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Qualcomm Got Deal for $18 Million

January 24, 1998

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ When The Murph became Qualcomm Stadium, Bob Murphy was upset but had to laugh.

After all, his brother Jack would have thought it was funny that a local telecommunications company had to pay $18 million to rename Jack Murphy Stadium. The sports columnist, who died of cancer in 1980, had been instrumental in bringing pro football to San Diego and getting the stadium built.

``My brother would have been amused,″ said Bob Murphy, the longtime broadcaster for the New York Mets. ``It meant so much to the rest of the family, the pride we took in the fact that the stadium was named after Jack. We were disappointed, but not shocked.″

Renaming stadiums happens all over the country, but this case was a little different. San Diego’s deal with Qualcomm was one of the watershed events in a nasty battle between the city and tax activists over funding for a $78 million stadium expansion to keep the Chargers in town through 2020.

At one point, San Diego was in danger of losing Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Even with Qualcomm’s $18 million, it took a judge’s order in February to save the game. But the fallout left at least one scarred political career _ that of Mayor Susan Golding _ and caused resentment against the Chargers because of a clause that gives them a break on their rent to the city if they don’t sell at least 60,000 general admission tickets each game.

Qualcomm, however, is a clear winner. It is trying to build brand recognition for its digital wireless phone systems, and the Super Bowl is sure to help.

NBC’s telecast is expected to be seen by 130 million Americans. Foreign broadcasts will push the total to an estimated 800 million watching the game between Green Bay and Denver.

Qualcomm will have its name on the stadium for 20 years. By comparison, a 30-second ad on NBC’s telecast cost $1.3 million. Qualcomm is spending an estimated $8 million for Super Bowl advertising and promotions, including buying an ad in the second-half of the game and one during the pregame show.

Qualcomm’s potential exposure ``just gets gigantic,″ said Cindy Shevrovich of Joyce Julius and Associates, which does sports marketing evaluation and research.

Shevrovich figures Qualcomm can recoup its total investment in about two years.

``It turns out that it was indeed a bargain,″ Qualcomm executive Dan Pegg said. ``When we were negotiating the deal, obviously $18 million is a great deal of money. And based on what our research was telling us, it was a reasonable deal. In hindsight, it was a great deal.″

This will be the first Super Bowl played in a stadium renamed in exchange for corporate cash. Jack Murphy Stadium was host to the title game 10 years ago, when the Washington Redskins defeated the Broncos 42-10.

Qualcomm gained international attention the hard way late last year when field technician Richard Bliss was detained on espionage charges in Russia while installing a phone system under contract.

Bliss, allowed to return to San Diego on Christmas, has maintained his innocence, saying Russian authorities mistook his Global Positioning System receiver for high-tech spying gear.

``I don’t think there’s any question our name recognition saw some significant appreciation,″ Pegg said. ``While I wouldn’t want to see it happen to any other employee, or company, for that matter, that was the positive side of it.″

Coincidentally, the Super Bowl will be televised live in Russia for the first time, the NFL says.

There’s been little public backlash toward Qualcomm because it filled a funding gap in the stadium expansion project.

``They helped save us the Super Bowl,″ City Councilwoman Barbara Warden said.

The city continues to take heat over the unpopular Chargers’ lease. Golding recently dropped her campaign for U.S. Senate, citing a lack of time to raise funds.

Pegg said Qualcomm was sensitive about removing Murphy’s name from the stadium last year. The official name is Qualcomm Stadium, Jack Murphy Field, but no one refers to the field part.

The stadium, originally called San Diego Stadium, was renamed in Murphy’s honor in 1981, and for years was affectionately known as The Murph. There’s a bust of him inside and younger brother Bob said he visits it every time he’s in town with the Mets.

``I always kind of smile when I see it,″ he said.

He said he still hears the stadium called The Murph and is thinking about doing the same during his broadcasts. But it’s still not going to be the same for him.

``The extra bounce in my step won’t be there, and I won’t get the same lift I had before,″ he said. ``I’ll still look around and say, `Hey, this was Jack Murphy Stadium.‴

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