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Qualcomm Stadium

San Diego, CA

Home of the San Diego Chargers

2.3

3.6

Qualcomm Stadium (map it)
9449 Friars Road
San Diego, CA 92108


San Diego Chargers website

Qualcomm Stadium website

Year Opened: 1967

Capacity: 71,500

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Losing Charge

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.

2.3

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    2

When venturing for food at Qualcomm, fans would be advised to arrive early. The concourse is extremely small for modern standards and the lines back up quickly.

If some exploring is done, fans will find a gluten-free stand, a "Fresh to Farm" organic stand, and some food trucks that offer unique options. After that, the options become rather bland.

Sweet Baby Ray's is probably the most popular stand at the stadium. Here, fans can get a BBQ bacon cheeseburger ($13), skirt steak sandwich ($13), pulled pork nachos ($12), or a pulled pork sandwich ($10.50).

Oggi's Pizza (a local chain) has a stand that offers cheese pizza slices ($7.50), pepperoni or sausage ($8), and chicken wings ($6.50).

The more traditional food stands have polish sausage ($8), a nacho grande ($7), the Charger dog ($6), and a bratwurst ($8).

Side items include popcorn ($6 or $10 for bottomless), pretzel ($6), peanuts ($6), Cracker Jacks ($6), churros ($5), candy ($5), and ice cream ($6). Other items found throughout the venue include a garden burger, garlic fries, and chicken tenders.

The beverage options include soda ($5.75 regular fountain or bottled, souvenir $7.50, and all-you-can-drink $11.75), hot chocolate ($5), non-alcoholic beer ($5.50), bottled water ($5), and lemonade ($6).

Alcoholic options include wine ($9), cocktails ($13 or $15 for the frozen version), bottled beer ($9), draft beer ($9), and premium drafts ($11).

There is a "Beers of the World" stand, but any beer connoisseur would simply stand and laugh. 90% of the beers served there are produced by Budweiser and most are made right here in the United States. San Diego has some of the most spectacular craft breweries in the world, yet these beers are nowhere to be found.

Atmosphere    3

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 simply "the Murph" in honor of the man who many felt led 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."; Now that the 49ers have found a new home, only the stadium in Oakland and historic Lambeau Field have logged more years than Qualcomm.

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.

Neighborhood    3

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 faster options include the Oki Ton Japanese Bistro, McDonald's, Togo's Subs, IHOP, Subway, and KATI Thai cuisine.

If you're looking for more of an experience, there are certainly many other options. First, is Oggi's Pizza and Brewing Company, located off the Fenton Parkway (west of the stadium). 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.

Fans    3

The Charger fans are certainly loud, but nothing in particular stands out about them. They cheer during a big offensive play or on a third down stand, but there are no particular chants or actions that I noticed.

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, reveals several opposing fans peppered among the Charger faithful.

The fans do love the powder blue Charger jerseys as they are as prevalent as the navy blue ones.

Access    1

Attending a game at Qualcomm Stadium is a test of human patience.

While it's located about 5 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, there is seemingly more congestion here than there is downtown. The stadium is easily accessible from the I-15 and I-8, but the final two miles can easily take an hour or more. It's difficult to find a more inefficient traffic flow anywhere in the country.

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 are all provided. As California has a recycling refund, you'll find many scavengers roaming around in hopes of grabbing empty bottles or cans.

Finding your seat can be an absolute nightmare. There are rows chained off, different section numbers both above and below a given seat, and an overall lack of ushers helping people out.

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 extremely frustrating getting around. I typically like to take a lot of photographs at the stadium, but this one was not conducive to getting around and checking out the sights. If you are concerned about missing the action, there are some televisions peppered throughout, but most look like they are from the 1950s and make fans think that they are elderly with declining vision.



The restrooms are clean, but definitely show signs of age. While there is a good showing of them, they do back up quickly and getting to them is tough with the size of the concourse.

Return on Investment    2

Live NFL Football is one of the best experiences in all of sports, but fans may be better off staying at home. 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.

Extras    2

Visiting PETCO Park, fans seemingly could gaze for hours at all of the Extras that the venue offers. The Chargers home however, leaves one struggling for anything beyond tailgating and the game.

If fans make the hike to the upper concourse, there are certainly some 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 three 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).

Final Thoughts

San Diego continues to grow its mystique year after year and well-known worldwide, but Qualcomm continues to be its sore thumb.

With phenomenal venues in San Diego such as PETCO Park, Viejas Arena, Tony Gwynn Stadium, Fowler Park and the Jenny Craig Pavilion, fans are very likely to be disappointed with Qualcomm. Understanding that it is easier said than done, most would love to see the city of San Diego come up with a solution to keep this team in San Diego.



While most love the NFL, 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 Travels Through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.

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Crowd Reviews

The Q

Total Score: 2.57

  • Food & Beverage: 2
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 2
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 2

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.

Questioning Qualcomm's Qualities

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 3

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.

Noise.

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.

Great But Outdated

Total Score: 4.14

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 4

The Q has a ton of history behind it, but renovations or a new stadium are very much needed.

Great But Outdated

Total Score: 4.14

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 5
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 5
  • Extras: 4

The Q has a ton of history behind it, but renovations or a new stadium are very much needed.

Get a new stadium

Total Score: 2.71

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 2
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 3

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

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Local Food & Drink

McGregor's Grill & Ale House  (map it!)

10475 San Diego Mission Road

San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 282-9797

http://www.mcgregors.signonsandiego.com/

Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Company  (map it!)

2245 Fenton Pkwy

San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 640-1072

http://www.oggis.com/

Islands Restaurant  (map it!)

2441 Fenton Pkwy

San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 640-2727

http://www.islandsrestaurants.com/

Bully's East  (map it!)

2401 Camino Del Rio South

San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 291-2665

http://bullyseastsd.com/

Local Entertainment

Lodging

San Diego Marriott Mission Valley  (map it!)

8757 Rio San Diego Dr

San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 692-3800

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/sanmv-san-diego-marriott-mission-valley/

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