Photos by Aaron Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
StubHub Center 18400 Avalon Boulevard Carson, CA 90746
Year Opened: 2003
Under Cover in LA
Built in 2003, StubHub Center currently holds 27,000 fans, and serves primarily as the home field for the LA Galaxy of MLS, but for the past several seasons has also hosted the LA Galaxy II of USL. But in 2017 the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers moved in, and that team plans to call the facility home for a couple of years while their shiny new stadium in Inglewood is being built; the new venue (Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park) will be shared with the Los Angeles Rams.
While StubHub Center is very small as NFL stadiums go (about half the size of the next closest, the Oakland Raiders’ Coliseum), the Chargers so far have had a very difficult time filling it, officially bringing in only about 25,000 per contest last season (2017). This statistic, however, is made worse by the fact that it often seems like there are more visiting fans in attendance than home fans.
Food & Beverage 4
On the plus side, StubHub Center has all the food options you could ever want at a sporting event and then some, but of course all this variety comes with the high prices typical of pro sports in America today.
Each of the concessions stands at StubHub Center seems to offer something different; I did not see any repeats as I walked around the concourse. And in addition to the freestanding vendors, there are also several food trucks which offer even more unique items, such as Korean BBQ and Sushi Burritos (which are exactly what they sound like – traditional sushi rolls the size of Mexican burritos). But the crown jewel of the concessions here just may be the Chargers Beer Garden, complete with hammock chairs and picnic tables, in addition to a huge selection of alcoholic drinks.
One possible downside is that your more basic food options are actually a little hard to come by at StubHub Center – while you can find staples such as chicken tenders or pizza, a lot of the other staples like burgers and hot dogs only seem to come in upscale versions with higher price tags. For example, you can find several stands and food trucks serving gourmet burgers, gourmet hot dogs, upscale tacos and nachos, and even gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. In addition, there are also tons of other non-traditional options, too many to name them all in fact. Selections range from bulgogi, kimchi, and poké bowls to French dip sandwiches, pasta, and cannolis, as well as more basic items such as empanadas, ice cream, cookies, and more. Most main dishes will run you $10 or more, however, so the cost per person to eat here is probably around $25 for a meal.
The drink selection at StubHub Center is equally wide, and includes everything you might expect such as bottled water, soda, milk, hot cocoa, coffee, and smoothies, as well as beer, wine, and mixed drinks, including frozen cocktails. The beverage prices are a little more reasonable, however; for example, beer starts at just $5, but you can pay more to find craft brews and beer on tap, while wine starts at $9 and mixed drinks start a little higher. Note that the staff does let you bring in an empty bottle (or cup) that you can fill with water during the game.
Despite the smallish crowd, the staff here at StubHub Center seems to pull out all the stops to create a good time for fans, and there are tons of amenities here that most other NFL stadiums do not offer. For example, on the plaza before the game you can get pumped up with a concert by Chargers singers, and there are also tons of picnic tables and other seating (some of it covered) you can take advantage of. StubHub Center also has several cooling fans dotted around the concourse, which are a great boon in the hot California sun.
Besides the unique offerings, the Los Angeles Chargers also offer the traditional football amenities fans have become accustomed to at pro sports, such as flame and smoke spurting forth when the team comes onto the field, the occasional jet flyover, the cheerleaders, and the Chargers band which performs during various breaks in the action, as well as the cannon which goes off after every Chargers score.
One sad bit of nostalgia – the famed sing-song chant from San Diego (San Dee-eh-go Char-gers!) has not been carried over into the new city (not even with a name change), so long time fans may be disappointed; perhaps a new chant will emerge someday.
Los Angeles is a great city, but StubHub Center is actually located 14 miles south in Carson, so you will have to trek a little bit if you want to soak in the fun and craziness of LA. That said, you will find plenty to do closer to the stadium if you come for the day or weekend, along with hotels and lodging options to fit any budget.
