SDCCU Stadium – San Diego State Aztecs
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Cement Structure in Natural Beauty
The San Diego State Aztecs have fielded a football team since 1921 and have competed in a variety of divisions and conferences throughout their existence. Known for their all-black home uniforms, the Aztecs have been in the Mountain West Conference since 1999 and took home their first championship in 2012. San Diego State has been to 12 bowl games and went to four straight from 2010-2013; competing in the Poinsettia Bowl (2010, 2012), New Orleans Bowl (2011) and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (2013).
SDCCU Stadium opened in 1967 as San Diego Stadium. After his passing in 1980, the stadium was renamed Jack Murphy Stadium after the longtime sportswriter that helped garner support for building the stadium in the 1960s. In 1997 and 2017 the stadium was renamed again – in 1997 the rights were purchased by Qualcomm Corporation for $18 million, and in 2017 by San Diego County Credit Union. A statue of Jack Murphy and his dog, Abe still stands outside of the K gate entrance.
The NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers used to play at SDCCU Stadium, as did the MLB’s San Diego Padres, but currently the only tenant is the SDSU Aztecs football team, who have played here since the venue opened in 1967.
Because of the probability of good weather throughout the year, San Diego is an excellent candidate for winter events. Because of the proximity to many hotels, SDCCU Stadium is an excellent candidate to host those events. Currently, it is the home to two college bowl games (Poinsettia and Holiday) and has hosted three Super Bowls (XXII, XXXII, XXXVII). With all the new NFL stadiums going up around the nation, however, it seems SDCCU Stadium’s days of hosting Super Bowls are probably over.
Food & Beverage 4
The concessions menu for an Aztecs football game benefits from being in an NFL stadium. Though not all the stands are open for an SDSU game, there is still plenty to choose from.
The most basic of these options is the $5.50 Charger Dog, or the $9 Two Point Conversion (two Charger Dogs). Pretzels, popcorn, burgers, and nachos are plenty in variety and availability. Slices of Oggi’s pizza are $7.50.
For those craving Mexican fare, “Tortilla Junction” offers Old Town Nachos (Carne Asada or Pollo for $12), a Walking Taco ($8), sides of Guacamole ($3), Margaritas ($11), or Corona/Pacifico beer ($8).
Another Chargers-inspired item is the “High Boltage Grill,” which includes SoCal Grilled Cheese ($6), Cheeseburger ($9.50), Bleu Bolt Burger ($12), and a Foot Long Hot Dog ($10).
SDCCU Stadium is one of the few college venues that serves alcohol. This includes the domestic options like Bud and Coors (16 oz aluminum bottle for $9) as well as local craft options from Oggi’s and Green Flash (12 oz bottle for $9).
SDCCU Stadium is not a great place to see college football. Heck, it was only slightly better for NFL football, as the Los Angeles Chargers had long been eager to find a new facility.
The third level of seating is not available for San Diego State games and sits empty throughout the season. Beyond that, they have seemingly random sections blocked off with Aztecs banners. Beyond one end zone, there is a series of “S D S U” banners that both block off empty seats and create a sense that this is the Aztecs home. I have no problem with that. The weird thing is the random sections scattered throughout the lower bowls that are covered with banners and worse yet, the sections blocked off by yellow caution tape. A little weird.
The venue is just too large. An impressive 30,000 fan crowd seems much smaller in a stadium that holds 70,000. The passionate fans tend to be grouped in different sections but seem too separated from the rest of the crowd.
I like music. I like loud music. I don’t like blown out speakers playing the same awful song over and over again. SDCCU Stadium has an awful sound system and the gameday crew should realize its limitations.
The facade is entirely made of gray concrete. This was status quo when the facility was built and feels like the dual-sport venues from the past.
One of the nice things about the atmosphere is that the stadium sits in a beautiful valley surrounded by rolling Southern California hills. This, combined with the awesome San Diego weather, makes for a comfortable day or night out. The only issue with view of the rolling hills is that the stadium is almost entirely enclosed, making the views only visible from the outer concourse.
I initially sat in the lower box but chose to move up a bit because the incline was too shallow and was hard to see over the players on the sidelines. Something to consider.
The neighborhood is not a traditionally great neighborhood for a college football venue but it is not without its positives.
SDCCU Stadium is not located on the campus of San Diego State but is a short drive away. Many of the residents around the stadium are students in apartments or young families. To that end, there are a few pre or postgame spots of interest.
