While most of the first half of the AMA Supercross is held in baseball venues such as Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium, San Diego is the only one that serves primarily as a football venue. It also acts as the final venue in the state of California prior to heading east.
Upon opening in 1967, the home of the Chargers and San Diego State Aztecs was known as San Diego Stadium. The stadium was built after local sportswriter Jack Murphy rallied the locals for their support to build a stadium. A $27 million bond was passed to cover the cost of the stadium and construction began in 1965. In 1981, the name of the stadium would be changed to Jack Murphy Stadium, or "the Murph" in honor of the man who many felt lead the effort to get the stadium built. In 1998, the stadium fell victim to corporate naming rights and became Qualcomm Stadium, or simply "the Q." Aside from the two stadiums in Northern California and the historic Lambeau Field, Qualcomm ranks as one of the oldest venues in the NFL. As fans approach the stadium, the age is certainly notable as there appears to be no personality or modern amenities whatsoever.
While Chad Reed holds the record for wins in San Diego with six, it was Mike Bell who won the very first San Diego race back in 1980. Supercross star Jeremy McGrath also had his share of success in America’s Finest City with five wins.
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Being one of the older stadiums in the league, the options available inside are far from exciting. Some of the items I took notice of on the club level included a hot dog stand that included the "Top Dog," Polish Dog, and Bratwurst for $8 each. Other side items include Cracker Jack and Peanuts ($6), pistachios ($7), jumbo pretzel ($6), nacho grande ($7), bottomless popcorn ($11), candy ($5), and ice cream ($6). The well-known Charger Dog was available throughout the stadium for $6 and a chili option for an additional $3.
The beverage options include the regular soda ($5.75), souvenir soda ($7), all you can drink soda ($11.75), bottled water ($5), draft beer ($9), non alcoholic beer ($5.50), and hot chocolate for $5 (yes, San Diego can get chilly at night).
With Qualcomm Stadium more of an enclosed bowl than most of the other venues, the noise level was rather significant from the start. As always, the show started off with an impressive display of pyrotechnics and some of the Monster Energy girls tossing out t-shirts to the crowd.
While the first few races lacked the drama that makes these events so very exciting, the ending was well worth the wait. In the final race a crash on a "whoops" from one of the more notable rides received a boisterous reaction from the crowd and the final few laps certainly had everyone on their feet with a great battle between the first and second positions.
From any direction, you’ll drive through some beautiful scenery, but unfortunately there isn’t a robust neighborhood surrounding the stadium.
If you’re looking for a bite before or after the game, there is a variety of offerings nearby. Some of the less exciting places include the Oki Ton Japanese Bistro, McDonald’s, IHOP, Sunny’s Deli, Subway, Mission Taco Mexican Food, KATI Thai cuisine, and Chiba Japanese.
If you’re looking for more of an experience, I have a few other suggestions. First, is Oggi’s Pizza and Brewing Company, located off the Fenton Parkway (west of the stadium). Oggi’s is the official pizza of the Chargers, but offers much, much more. Fish tacos, specialty chicken meals, pasta, and of course eight or more brews that can’t be found anywhere else.
Island’s Restaurant is a chain that you’ll find sprinkled throughout Southern California. They offer approximately 15 different burgers, a variety of taco options, and some beach-inspired appetizers.
From the east off Mission San Diego Road is MacGregor’s Grill & Ale House. Open until 2 AM, this establishment has all sorts of typical saloon games to keep you going after the game. You’ll find an elaborate menu that includes breakfast from 11 AM to 1 PM.
If you have a few extra dollars in your pocket, you may want to try Bully’s East. Open until midnight, they specialize in prime rib, fresh seafood, steaks, ribs, and sandwiches.
With the 7 PM start time and easily the best tailgating of Southern California, the fans were amped up for the start of the race. The announced crowd was roughly 55,000 or 78% of capacity with most of the glaring holes in the crowd in the upper sections closest to the main scoreboard.
