In the landscape of the NFL, few teams can claim more hardcore, diehard fans than the San Diego Chargers. The city and its fans have a special relationship with the team, and the team has a special relationship with its home field, Qualcomm Stadium. Affectionately known as the "Q," the Chargers have called it home since it opened in 1967. Made during the height of the multi-purpose stadium "craze" of the late 60s and 70s, the stadium has been home to three Super Bowls.
Located in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego, its open-air seating and throwback appeal had made it a long time favorite of both the NFL and fans of the Chargers. First called San Diego Stadium, then for the longest stretch of its existence as Jack Murphy Stadium, the Chargers home was officially christened Qualcomm Stadium in 1997 after the San Diego-based telecommunications firm. Though still popular among fans, as newer more modern stadiums dot the pro football landscape, one has to wonder how much time is left on the clock for this venerable stadium.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are six separate seating levels at Qualcomm Stadium, and each is resplendent with wide varieties of food and drink choices for fans. On the Field, Plaza, Loge, and Press levels are the popular Electric Dog stands. Specializing in upscale hot dogs and brats, these are not your typical stadium dogs. Similarly themed is Q Sausage, which specializes in hot links, Polish sausage, and cheddar sausages. But if flavored meat in tube form is not what you are looking for, there are multitudes of other options.
On the Plaza Level you can find Crispy Chicken, which as its name implies is what it specializes in. Fried chicken tenders, french fries, sandwiches - all are on the menu, and are reasonably priced by stadium standards. Another favorite available on multiple levels is Oggi's Pizza, which offers all the "hit" pizzas, both by the slice and as a whole pie.
One of the great aspects about Qualcomm Stadium is that they allow a variety of food trucks on the grounds and inside the stadium on the Plaza Level. These vary from game to game, but you're sure to find something you like. In addition, adult beverages are available across the press and plaza levels, specifically at the Crown Royal Bar and at Murphy's Hall of Fame Bar.
Chargers fans are loyal and vocal. However, unless games are against strong division rivals or some of the other "glamor" franchises of the NFL, don't be surprised to see a multitude of opposing fans filling out the upper reaches of the Q. This is not to disparage Chargers fans; those that attend clearly love their team and that passion shows. Every time they play the cavalry bugle (Charge!) and the catchy Chargers theme song from the 70s, the fans really get into it, and the enthusiasm is infectious.
One of the great aspects about Qualcomm Stadium, and San Diego in general, is its relationship with the military. There is something about a flyover, which regularly happens at the Q, that really gets the blood and adrenaline pumping.
San Diego is an absolutely gorgeous city, and is one of the premier family-friendly destinations in the country. While there is not much immediately adjacent to Qualcomm Stadium, if you travel 15-20 minutes up or down the two freeways that intersect close to the venue, you can be at any one of almost a dozen great attractions.
Balboa Park, SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, Old Town State Park, and the cool, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, with all of its attractions, are all within striking distance of Qualcomm Stadium. As it is such a tourist hub, there is an abundance of hotels and quality restaurants of all varieties and prices. Either before or after a game at Qualcomm Stadium, you will find plenty to entertain you.
Chargers fans are loyal to the core. Powder blue is in abundance throughout the stands, and throwback Fouts, Tomlinson, and Seau jerseys are everywhere. The parking lots are filled with tailgating fans before the game and well after. Lightning bolts dot the streets all around Qualcomm Stadium, and can be seen in banners and bumper stickers on cars. The diehard Chargers fans come out and support their team in good times and bad.
Qualcomm Stadium is conveniently located near the intersection of I-8 and I-15. As such, it is easy to get here from virtually any part of the city with relative ease.
I was particularly impressed with the speed and ease of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS); these trains run every 15-20 minutes from almost every major point in the city. You can get to Qualcomm Stadium for $5 per person round-trip, and avoid parking and traffic. It is a bargain that, unless you've got a serious tailgating itch you need to scratch, you'll have a hard time passing up.
