What do you get when you mix expensive concession stand foods, Petco Park and a scandal? Some good chisme.
Grab some cafecito, this is a good one.
Two weeks ago, Voice of San Diego’s senior investigative reporter Will Huntsberry invited me to a Padres game. I didn’t accept because I wanted to watch the Padres play whatever team it was that day (Spoiler: I’m not a sports gal). I went because Will was going to confront someone. And I wanted to see it (Spoiler: I’m a chisme gal).
He was following a tip about a charity that runs concession stands at Petco Park. The Padres entrust the management of the stadium’s concession stands to a company called Delaware North. That company runs the program that allows charities to staff concession stands and then collect 9 to 12 percent of the proceeds for their charity services.
One of the groups participating in this program was Chula Vista Fast Pitch. It had been operating at Petco for nearly a decade and ran an average of 12 concession stands per night.
Will, however, figured out that Chula Vista Fast Pitch didn’t actually exist.
Here’s what Will reported: “Anyone who has been to a Ballpark Eats, michelada stand or Mr. Softee might have dropped money in the group’s bank account.
“The stands bring in money that can be a massive boost to charities.
“Operating the stands, Chula Vista Fast Pitch collected $3.7 million in net sales between Jan. 1 and June 5, according to receipts Voice obtained. And that only included the first two months of baseball season. (Charities in the program also staff the stands during concerts and other events.)
“Ten percent of $3.7 million is $370,000.”
Will and I went to Petco Park to find an individual who we suspected was involved.
The scene: While everyone at the stadium had their eyes on the field, we were looking in the opposite direction at a Ballpark Eats concession stand. It was a busy one too, and eventually, Will saw an opportunity. He spoke with the man.
I watched from afar as Will asked him questions. These types of confrontations are never easy for reporters. The people we write about — good and bad — are people, after all. And could have a lot to lose when we report on them. Still, it’s important work. It’s an important role, because if Will hadn’t written that story, who knows how long this would have gone on.
When the man had enough, Will left him a note saying the story was publishing soon, and this would be his last chance to respond to some serious allegations. I knew then that this was going to be a good story.
More ballpark chisme: After we published the first investigation, several things happened.
- Will discovered that the fake charity was also operating at San Diego State University’s Snapdragon Stadium. The stadium kicked out Chula Vista Fast Pitch after we reached out. Read that story here.
- Then Snapdragon and Petco Park began to shake things up. Officials with Snapdragon told Will that they would stop accepting new charities and review how they verify nonprofit status. And Delaware North kicked out the charity too. Read more about the fallout here.
- Listen: Will joined the VOSD Podcast to dish on the scandal. Listen to that episode here.
Note from me: I’ll be out of town next week so there won’t be a Cup of Chisme on Sept. 10. I will be eating lobster rolls in Boston. Send me recommendations for restaurants and places to visit if you have them. And as always, if you have any recommendations or feedback for this newsletter feel free to email me at email@example.com