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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The San Diego State Aztecs have fielded a football team since 1921 and have competed in a variety of divisions and conferences throughout their existence. Known for their all-black home uniforms, the Aztecs have been in the Mountain West Conference since 1999 and took home their first championship in 2012. San Diego State has been to 12 bowl games and went to four straight from 2010-2013; competing in the Poinsettia Bowl (2010, 2012), New Orleans Bowl (2011) and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (2013).
Qualcomm Stadium opened in 1967 as San Diego Stadium. After his passing in 1980, the stadium was renamed Jack Murphy Stadium after the longtime sportswriter that helped garner support for building the stadium in the 1960s. In 1997, the stadium was renamed again. This time the rights were purchased by Qualcomm Corporation for $18 million. A statue of Jack Murphy and his dog, Abe still stands outside of the K gate entrance.
Though many people think initially of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers as the main tenant at Qualcomm Stadium, both the Chargers and the Aztecs football teams have played there since its opening in 1967. When the San Diego Padres began play in MLB, they too called the stadium home.
Because of the probability of good weather throughout the year, San Diego is an excellent candidate for winter events. Because of the proximity to many hotels, Qualcomm is an excellent candidate to host those events. Currently, it is the home to two college bowl games (Poinsettia and Holiday) and has hosted three Super Bowls (XXII, XXXII, XXXVII). With all the new NFL stadiums going up around the nation, it seems Qualcomm’s days of hosting Super Bowls are probably over.
There is little doubt that Qualcomm is a dated facility and not ideal for San Diego State football. The Chargers and the city of San Diego have been trying for years to build a new stadium. All efforts have been fruitless thus far and many people believe that the Chargers are a prime candidate for a potential move to Los Angeles. With the Padres moving to PETCO Park in 2004, a move to LA by the Chargers would leave the Aztecs as the lone fulltime tenant at Qualcomm Stadium.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concessions menu for an Aztecs football game benefits from being in an NFL stadium. Though not all the stands are open for an SDSU game, there is still plenty to choose from.
The most basic of these options is the $5.50 Charger Dog, or the $9 Two Point Conversion (two Charger Dogs). Pretzels, popcorn, burgers, and nachos are plenty in variety and availability. Slices of Oggi's pizza are $7.50.
For those craving Mexican fare, "Tortilla Junction" offers Old Town Nachos (Carne Asada or Pollo for $12), a Walking Taco ($8), sides of Guacamole ($3), Margaritas ($11), or Corona/Pacifico beer ($8).
Another Chargers-inspired item is the "High Boltage Grill," which includes SoCal Grilled Cheese ($6), Cheeseburger ($9.50), Bleu Bolt Burger ($12), and a Foot Long Hot Dog ($10).
Qualcomm Stadium is one of the few college venues that serves alcohol. This includes the domestic options like Bud and Coors (16 oz aluminum bottle for $9) as well as local craft options from Oggi's and Green Flash (12 oz bottle for $9).
Qualcomm Stadium is not a great place to see college football. Heck, it's only slightly better for NFL football as the Chargers have long been interested in getting a new facility.
The third level of seating is not available for San Diego State games and sits empty throughout the season. Beyond that, they have seemingly random sections blocked off with Aztecs banners. Beyond one end zone, there is a series of "S D S U" banners that both block off empty seats and create a sense that this is the Aztecs home. I have no problem with that. The weird thing is the random sections scattered throughout the lower bowls that are covered with banners and worse yet, the sections blocked off by yellow caution tape. A little weird.
The venue is just too large. An impressive 30,000 fan crowd seems much smaller in a stadium that holds 70,000. The passionate fans tend to be grouped in different sections but seem too separated from the rest of the crowd.
I like music. I like loud music. I don't like blown out speakers playing the same awful song over and over again. Qualcomm Stadium has an awful sound system and the gameday crew should realize its limitations.
The façade is entirely made of gray concrete. This was status quo when the facility was built and feels like the dual-sport venues from the past.
One of the nice things about the atmosphere is that the stadium sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by rolling Southern California hills. This, combined with the awesome San Diego weather, makes for a comfortable day or night out. The only issue with view of the rolling hills is that the stadium is almost entirely enclosed, making the views only visible from the outer concourse.
I initially sat in the lower box but chose to move up a bit because the incline was too shallow and was hard to see over the players on the sidelines. Something to consider.
The neighborhood is not a traditionally great neighborhood for a college football venue but it is not without its positives.
Qualcomm Stadium is not located on the campus of San Diego State but is a short drive away. Many of the residents around the stadium are students in apartments or young families. To that end, there are a few pre or postgame spots of interest.
Oggi's is a pizza and brewpub joint that has locations scattered around Southern California. This is an excellent option as they have a little something for anyone on the menu and has a sports bar feel with plenty of televisions to catch the early college games of the day. The local location is in Mission Valley on Fenton Parkway.
Islands is a popular local burger chain that serves high-quality, mountainous burgers. They have a few locations but the nearest to Qualcomm is also on Fenton Parkway.
There is plenty of fast food in the neighborhood if you need to grab and go.
One of the benefits of Qualcomm Stadium's location, and perhaps the reason for there being two bowl games, is that the stadium is very near Mission Valley and Hotel Circle. At Hotel Circle, there are all types of hotels, from low to high, and is the hub for tourists that are not staying near the beaches. Adjacent to Hotel Circle is a huge mall with high-end retail options (this is what I mean about it not being a typical college football neighborhood).
