San Diego’s year-round moderate weather also makes a retractable roof unnecessary. Less heating and air conditioning is needed as well.
“The way that you live outdoors, (we wanted to make) sure that the stadium would have accommodations that allow people to be at the stadium and enjoy the game in the same way they do in their own backyard,” he said.
San Diego’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle is reflected in a series of 18 “garden rooms” ringing the stadium concourse, each offering a different theme inspired by San Diego’s diverse neighborhoods with individualistic menus.
Entering the stadium, visitors will be able to look from the concourse down into the field, 30 feet below grade, and back out to Mission Valley and hills and mountains beyond. They will thus be connected to the stadium’s surroundings, not divorced from them.
In a departure from traditional financing approaches, SDSU is not counting on state funds, student fees or taxpayer subsidies.
The annual debt payment will be covered by stadium revenues, including sponsorships, donations from SDSU alumni and supporters, fees from professional sports teams, rents from the various hospitality venues throughout the building and food, beverage and merchandise concessions.
Athletics Director John David Wicker said the funding assumptions will be tested over coming months as the campus explores interest from concert and sports promoters and restaurateurs — even truck pull organizers.
“You name it, we’ll host it,” he said.
The stadium seating is divided into the lower levels rising from the field and the upper levels above the concourse.
There will be club seats, luxury suites, movable field-level loge boxes and “drink rails” that fans can lean against on the south terrace.
On the north end, there will be a student zone with student-priced concessions.
“We will work with student leaders to build out areas they can truly call their own,” Wicker said.
The stadium is a far cry from SDCCU Stadium’s massive, award-winning all-concrete design with is signature circular pedestrian ramps designed to route people quickly to their seats. But building an iconic landmark was not the goal.
“San Diego’s big thing is its lifestyle outdoors,” Radecic said.
Parking will also diverge radically from the present arrangement of more than 15,000 spots spread over tens of acres of asphalt.
Instead, there will be room for only 1,000 tailgating cars on a grassy area just west of the stadium.
An additional 5,000 spots will be located underneath the academic and company office buildings to the south, where workers will be expected to be gone in time for game-day fans at night and on weekends.
When attendance peaks for major games and events, fans can park at SDSU’s main campus, take the trolley to the game or hail a ridesharing vehicle. In the future, an autonomous vehicle could drop them off.
Officials don’t believe the old parking formulas and transportation patterns will be needed in the years ahead.
As for the playing field, Populous architects have designed seating to ensure the proper sightlines for all “rectangular” sports, such as soccer, lacrosse and rugby, as well as football.
When attendance is low, canopies can be rolled out to cover the empty seats.
Major League Soccer prefers stadiums of 25,000 seats or less, but Wicker thinks the sport’s growing popularity will eventually need as many seats as Aztec Stadium will offer.
If the NFL returns to San Diego, an additional 20,000 seats could be installed by adding new decks and redesigning the end zone seating areas. New luxury suites also could be incorporated.
The Aztecs originally played at a 1930s stadium on the Montezuma Mesa campus, now partly covered by Viejas Arena. And they’ve been playing at SDCCU Stadium since it was built.
“SDSU fans have long dreamed of a day we would return Aztec football to campus,” Wicker told the crowd gathered at SDCCU for the rollout of the stadium plans. “That final journey begins today.”
The project can’t go forward until the voters decide whether they like SoccerCity, a similarly conceived, mixed-use project or SDSU Mission Valley.
Both ballot initiatives are headed for the Nov. 6, 2018, election.
The first is sponsored by La Jolla-based FS Investors and tied to the awarding of an MLS franchise. The San Diego City Council certified the initiative petitions earlier this year.
The second initiative drive has been mounted by a group of SDSU supporters, who hope to gather 100,000 signatures by the end of the month.
The measure with the most votes will win.
SDSU cannot take a position on ballot measures but for years it has publicly spoken of needing a place to expand from its landlocked, 288-acre campus.
SoccerCity project manager Nick Stone said his group tried to partner with SDSU to share the costs evenly for a joint-use stadium.
“This is a waste of taxpayer money,” he said, although the campus says no such money is involved, “and if the SDSU West initiative were to prevail, San Diego will not be granted a Major League Soccer expansion team.”
Wicker acknowledged that FS Investors holds exclusive rights to an MLS team in San Diego and said he would contact other professional soccer leagues, as well as other professional sports franchises, to see if they are interested in sharing Aztec Stadium.
In anticipation of the SDSU ballot measure, campus leaders unveiled its $3 billion “SDSU Mission Valley” Wednesday.
Like SoccerCity, it includes offices and retail, hotels, housing and parkland — as well as a major sports facility.
Both groups want to get control of the city-owned site, one of the largest developable sites in the city, and intend to pay fair market value for the land, as determined by independent appraisers. (FS Investors plans to buy 79 acres and lease the rest.)
With the departure of the Chargers earlier this year for Los Angeles, the city has announced plans to close SDCCU Stadium at the end of 2018 and save the $10 million in annual operating costs.
The campus hopes to win city approval by next spring to extend the Aztec football lease until the new stadium is built.
Wicker said negotiations are ongoing with Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office but there is no deadline to reach agreement.
SDSU has already discussed playing at Petco Park in the 2019 season, but conflicting schedules with the Padres, the cost to adapt the field to football and short-term use make that a problematic solution.
Officials said if voters favor SDSU over SoccerCity, they would spend all of 2019 completing design drawings.