San Diego is getting a new football stadium for the first time in forever

The new venue will play home to San Diego State football, international soccer, concerts, and tons of other events.

The new “Aztec Stadium” is scheduled for completion in 2022; Photo credit: San Diego State

San Diego is America’s Finest City, except when it comes to its current football stadium. The multi-purpose facility that used to house the San Diego Chargers and the San Diego Padres (and still is the home to the San Diego State Aztecs’ Division I football program) was completed in 1967 — over five decades ago. Objectively speaking, the aging SDCCU Stadium has no redeeming qualities and should have been replaced or modernized at least a decade ago. One of its scoreboard displays is missing light bulbs and appears to have the graphics capabilities of a 1980’s Nintendo Gameboy. The actual stadium seats themselves have long faded from their original navy hue, failing to find a reprieve from SoCal’s unrelenting sun.

I moved west to San Diego in the summer of 2017, just months after the Chargers departed for L.A. after miserably failing to get a financial bailout from San Diegans in a city-wide vote for a new stadium. After the public humiliation, Chargers owner Dean Spanos apparently had had enough, moving the team up the congested I-405 freeway to play as a paltry tenant in the L.A. Rams’ new $5-billion SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, as opposed to poneying up the money for a new stadium in San Diego. Unsurprisingly, San Diegans still haven’t forgiven Spanos, who recently sold his massive La Jolla estate for $17.95-million.

Rendering of SDSU’s new campus; Photo credit: San Diego State University

In the aftermath of the Chargers’ failed stadium enterprise, local voters overwhelmingly supported an initiative to sell the land of the current stadium site to San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2018, making way for construction to begin on a new stadium later this year. In addition to the $310-million, 35,000-seat stadium project for the Aztecs’ succesful Division I football program (they currently own the longest bowl game streak among college football programs in the state of California), the project will include a new world-class campus and river park, among other elements. If all goes well (always debatable in the midst of a pandemic), the first football game will be played in the new stadium in the fall of 2022. The new campus will help the University keep up with growing demand as San Diego State annually ranks as one of the most applied to school’s in the country.

The new stadium will be uniquely San Diego, paying homage to the city’s word-famous coastal community with beachy vibes, colorful garden areas and even unique “piers” that literally jut out over top the stadium’s seating bowl. Put simply, it’ll have a SoCal look and feel. It’ll also be state-of-the-art with modern amenities, premier sight lines and wide concourses.

While the new stadium is unlikely to result in the return of the NFL (it will seat just 35,000 fans, although the stadium will be expandable to 50,000 or more if need be), it will further illuminate SDSU’s success in athletics. The Aztecs’ combined football and men’s basketball winning percentage over the last decade is among the best in Division I. In fact, there’s a large faction of supporters that believe the new stadium will elevate SDSU to a more prestigious athletics conference. A sought-after invitation from the prestigious Big 12 or Pac-12 conferences would raise the profile of the University, create a bevy of additional revenue streams and expand SDSU’s recruiting footprint in all sports.

In addition to Aztecs football, the new stadium is designed to accommodate pro soccer contests. Over the decades at SDCCU Stadium, San Diego has played host to many international friendlies including matches featuring the popular Mexican National Team. A 2008 friendly between Mexico and Argentina drew 65,000 fans. Soccer fans consider San Diego a “hotbed” for the sport and the border-city is routinely listed as a possible expansion site for Major League Soccer.

Because of San Diego’s temperate climate and unrivaled weather, the multi-purpose stadium will host events year-round. NCAA Championships, college football bowl games and concerts are all on the horizon. So are Monster Jam truck races, food truck festivals and whatever else the stadium organizers can think of in the years ahead.

Photo by Claude Piché on Unsplash

So for the first time in forever, it’s out with the old and in with the new on the stadium front in San Diego. And while the NFL may be gone, there’s once again something to cheer about for sports fans (besides the weather) in America’s Finest City. ■

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