Aztecs moving home football games to Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park

Aztecs moving home football games to Carson's Dignity Health Sports Park


One City. No team.

Here to stay?

Not for the next two seasons.

San Diego State football fans were excited last month when the Aztecs broke ground on a new stadium targeted to be ready in time for the 2022 season.

Now something Aztecs fans probably won’t be too excited about in the two seasons leading up to the grand opening: SDSU will play its home games at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson until its new $310 million, 35,000-seat stadium opens.

SDSU officials announced the temporary move 111 miles north — to the same stadium where the Chargers played for three seasons after moving to Los Angeles in 2017 — on Tuesday morning, saying in a release that the change of venue is a “decision (that) allows the University to expedite its work on the construction site adjacent to SDCCU Stadium and continue progress on a new stadium.”

The Aztecs planned to play the 2020 season at SDCCU Stadium. When the season was postponed to the spring because of coronavirus concerns, however, a school spokesman said it made playing at SDCCU Stadium problematic.

SDSU players were informed of the decision Tuesday morning, shortly before it was made public in a release by the school.

“It’s a decision that was not entered into lightly,” said John David Wicker, SDSU’s director of athletics. “We spent a lot of time working through this. However, at the end of the day as we think about long term and opening the new Aztec Stadium in 2022, where it can be most successful … This made the most sense.”

Added Wicker: “We chose to go with certainty. We are certain that we’ve started construction and that the fall of 2022 is very achievable. With the uncertainty surrounding when exactly we might start the (2020) football season, we felt it best to go ahead and make this move. It allows us to pick up a little time on demolition of the current stadium.”

While the athletic director attempted to put a positive spin on going north up the freeway(s) to Los Angeles — “Our fans are going to see a much improved experience as well. Better video boards. Better concessions. It’s just going to take a little bit longer to get there” — he also realized there would be a significant number of Aztecs fans who are not looking forward (and others who simply won’t) to spending 2-3 hours on Southern California freeways going back and forth to games.

“Again, it’s a short-term thing,” Wicker said. “We are San Diego State University. We are going to be here forever. We are excited that we are going to build a stadium in San Diego. … We are part of this community. We are just going to run up the road a little bit to play football, and then we’re going to come back and open a phenomenal stadium and continuing developing a campus that is great for San Diego.”

SDSU season ticket holders have been given three options for their 2020 season packages — donate the cost of tickets to the Aztec Club, apply money paid toward seats for the fall the 2021 season at Dignity Health Sports Park or request a refund. The school directed fans to contact the Aztec Ticket Office by email at [email protected]

Ticket purchases for the postponed 2020 season that has been pushed to spring 2021 are being handled separately because of the uncertainty of 1) whether there is a spring season and 2) whether fans are allowed to attend games at Dignity Health Sports Park.

According to a school spokesman, playing home games at another local venue was not an option because Dignity Health Sports Park is the nearest available site that can accommodate the crowd for SDSU football games, which drew an average announced crowd last season of 29,896.

The largest local venues for football beyond SDCCU Stadium are located at USD, Southwestern College and Mesa College and none of them seat more than 7,500 fans. Petco Park seats 40,209, but the field is not large enough to accommodate football as presently configured.

“We looked in San Diego,” Wicker said. “As you think about a Division I football experience and all of the different things that go along with that, there really wasn’t a venue in town that was going to be consistently available for us to play in.”

This news means the SDCCU Holiday Bowl also will be looking for a new venue. Holiday Bowl officials have had discussions with the Padres about taking the game downtown to Petco Park. That was viewed as a long-term destination, however, and the 2020 Holiday Bowl — if there is one — was still planned for SDCCU Stadium.

Wicker was asked during a midday media conference call about the optics and potential negative blow-back of moving games to the same stadium the Chargers played in when they left town.

“I’m not worried about the Chargers,” Wicker said. “The Chargers couldn’t build a football stadium in San Diego. The Chargers couldn’t figure it out. The Chargers chose to leave San Diego and become the Los Angeles Chargers. We’re building a stadium for the community. We’re building a campus for the community. We’re building residential for the community. We’re all about San Diego. … We are San Diego State University. One City. One team. We’re going to take a quick trip up the interstate and then we’re coming back.”

This also means a Rolling Stones concert at SDCCU Stadium that had been postponed from May 8 because of the coronavirus now is canceled.

According to a one-paragraph statement: “Due to the closing of SDCCU Stadium, The Rolling Stones are no longer able to play their postponed show at the venue. Refunds will automatically be processed via Ticketmaster. The promoter, Concerts West, is working now to secure a suitable SoCal venue for the show. Ticket holders for the cancelled SDCCU Stadium show will be offered an exclusive pre-sale to the rescheduled concert.”

Wicker had stated previously that SDCCU Stadium would be used through the 2021 season and then be taken down in the first quarter of 2022. That time frame moves up a year with this announcement.

“Once the sale of the site was finalized with the city and we knew we could play football in Aztec Stadium in fall 2022, based on all the information we had gathered, it became clear the existing stadium had to come down in the first quarter of 2021,” Wicker said in Tuesday’s release. “Our intention had been to play a final season in SDCCU Stadium. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced our hand and we must move the spring 2021 games as well.”

As the 135-acre property is built out over the next 10-15 years, the $3.5 billion project is planned to include a total of 86 acres of parks, recreation and open space as well as 1.6 million square feet of office and research space for the university to extend its footprint for educational and other endeavors.

A total of 4,600 housing units (10 percent for low-income housing) will be built, along with a 400-room hotel and nearly 100,000 square feet of campus retail space.

”This is not a decision we made lightly,” Tom McCarron, SDSU senior VP for SDSU Mission Valley Development said in the release. “Getting the site ready for future development is critical for SDSU to realize the vision we have shared with the community over the past many years. The accelerated development timeline not only keeps the stadium on schedule, but also the river park and development pads for the residential housing and innovation district.”

The Aztecs have played in the Mission Valley stadium since it opened 53 years ago, with the Don Coryell-coached Aztecs beating Tennessee State 16-8 on Sept. 15, 1967, in their first game there. With this decision, it means the last Aztecs game played there was a 13-3 victory over Brigham Young on Nov. 30. The last football game played there was the 2019 Holiday Bowl in which Iowa defeated USC 49-24 on Dec. 27.

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