The closest restaurants to StubHub Center (within walking distance) are old-style diners such as Dandy Lion Restaurant and R & R Soulfood, but there are plenty of upscale options to the south along I-405, such as Olive Garden. And if you are looking for ethnic cuisine, there are a ton of options within a few miles of the venue, ranging from Hawaiian to Mexican and Vietnamese. In addition, if you are looking for a quick bite right before you go inside, there is a Kentucky Fried Chicken just outside the main entrance, on the west side of Avalon Blvd.
Alternatively, if you are looking for something truly unique, check out The Proud Bird next to LAX airport; this aviation-themed restaurant and event space features WWII planes and other museum exhibits inside and out, and would be a great place to stop in before or after the game.
If you plan to be in town for the weekend, going on a whale watch from one of the nearby beaches is a great option, especially for games in September or October, which are better months for whale migration. But if indoor activities are more your bag, Carson is also home to the International Printing Museum and the Porsche Experience, either one of which would be a great time for the whole family.
It is very disappointing that Chargers fans are not able to sell out this relatively small venue (smaller than many college football stadiums, actually, even some of the ones in the MAC). Also, at times there seems to be more visiting fans than home fans, so you may not see very many powder blue jerseys.
Traffic around LA is terrible, but fortunately Carson is not that bad, given its location about 14 miles to the south. And thankfully, football season comes after the tourist season is mostly over, so traffic here should be a little easier in the fall – NFL stadiums actually tend to do fairly well traffic-wise, though, given that most games are on Sunday, while the roadways around these big-city venues are built for (and used to) handling the much heavier weekday traffic.
Parking at StubHub Center is pricey – in the main lots right next to the venue you will pay $100, but fortunately you can park right across the street (on the west side of Avalon Blvd) for $40 at nearby churches or in people’s yards, if you get there early. When heading home, however, I would strongly recommend that you avoid driving on Avalon Blvd – if possible cut west down the side streets for several blocks, and then make your way to the freeway from there; I-110 and I-405 are to the west of the stadium anyway, so it makes sense to avoid the gridlock immediately surrounding the venue.
Despite the fact that StubHub Center does not even sell out, the venue is really crowded, especially during halftime – you could find yourself in line for quite a while. The beer garden is a little less crowded, however, so that might be a good spot to hang out if you need a break from the crowds.
Return on Investment 4
Even if you buy them from ticket resellers you might pay close to $100 (or more) for a Chargers game, which is a lot of money for a sporting event. However, that is typical of the LA market, and is not far off from many other pro football venues.
I would suggest though that you pay attention to where your seat is located, and not just buy the cheapest ticket like I did – the weather is very, very hot in LA, especially if you attend a game in September or October, so if possible I would try to sit in the highest rows on the west side of the stadium, or in the upper deck on the east side, so you can sit under one of the roofs. Anywhere in the 200 or 300 sections would be great, or in the highest rows of sections 107 thru 115 – StubHub Center is such a small facility that even if you sit that far up you won’t be very far from the action, and you will be able to see the game better from up there anyway, given that you can’t see the whole field if you sit too close.
Add in the high cost of parking and concessions to the ticket price, and this could be an expensive outing especially if you have a big group. However, you will get to be a lot closer to the action on the field here than at other NFL venues, so for a lot of fans this could be a worthwhile trip. And it is sure to be a fun day, given all the nice amenities StubHub Center offers.
The beer garden and full-size restaurant/tap room inside are a plus, as is the entertainment before and during the game, such as the pre-game concert and the Chargers football toss). StubHub Center truly offers a carnival-like atmosphere, which in addition to the cooling fans and the multiple seating areas inside the venue will make for a great visit that goes beyond just the action on the gridiron.
The Los Angeles Chargers will soon move on to their mammoth new home in Inglewood, so you don’t have much longer to enjoy this cozy NFL venue. If you plan to be in the LA area anytime soon, be sure to take in a football game at StubHub Center – the venue offers a lot, and if you pick the right game, you can even see your favorite NFL players up close.