Hayes: Now is the Time
Nov. 30, 2017
SAN DIEGO -
Hayes: Now is the Time
It's only the first step, but San Diego State University offered a glimpse on Thursday of a reality most Aztec football fans probably never thought possible -- an on-campus home.
SDSU officially revealed its plans for a new privately-funded, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose, 35,000-seat stadium as part of its westward expansion into Mission Valley. The facility would serve as the centerpiece of "SDSU Mission Valley," a 166-acre secondary campus and provide Aztec football with a long-awaited home. After decades of struggling to find a way to bring a stadium to campus, San Diego State's concept is instead bringing its campus to the stadium.
And oh, what a sight it is.
"We see this as an avenue, with a new stadium, to go to bigger and greater heights," SDSU football coach Rocky Long said during a Thursday-morning ceremony at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium. "This is a win for San Diego State. We're land-locked. We can't get any bigger and we can't get any better. This gives us a chance to get bigger and better along the way."
Thursday's stadium renderings were provided by Populous, a global architectural design firm that counts three Olympic arenas, 13 NFL stadiums, Yankee Stadium and recent NCAA football venues at Colorado State, Baylor and the University of Minnesota among its 2,000 completed projects. Populous senior principal Scott Radecic also said the facility would neatly accommodate a potential Major League Soccer partner and could be expanded from 35,000 seats to 55,000 if the NFL ever chooses to return to San Diego.
The effort would mark the return of on-campus football for SDSU for the first time since it played home games at Aztec Bowl, the current site of Viejas Arena. The Aztecs moved into then-Jack Murphy Stadium along with the San Diego Chargers in 1967. The San Diego Padres moved in two years later.
"SDSU fans have long dreamed of the day we would return Aztec football to campus and that final journey begins today," said SDSU director of athletics John David Wicker.
But a captivating aspect of the entire project is how its scope is about far more than the university's athletic programs.
SDSU's western foray would feature an entirely new campus, including a "world-class" research center, 4,500 housing units and 90,000 square feet of retail space near the stadium. The project also includes about 90 acres of parkland, including four miles of trails for running, hiking and biking, two hotels, five 22-story residential towers and roughly 1.6 million square feet of office space to be shared by SDSU and private companies.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the university in a location that is both close to the main campus and large enough to accommodate the university's growth needs," said SDSU president Sally Roush. "It is a plan with the heart and spirit of a modern university campus that will serve higher education and the community's aspirations for the site."
Still, one can't help but dream about what this project potentially could mean for a football program headed to its eighth consecutive bowl game later this season.
Long a visitor in their own home before the Chargers skipped town, the new stadium would offer Aztec fans a game-day experience previously unavailable to them. An intimate home setting compared with sprawling 70,000-seat SDCCU Stadium also potentially would offer a better homefield advantage and a drawing card for recruits.
Again, Thursday was only the first step. Competition for the 166-acre site will be tough, a public vote would be necessary and then it still must all come together.
But at least for now the Aztecs finally appear to have a strong plan for a home of their own.
"We've talked about this I don't know how many conversations through the years," said Aztec football and basketball announcer Ted Leitner. "If only the Aztecs had their own stadium on campus -- wouldn't that be wonderful?
"Now is the time."