After speaking with many of the fans in attendance, I learned that many of them had made the drive down from the Los Angeles area. It seems that more and more fans are visiting many venues in their region rather than just the one in their backyard.
Qualcomm Stadium is located about 5 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. It is easily accessible from the 15 and I-8, but it is Southern California, so always allot some extra time for traffic.
The restrooms were clean, but definitely showed signs of age. At one time during the event, I walked around for quite a bit before actually locating one.
As for the parking, you can expect a $20 fee with plenty of spots available to choose from. The spaces are a reasonable size and there seems to be significant room for all of your tailgating fun. I didn’t have an issue with any of the portable toilet lines, so kudos to the event for providing an appropriate amount for their tailgating crowd. On site, receptacles for hot coals, trash and recycling were all provided. As California has a recycling refund, you’ll find many scavengers roaming around in hopes of grabbing empty bottles or cans.
Another option for fans is San Diego Trolley Station, which is accessible via the Green Line and Special Events line from the 12th and Imperial Transit Center.
As for the stadium itself, there are a variety of escalators to get you to the upper sections, but I’d recommend giving your legs some exercise and trekking up the ramps of the giant cement cylinders. Be careful however, these could make you dizzy by the time you get to the top level. The concourse could be considered a bit small if a more capacity crowd was on hand for the event and it would be tough to view the race while grabbing your concessions. If you are concerned about missing the action, there are some televisions peppered throughout, but most are the older versions with poor image quality.
The San Diego venue certainly offers the most affordable option in terms of the Southern California events. Tickets go for $35, $30, and $12, each with the standard $8-$12 worth of fees per ticket.
Parking is $20 and probably more readily available than you’ll find in most other Supercross venues. If you are up for tailgating, the $20 is well worth it; otherwise try some of the more affordable options getting to the stadium, including the train or the bus.
Hopefully tailgating also offsets some of the food costs that may be experienced in the stadium. While the fare inside is not especially expensive, it is not exactly spectacular cuisine either.
If you enter the stadium prior to sundown and hike to the upper concourse, you can get some really great views of the surrounding area. The nearby hills, the train station, and even the parking lot while the sun is setting has a certain mystique to it. Located in San Diego, the fans in attendance are almost guaranteed clear blue skies and temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold.
While it is one of the older professional stadiums in the game today, it does have some rich history and accolades to it. Each year, it hosts two college football bowl games (Holiday Bowl & Poinsettia Bowl) and 3 Super Bowls are now under its belt (XXII, XXXII, & XXXVII).
Beyond football, it was home to the San Diego Padres until 2003, when the team moved to Petco Park. Notable MLB events such as the All-Star game (1996) and World Series (1984 & 1998) have also drawn large crowds to the stadium. In fact, it is the only stadium to host the Super Bowl and World Series in the same year (1998).
Near the train stop, fans can take a photo of the statue of Jack Murphy and his dog (Abe), homage to the man who championed the stadium’s construction.
Behind the scoreboard is a sizable mural that is visible to those driving by the stadium and fans walking the concourse. It has some rather curious images, be sure to take a look and get a good laugh. Some of the fans depicted are shirtless, while others are in collared shirts and sweaters.
San Diego continues to be a staple of the annual Supercross tour. This time around, I found myself getting annoyed with the age of the stadium, be it the restrooms, scoreboards, tight concourse, and lack of visual appeal.
While I do like the atmosphere tailgating prior to the game and the large capacity of the stadium certainly provides some positives, I would love to see the event take place at the downtown gem of Petco Park (although I quickly realized the lack of parking/pit areas would probably be prohibitive).
Now, after over 30 years of Supercross in San Diego, it was another memorable night and I am sure the fans are already looking forward to next year.
Follow Drew’s Travel’s Through Southern California on Twitter Big10Drew.
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2245 Fenton Parkway
San Diego, CA 92108
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