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Qualcomm Stadium (map it)
9449 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92108
Year Opened: 1967
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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.
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".
When venturing for food at Qualcomm, I would recommend proceeding with caution. The concourse is extremely small for modern standards and the lines back up quickly.
Some of the key items include the Super Charger Dog ($8), Bratwurst ($8), hamburger ($10 and cheeseburger for surprisingly the same price), Old town nachos ($12), walking taco ($9, add $3 for guacamole), nacho grande ($7), jumbo pretzel ($6), bottomless popcorn ($11), candy ($5), ice cream ($6), kettle corn ($6), churros ($5), cotton candy ($7), Cracker Jack ($6), peanuts ($6), and glazed nuts ($6).
The beverage options include soda ($5.75 for the normal size, $7 for the souvenir, or $11.75 for all-you-can-drink), bottled water ($5), hot chocolate ($5), margarita ($12), and lemonade ($6). Alcoholic options include wine ($9), and bottled or draft beer ($9 or $11 for premium). A non-alcoholic beer is a few dollars cheaper at $5.50.
While the shape or design of the stadium is anything but modern, the bowl design certainly holds noise like few others. Aside from the noise, there isn't much to write home about regarding Qualcomm.
The Charger Girls do dance in the endzone during breaks in the action, however most fans are too far away to distinguish who they are or what they are doing.
Probably the best portion of the atmosphere is hearing the famed "San Diego Super Chargers" fight song after a Charger touchdown or win. The song was recorded way back in 1979 by Captain Q.B. and the Big Boys, but still generates goosebumps for Charger fans when played.
It was rather surprising to me that the fans did not collaborate on any chants throughout the game. I would think that the fans could take the "Da Da Da Da Da-Da -- Charge" chant heard at most sporting events and put the Charger name on the end of it.
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 are 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.
The Charger fans are certainly loud, but nothing in particular stands out about them. They cheered during a big offensive play or on a third down stand, but no particular chants or actions that I noticed.
I'm still puzzled by the beginning of the 2010 season, where news reports were rampant during the first few weeks of television blackouts because not all tickets were sold at Qualcomm. With such a large population base and a seemingly successful team, one would think the team would have no problem selling out every game.
Unfortunately, with the Chargers being Southern California's only NFL team, many transplants from other regions of the country use Qualcomm as a chance to catch up with their old team. This, factored with San Diego being one of the NFL's greatest vacation destinations, there are several opposing fans peppered among the Charger faithful.
The fans do love the powder blue Charger jerseys as they were seemingly as prevalent as the navy blue ones.
Qualcomm Stadium is located about 5 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. While the stadium is easily accessible from the 15 and I-8, the final two miles can seemingly take an hour or more.
The train is another popular option for getting to the game. Fans can be dropped just footsteps from the gate, but be warned, the platform fills up quickly postgame.
As for the parking, you can expect a $20 fee at most places near the stadium. Available parking seems to fill up rather fast, so I would caution to leave far in advance so that you can either search for a space or park further away and get to the stadium on foot.
If lucky enough to land a spot surrounding the stadium, the spaces are a reasonable size and there seems to be significant room for all of your tailgating fun. The portable toilet lines, seem to back up approximately an hour prior to the game, so plan your tailgating breaks appropriately. 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.
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 an 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 has to be one of the smallest in all of the major sports. As the concession and restroom lines pile up, it can be a nightmare getting around. I typically like to take a lot of photographs at the stadium, but this one was not condusive to getting around and checking out the sights. 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 restrooms were clean, but definitely showed signs of age. While there was a good showing of them, they did back up quickly and getting to them is tough with the size of the concourse. I did get a kick out of the division rival (Chiefs, Raiders, and Broncos) logos on the inside of the urinals.
Live NFL Football is one of the best experiences in all of sports, but I have to think a visit to Qualcomm ranks in the lower half of the league. The noise and opportunity to see pro football is a big plus, however Qualcomm does not seem to offer a truly unique or standout experience.
Tickets are tough to be had for much less than $60 a seat, which admittedly is comparable to most of the league, but seems a bit much considering the quality of the venue. The menu options inside the gates leave much to be desired, often forcing fans to plan their meals before or after the game.
When I did a write-up on the downtown PETCO Park, I seemingly could have wrote for hours on all of the Extras that the venues offered. The Chargers home however, leaves me struggling for additional perks of the stadium.
If you make the 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.
Near the train stop, fans can take a photo of the statue of Jack Murphy and his dog (Abe), a 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 in collared shirts and sweaters.
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).
After visiting such phenomenal venues in San Diego such as PETCO Park, Viejas Arena, and the Jenny Craig Pavilion, I couldn't help but to be disappointed with Qualcomm. Understanding that it is easier said than done, I would love to see the city of San Diego come up with a solution to keep this team in San Diego.
I do love witnessing NFL action as often as possible, but it appears that the better Southern California football experience can be found either at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or the Rose Bowl.
Follow Drew's Travel's Through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
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.
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