrote Jessica Victorio, Public Records Act Coordinator, Business & Financial Affairs at SDSU. 

State law requires that public agencies respond to requests made under the California Public Records Act within 10 days, but the law also allows agencies to extend the response period by an additional 14 days in “unusual circumstances.”

“In unusual circumstances, the time limit prescribed in this article and Article 1 (commencing with Section 7922.500) may be extended by written notice from the head of the agency or a designee to the person making the request, setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched. No notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than 14 days.”

State law also defines what “unusual circumstances” include. 

“As used in this section, “unusual circumstances” means the following, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request:

(1) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.

(2) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request.

(3) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.

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(4) The need to compile data, to write programming language or a computer program, or to construct a computer report to extract data.”

None of the reasons for a delayed response seem to fit the requests for documents. 

La Prensa San Diego published an article on March 23rd outlining that SDSU officials received a proposal in 2022 to build a new sports arena within the Mission Valley development at no cost to the public but kept the offer under wraps even as the City of San Diego was working to select a team to develop a similar facility at the existing Sports Arena site.  

The article detailed how SDSU President Adela de la Torre, the University’s Athletic Director, and several prominent San Diegans flew to Texas on a private jet in May 2022 to tour the Moody Center at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) at the invitation of the company that led the development project.

In response to the article, another SDSU official, La Monica Everett-Haynes, Associate Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, emailed La Prensa San Diego to challenge details of the trip, including asserting that the tour was the result of “an invitation from an SDSU donor.”

“The 2022 trip to visit multiple arena and sports complexes followed a personal invitation from an SDSU donor, not a company leading a development project. As an important clarification, the donor who funded the 2022 trip has no investments connected to SDSU Mission Valley developments and does not have any business relationship or business interests with the university,” Everett-Hayes wrote. 

But on March 29th, a lawyer for SDSU donor Dianne Bashor emailed La Prensa San Diego saying the trip was taken aboard Bashor’s private jet at the request of SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker, not at the insistence of Bashor or anyone representing her.

“When the SDSU Athletic Department reached out to her with a request to provide transportation for a delegation of University officials to visit Austin to see a new University of Texas Arena and then continued on to the University of Houston to see their arena renovation, Mrs. Bashor was happy to be of help,” Jon P. Rodrigue, Vice President and General Counsel of CalWest Apartments, Bashor’s company. 

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Bashor has become a significant donor in San Diego, including large contributions to the San Diego Zoo, the Copley Shell, and SDSU, who named Bashor Field at Snapdragon Stadium after she gave a $15 million donation to the University. 

The trip in May 2022 to Texas aboard Bashor’s private jet was from San Diego to Austin then to Houston, before returning on the same day. 

Although Bashor did not disclose the cost of the trip, a charter jet company estimated a similar flight would cost between $75,000 and $100,000 depending on the time the group stayed on the ground between meetings.


A February 22, 2022 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Gina Jacobs, SDSU’s Associate Vice President for the SDSU Mission Valley Development, as saying that the inclusion of a sports arena in Mission Valley was “false.”

“Any suggestion that the university had at some point or is currently advocating for its inclusion is simply false,” Jacobs said. “An arena would not complement the site, would not fit in with the development of our Innovation District, and would require a major revision (to the site’s environmental impact report),” Jacobs told the UT. 

In the same article, California State University system Trustee Jack McGrory said CSU didn’t think an arena in Mission Valley could work. 

“We’ve been approached by three different groups over the last four years about an arena potentially in Mission Valley,” McGrory told the UT. “We were approached. We looked at it. We don’t think it can work,” McGrory said at the time. 

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Another CSU Trustee quoted in the February 2022 UT article was Adam Day, who told the UT at the time that he did not have details of any proposals for an arena in Mission Valley but would “love to hear more about it.”

“I’d love to hear more about it,” Day said. “Our fiduciary responsibility is to the system and the campus. If the athletic department and the resources that (a privately financed arena) spins off for the academic offerings that we have there, those are at the core of what we do and our responsibility. But there are a number of issues and hurdles that would need to be discussed and overcome,” Day said at the time. 

Just three months later, McGrory and Day went on the Texas trip along with de la Torre, Wicker, and SDSU’s Vice-President for University Relations and Development, Adrienne Vargas.

Sources confirm that the trip to Texas was to evaluate an offer from Denver-based Oak View Group to build a new privately funded arena within the SDSU West complex in Mission Valley at no cost to taxpayers. 

Oak View Group developed the $375 million Moody Center at the University of Texas at Austin at no cost to the school through a 35-year lease where the developer maintains and manages the arena then begins a 50:50 split of profits with UTA after 10 years. 

During the trip to Texas, the San Diego visitors met with representatives of Oak View Group and toured the Moody Center. 

But soon after the Texas trip, SDSU officials decided to keep discussions about the possibility of a new arena quiet. 

At the same time, the City of San Diego was evaluating proposals from three development groups to rebuild the existing Sports Arena site in the Midway area. 

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In September 2022, the City Council approved Mayor Todd Gloria’s recommendation to select the Midway Rising group headed by developer Brad Termini. 

Termini and his family had given over $100,000 to Todd Gloria’s 2020 election campaign before being selected as the Sports Arena developer by the City in September 2022.

Although Termini had never built any project near the size and scope of the Midway Rising proposal, he also included a 16,000-seat arena in his project, along with over 4,000 residential units, commercial spaces, and a 200-room hotel.

Development experts argued at the time that Termini’s proposal would not even fit on the City’s 48-acre Sports Arena site and warned that the project scope would have to be reduced to a more realistic size. 

Three weeks after being selected to develop the Sports Arena site, Termini and his companies donated $650,000 to fund the Measure C ballot initiative campaign to raise the City’s coastal building height limit beyond the 30-foot maximum established by voters in 1972. 

Without the change in the height limit, Termini’s project would not have been legal to build. 

Measure C was passed by voters by a narrow margin in the November 8, 2022 election.

Termini was by far the largest donor with the next largest contribution being $25,000 from Chelsea Development, a nonprofit affordable housing developer who is part of Termini’s Midway Rising team. 

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Day, who serves as the Chief Administrative Officer for the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, resigned as a Trustee in November 2022 to avoid a conflict-of-interest with Sycuan’s role as a financial partner in the new Major League Soccer team that will play at Snapdragon Stadium starting next year. 

One of the other financial partners in the new MLS team is Termini.

SDSU has its existing 12,414-seat Viejas Arena on campus in the College area. The 27-year-old facility, financed with 30-year bonds, is owned and operated by the Associated Students of San Diego State. 

Viejas Arena is home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as hosting graduations, concerts, and other events. 

The venue generates nearly $1 million in revenue per year after all revenues, expenses, and debt payments are calculated.

After La Prensa San Diego’s public records requests, SDSU’s Everett-Haynes gave a nuanced response to the question of whether SDSU would play basketball games at Termini’s proposed new Midway arena. 

“SDSU plays home games at Viejas Arena and is committed to continuing to play home games there,” Everett-Hayes wrote. “There is potential to play away or neutral site games at other arenas in San Diego, however none are scheduled at this time – for example, the team has played at UC San Diego's LionTree as part of non-conference play. But, to be clear, Viejas Arena will remain the team’s home game site for regular play, and there are no plans to change that.”

La Prensa San Diego will publish the results of the Public Records Act requests when they are received. 

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