When it comes to the NFL, few teams can match the bargain offered up by the Chargers and Qualcomm Stadium. Single game tickets for most games can be had for $35-$50 (you can even purchase a ticket the day of for $50). Parking starts at $25, but with the MTS you can get to games even cheaper. Food and beverage prices are also relatively affordable.
Qualcomm Stadium is one of the older stadiums still in use in the NFL. As such, there is not an abundance of "bells and whistles" when compared to some of the newer facilities in the league. However, the military flyovers are impressive, the weather is almost always gorgeous, and the infectious enthusiasm of the crowd almost makes up for the stadium's lack of "pizzazz."
You can also count on the Charger Girls Dance Team and the team mascot, Boltman, to add extra energy and excitement to the atmosphere. In addition, the cannon that fires after every Charger touchdown adds a nice "college" feel, and is a great callback to the team's AFL roots.
When in San Diego, you should make it a point to catch a Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium. The value is really stellar, and the Chargers are generally competitive, and can be counted on to bring excitement. Also, in the Q you can "hear" the echoes of the Chargers wild, wide open Air Coryell days.
You may want to plan on catching a Chargers game at the Q sooner rather than later; a recent stadium measure was voted down by the citizens of San Diego, and the Chargers lease at their long-time home runs out in 2020. It would be a shame to see Qualcomm Stadium go; it is definitely a reminder of a truly fun time in pro football.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter @EricMoreno6477.
The San Diego Chargers history is now over 50 years old, and few know that the franchise actually began in Los Angeles. After spending just a single season in the current home of the USC Trojans, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the team moved to San Diego in 1961.
Upon arriving in San Diego, the Chargers played their home games in Balboa Stadium through the 1966 season. In 1967, the Chargers moved to their current home, then 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 in the league. As fans approach the stadium, they will probably feel as if they have "cement-colored glasses" on as there appears to be no personality or modern amenities whatsoever.
As the NFL continues its meteoric rise in popularity, new stadiums in Indianapolis, Dallas, and New York have opened that are relative "cash cows" in comparison to Qualcomm. With every passing year, pressure mounts in San Diego to build a new stadium. Once a staple in the rotation for Super Bowls, San Diego is no longer considered and with markets such as Los Angeles, Toronto, and Las Vegas vying for a team, San Diego needs to get a new stadium deal complete.
San Diego may be the best place to watch a professional football game simply because it's unexpected.
It can't claim legendary status like Lambeau or Soldier Fields or provide a cutting edge experience like the new palace in Dallas, but the combination of climate, field product and in-stadium vibe make for a game worth attending.
Before the arguments fly, let's throw out a quick disclaimer. Qualcomm Stadium is a bit of a dump. So much so that the Padres ran for downtown as soon as the last gavel dropped on the multitude of lawsuits that held up construction of what became Petco Park.
Known now simply as the Q, the stadium opened in 1967 as San Diego Stadium, a name it kept until being recast as San Diego-Jack Murphy Stadium. A cumbersome title that was cut to "The Murph" and honored Murphy, who was a longtime sports editor and columnist for the San Diego Union and also a central player in convincing the city to build the stadium.
Prior to that, the Chargers played in Balboa stadium from 1961-66, a classic horseshoe and track and field layout in downtown.
A multipurpose stadium that also hosts SDSU football as a tenant in addition to the Padres from their expansion into the National League in 1969 until leaving after the 2003 season, Qualcomm has undergone a number of facelifts to its present day seating capacity of about 72,000.
Once open-ended, repeated seating increases and luxury box add-ons have completed the squared circle shape for more of a bowl experience. While this redefined shape ultimately doomed baseball at the Q, it accentuated one key ingredient for football.
Aside from domed stadiums, which get an obvious advantage, there is no place louder than the Q. That was evident in late December, 2009 when Carson Palmer and the Bengals committed three straight penalties because their signals could not be heard over the din.
That highly charged atmosphere helps you to overcome the thoughts that the building really does show its age.
The concourses are tight and there is really no section that is easy to move around. The tunnel serving the Field level is claustrophobic while the Upper Deck, excuse me, View Level concourse is shoulder-to-shoulder for soldout games.