Oggi’s is a pizza and brewpub joint that has locations scattered around Southern California. This is an excellent option as they have a little something for anyone on the menu and has a sports bar feel with plenty of televisions to catch the early college games of the day. The local location is in Mission Valley on Fenton Parkway.
Islands is a popular local burger chain that serves high-quality, mountainous burgers. They have a few locations but the nearest to SDCCU Stadium is also on Fenton Parkway.
There is plenty of fast food in the neighborhood if you need to grab and go.
One of the benefits of SDCCU Stadium’s location, and perhaps the reason for there being two bowl games, is that the stadium is very near Mission Valley and Hotel Circle. At Hotel Circle, there are all types of hotels, from low to high, and is the hub for tourists that are not staying near the beaches. Adjacent to Hotel Circle is a huge mall with high-end retail options (this is what I mean about it not being a typical college football neighborhood).
San Diegans are, in general, known for their laid back attitude. This extends, to a certain extent, to sports. Aztecs fans are the typical San Diego friendly type, with an intensity when it comes to the game.
SDSU is a large state school and benefits from a student body that comes from near and far. The Aztecs at times feel like the local team and at other times like a Saturday destination for alumni from out of town. The great weather helps bring alumni back but also caters to being a great road destination for visiting fans.
You’ll see many fans wearing #28 in honor of former running back Marshall Faulk and they do an S-D-S-U cheer after every score.
Because alcohol is served at this large venue, it seems a bit like a scaled-down NFL experience. There are plenty of students partying but there are also plenty of fans every bit as engaged. It’s a good mix. You just wish the venue was about half the size to really have a feel of the fans.
SDCCU Stadium is very near three major freeways; I-8, I-805 and I-15. Getting off the freeway and into the parking lot is clear and convenient but the lines can be long. Parking is $10 and tailgating with open flame and alcohol is allowed but no glass is permitted.
Another good option, especially if you’d like to continue drinking at the game, is to take the San Diego Trolley. This light rail style train has a stop essentially in the SDCCU Stadium parking lot. The green line is the route to take which extends from downtown in the southwest and Santee in the northeast.
Getting through the gates is easy as there are a ton of available entrances. One catch is that many of the exits aren’t available to pass through after the game and they scale down to just three exits. Therefore, be sure you remember the letter assigned to your parking area as you may not exit in the same location.
The stadium has two sides to the main concourse. The outer concourse is wider and is where most of the concessions and restrooms are. The inner concourse is much narrower but the traffic flows quickly because nobody is stopping for anything, people are just heading to their seats.
Long escalators can take fans to the club and upper levels. If you prefer to walk there is a cement circular ramp that you can take; a cool aesthetic feature to an otherwise bland facade.
One confusing aspect is getting down to the lower box area. If you enter what you think is your numbered section and head down and down and down, you’ll hit a fence. You need to turn around and go back up the stairs to the concourse and find one of the stairways down to the lower level. This staircase and lower concourse is entirely enclosed and not the nicest area of the stadium. Once to the lower concourse, head back up the stairs to the lower box area.
Return on Investment 3
One of the cool things about SDSU games is that there isn’t a huge discrepancy in price between seats in different levels. The price point is a very reasonable $23-$40. With the $10 parking, it’s a good price to see quality MWC football, albeit in a less than appealing venue. Concessions are high for a college venue but you can supplement that by tailgating prior to the game.
Another point about the return on investment. Though, it will never be a top college football venue, and perhaps it’s one of the worst, its location and certain conveniences allow for a great out-of-town fan experience. Since it’s right next to Hotel Circle, not far from downtown attractions and beaches and has an excellent parking lot for pregame festivities, it should be a venue for out-of-town fans to circle every year and make a whole weekend out of it.
I enjoyed my time at the Aztecs game but I wish there was more of an effort made to make it feel like their home. I understand the difficulties when sharing with the Chargers but the only nods to the Aztecs are the temporary banners strewn over vacant seats and a large banner near their locker room entrance with photos of old SDSU players.
Two things of note not Aztecs related. First, the cool statue of sportswriter Jack Murphy and his dog, Abe, outside of the stadium. Second, the placard signifying section 55 has been modified to look the Chargers uniform numbers for the late, great Junior Seau.
It seems that SDSU does not have the land to build an on-campus facility for their football team. The good news is that it is not far from the campus and is a convenient location for fans from the region to get to. Though it’s unlike some of the special college venues, it is a fine place for the Aztecs to play.
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