Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Pechanga Arena 3500 Sports Arena Blvd San Diego, CA 92110
Year Opened: 1966
South Cali Football
Pechanga Arena opened in 1966 and holds 12,000 fans for indoor football games. The arena is home to the San Diego Strike Force of the Indoor Football League (IFL), as well as the San Diego Gulls minor league hockey team, plus indoor soccer and the San Diego Seals lacrosse team. The facility looks modern enough on the inside, but seems a little dated based on its exterior.
Food & Beverage 3
Pechanga Arena only has 3 concession stands open during San Diego Strike Force games – there are many more concession stands inside, which may be open during other events at the venue, but they are not open during indoor football.
The first concessions stand is Nicolosi’s, an Italian restaurant which offers meatball subs, mac n cheese, or giant meatballs, all of which cost $13.50, as well as a few other traditional items such as nachos, hot dogs, pretzels, churros, candy, and popcorn. However, Nicolosi’s actually has more items on its beverage menu than on its food menu, including margaritas, Mai tais, mules, draft beer, wine, bottled water, coffee, energy drinks, iced tea, soda, and Powerade.
The second concessions stand inside Pechanga Arena is called Pizza Port, and it offers 4 types of pizza (cheese, pepperoni, jalapeno pepperoni, and BBQ chicken), packaged candy, and most of the same beverage choices offered by Nicolosi’s, while the third stand is more of a full bar with many draft beer choices, as well as a limited number of wine and mixed drink choices.
There is not much in Pechanga Arena during San Diego Strike Force games except the football itself – there is no dance team, no mascot, and the field itself looks a little worn; it is obvious that the turf itself was a hand-me-down from a prior incarnation of indoor football. On the plus side, all the seats are chairbacks and there is a 4-sided videoboard hung above midfield so it is easy to see replays, and they play lots of fun music throughout the game to try and keep fans engaged. There are also the typical fan contests, such as having 2 father-and-son pairs race each other back and forth across the field carrying a pizza box, and there is also a team gear stand on site.
Pechanga Arena is located near Old Town San Diego – there is actually a sizeable antique mall across the street which is fun to walk around, and the Mormon Battalion Historic Site is less than 5 minutes away. The Mormon Battalion was a group of LDS soldiers from the Mexican-American War, who didn’t end up fighting in any actual battles, but did build some wagon trails during their service which helped settlers move west, most notably a trail from Santa Fe to San Diego (hence the location of the historic site), which eventually became the route the railroad went through.
SeaWorld San Diego is also across the river from Pechanga Arena, less than 5 minutes away.
There are very few fans at San Diego Strike Force games, although admittedly the most recent game I attended was on a Sunday afternoon, so that probably contributed to the smaller numbers. There are a few diehards in the front rows who are really into the game, and the rest of the fans cheer at all the right moments, and seem to enjoy the game and the fun music being played, but the arena does seem very empty, especially given that the upper level is not curtained off like it is at many similarly-sized venues.
Getting to Pechanga Arena is easy enough given its proximity to SeaWorld and Old Town, but getting into the venue is a little frustrating – there are four entrances into the stadium, but only the entrance on the North side is open for San Diego Strike Force games, and there is no signage directing fans to that entrance. There are also no signs around most of the building identifying it as Pechanga Arena, so you can easily drive right by it and not realize what it is. There are also lots of barrier poles scattered around the parking lot, which doesn’t seem necessary given how empty the parking lot seems to be; on the plus side fans do get to park for free.
The most frustrating part of attending a Strike Force game, however, is buying your game ticket – you have to buy tickets using the AXS ticketing app instead of Ticketmaster, which is nice because it saves you a little money in fees, but the arena doesn’t sell tickets online on the day of, meaning you have to walk up to the ticket office, pay for your ticket, and then download it using the app. There are no paper tickets like you can buy at other venues on the day of, and it also doesn’t make sense to cut off online sales if fans are required to use the app regardless.
Return on Investment 3
If you enjoy football, attending a game at Pechanga Arena is a decent experience – just don’t expect a lot of extras. The overall cost is fairly reasonable, and probably lower than similar IFL venues; while concessions are a little on the high side, tickets start at only $13, and you can park for free.
Pechanga Arena has an interactive display inside highlighting all the teams that play here. The Stella Artois Lounge (basement level) is also open to all fans – this full bar with plush seating is a nice place to hang out during the game, and there are a couple of TVs inside so that you can keep track of the action on the field.