San Diegans are, in general, known for their laid back attitude. This extends, to a certain extent, to sports. Aztecs fans are the typical San Diego friendly type, with an intensity when it comes to the game.
SDSU is a large state school and benefits from a student body that comes from near and far. The Aztecs at times feel like the local team and at other times like a Saturday destination for alumni from out of town. The great weather helps bring alumni back but also caters to being a great road destination for visiting fans.
You'll see many fans wearing #28 in honor of former running back Marshall Faulk and they do an S-D-S-U cheer after every score.
Because alcohol is served at this large venue, it seems a bit like a scaled-down NFL experience. There are plenty of students partying but there are also plenty of fans every bit as engaged. It's a good mix. You just wish the venue was about half the size to really have a feel of the fans.
Qualcomm is very near three major freeways; I-8, I-805 and I-15. Getting off the freeway and into the parking lot is clear and convenient but the lines can be long. Parking is $10 and tailgating with open flame and alcohol is allowed but no glass is permitted.
Another good option, especially if you'd like to continue drinking at the game, is to take the San Diego Trolley. This light rail style train has a stop essentially in the Qualcomm parking lot. The green line is the route to take which extends from downtown in the southwest and Santee in the northeast.
Getting through the gates is easy as there are a ton of available entrances. One catch is that many of the exits aren't available to pass through after the game and they scale down to just three exits. Therefore, be sure you remember the letter assigned to your parking area as you may not exit in the same location.
The stadium has two sides to the main concourse. The outer concourse is wider and is where most of the concessions and restrooms are. The inner concourse is much narrower but the traffic flows quickly because nobody is stopping for anything, people are just heading to their seats.
Long escalators can take fans to the club and upper levels. If you prefer to walk there is a cement circular ramp that you can take; a cool aesthetic feature to an otherwise bland façade.
One confusing aspect is getting down to the lower box area. If you enter what you think is your numbered section and head down and down and down, you'll hit a fence. You need to turn around and go back up the stairs to the concourse and find one of the stairways down to the lower level. This staircase and lower concourse is entirely enclosed and not the nicest area of the stadium. Once to the lower concourse, head back up the stairs to the lower box area.
One of the cool things about SDSU games is that there isn't a huge discrepancy in price between seats in different levels. The price point is a very reasonable $23-$40. With the $10 parking, it's a good price to see quality MWC football, albeit in a less than appealing venue. Concessions are high for a college venue but you can supplement that by tailgating prior to the game.
Another point about the return on investment. Though, it will never be a top college football venue, and perhaps it's one of the worst, its location and certain conveniences allow for a great out-of-town fan experience. Since it's right next to Hotel Circle, not far from downtown attractions and beaches and has an excellent parking lot for pregame festivities, it should be a venue for out-of-town fans to circle every year and make a whole weekend out of it.
I enjoyed my time at the Aztecs game but I wish there was more of an effort made to make it feel like their home. I understand the difficulties when sharing with the Chargers but the only nods to the Aztecs are the temporary banners strewn over vacant seats and a large banner near their locker room entrance with photos of old SDSU players.
Two things of note not Aztecs related. First, the cool statue of sportswriter Jack Murphy and his dog, Abe, outside of the stadium. Second, the placard signifying section 55 has been modified to look the Chargers uniform numbers for the late, great Junior Seau.
It seems that SDSU does not have the land to build an on-campus facility for their football team. The good news is that it is not far from the campus and is a convenient location for fans from the region to get to. Though it's unlike some of the special college venues, it is a fine place for the Aztecs to play.
Member Review by DrewCieszynski
San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium has more than just the NFL's Chargers generating excitement for the local fans. Built in 1965, the stadium also acts as home to the San Diego State University (SDSU) Aztecs. While the stadium sits five miles from campus, it has been the home of the Aztecs since 1967.
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. It was originally known as San Diego Stadium and later as Jack Murphy Stadium after the gentleman who got the stadium efforts started. Over the years, it has carried nicknames such as "The Murph" and "The Q."
Member Review by Chorizo16 on Jul 09, 2013
Indifferent fans in a cookie cutter 1970's multi purpose stadium is bad. But the do serve beer.
Member Review by Aaron S. Terry on Dec 02, 2015
So if you have read some of my other reviews, you have seen me say this a few times. Qualcomm is one of a few stadiums that host CFB on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday, and man what a difference a day makes. On Saturday parking is a lot easier (ginormous lots right outside the stadium), while on Sunday you might have to park near one of the local office buildings and scale the hill to get down, rather than take the long way around. The stadium is much fuller and louder on Sundays. The stadium itself has gaps between the top of the seats and the ring that runs around the top, which are empty on Saturday, but filled with Chargers banners on Sunday. And in the end zones, the "San Diego" is painted with red and black highlights on Saturdays, which magically change to powder blue and yellow by Sunday - this attention to detail is actually really impressive, I am amazed that they bothered given SDSU is not Power 5. All of that said, you will get a much louder, more raucous, and harder to get around event for a Chargers game, while an Aztecs game is much more low key, and easier to deal with.
10475 San Diego Mission Road
San Diego, CA 92108
2245 Fenton Pkwy
San Diego, CA 92108
2441 Fenton Pkwy
San Diego, CA 92108
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8757 Rio San Diego Dr
San Diego, CA 92108