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, 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 Year

Spanos’ 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.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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