The wider concourse outside the Plaza level had plenty of room at one time but has since been littered with concession stands. Can't argue, too much, because the best food is found there on the ground level. Mexican fare and grilled burgers are your best bets while domestic and premium beers will run $8-9.
Only the Club Level has relative ease of access, but that will set you back about $250 a seat. The bars stay open after the third quarter, though, so you get what you pay for. Just bring plenty of cash.
The Chargers have had their lean years but currently are fielding one of the best if not the most entertaining teams in the NFL. Combine that with the full-throated support of the locals and any fan will not come away disappointed.
But even in the lean years, what doesn't change is the weather.
San Diego has one of the best climates in the United States and the Q, being situated a few miles inland in Mission Valley, benefits from the temperate coastal condition.
Fans wear shorts to games in September through January, so regardless of record, tailgating in the sunshine is a season-long endeavor.
Transportation to the Q comes in three basic forms: car, trolley or bus. Driving yourself can be slow and the lot can fill quickly, so if you're looking to tailgate, plan a minimum three-hour lead if not four. Great atmosphere, though.
If you don't want to drive, but want to tailgate consider the trolley, which will drop you steps from the proceedings.
The San Diego Trolley also serves the Q and can be accessed from east (SDSU to El Cajon) or west (South Bay, Downtown to west Mission Valley). Either direction, the closer you board to the stadium the less likely you'll sit, but the ride in is usually lively.
Postgame is a pain, as a mass of humanity squeezes onto one platform. The line moves quicker than it appears but patience is needed.
The bus is probably the easiest of the three options. Boarding locations can be found throughout San Diego County and drop you close to the stadium gates. The big plus is that buses have priority access upon exiting postgame.
For sports bar activity pre or postgame that is near the Q, check out McGregor's Grill and Ale House, Seau's The Restaurant or Bully's East.
Seau's, at 1640 Camino Del Rio North, gets the nod because the 12-time Pro Bowler cannot be ignored. It is pretty straight-forward as a bar/restaurant, but it's large and there are more screens than Crazy Al's TV Emporium. Plus it's trolley accessible in Mission Valley Center.
A bit more authentic is McGregor's, which will satisfy your viewing needs but offers a better sample of local brews with a menu that is a much better departure than the chain restaurant feel of Seau's. Get the Super Torta or the Flat-Iron steak sandwich. The address is 10475 San Diego Mission Road.
For something a bit off the beaten track, more old-school but still in the neighborhood, head to Bully's East just the opposite side of Mission Valley off Texas Street at 2401 Camino Del Rio South.
Daylight has never found its way inside so no worries about finding a booth to hide you and the stray you picked up at the game. Think martini and prime rib with ample TV monitors should you need to take in the late game.
The Q has its warts, certainly. It's not exactly pretty, you'll find trouble if you decide to go to a Raiders game and the concession offerings are adequate at best, but throw in the city, the vibe and the field product and your time will be well spent.
The Q has a ton of history behind it, but renovations or a new stadium are very much needed.
The Q has a ton of history behind it, but renovations or a new stadium are very much needed.
What an awful stadium. It is not near the city at all compared to most NFL cities. The fan base is a little over the top considering they support a team that has never won anything. Row 1 is about 20 feet off the ground in most sections and the upperdeck is UPPER. It offers little in the way of extras but at least the weather is usually good. Blah is the easiest way to describe this place. You can tailgate with east which is nice and the train access is good but not much else around
The story is all too familiar. A business has a clear-cut advantage over the competition and for many years reaps the benefits of its niche. The success leads to complacency and the competition quickly catches up. During its run of prosperity, the business becomes slow, lacks innovation, and fails to ever regain its form.
Fans of the San Diego Chargers are watching this same story unfold at Qualcomm Stadium. Previously the host of three Superbowls, the NFL now has so many better options that the game is played outdoors or in cold-weather cities.
Despite having America’s best climate to its advantage, the city of San Diego and the Chargers now are in the midst of constant relocation rumors and must watch as other cities host big events annually.
Kind of an old stadium. The field is well prepared. Being in San Diego with great weather always makes the stadium look nicer and makes the atmosphere a lot better. Fans are descent here.
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