Photo by Ford in 1984 of Tokyo Olympic Stadium of 1964 destroyed

Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, national award by AIA, facing destruction to satisfy NFL


New football stadiums have been a contentious problem with many U.S. cities, unless the team owner or a benefactor puts up most of the money. Taxpayers in the mid-West and Eastern states seem to be more inclined to pick up most of the tab for a new stadium in order to keep a professional team in their city. Now the problem of who pays has spread into an international debate.

Japan hosted the Olympic games in 1964 with a spectacular stadium that was left to disrepair despite its architectural innovation. It was a landmark in central Tokyo.  I toured the derelict facility in 1994 and was impressed. Now a new Olympic stadium is required for the 2020 Olympics since the landmark previous stadium was demolished in 2015. Perhaps it could have been rehabilitated and recycled rather than incurring an estimated construction cost of $2 billion for a new one, the costliest stadium to date.

The city of Tokyo is clashing with the Diet, the Japanese parliament, over which authority will have to pony up most of the money for the new stadium. Apparently local government and taxpayers are not too keen on the extravagant cost to always have a state-of-the-art facility for sporting events Olympic games are not known to make money for the host city..

Not to be upstaged by the Tokyo Olympic Stadium conflict, San Diego is experiencing the reality of  a new stadium slipping away. The local Chargers team is obviously more interested in relocating in Los Angeles, with or without sharing a new stadium with the Oakland Raiders. This last month has been filled with major encounters between city officials, the team owners and representatives from the NFL to plot the big shift in  NFL markets.

The deadline seems to be approaching when the all-powerful NFL team owners will be making a decision of which of the three teams competing for the Los Angeles market will be given official sanction. Interestingly enough, there has been little publicity about how the Los Angeles public is reacting to the proposal of two different sites for a football stadium,and who pays for it.

Perhaps that’s because the city government and residents haven’t been asked to pony up hundreds of millions of dollars to build the new stadium. The partnership of Oakland and San Diego has already acquired the property and displayed plans for a jointly used facility. The city of Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles, has shown enthusiastic response to host a NFL team. Apparently the citizens haven’t been asked to contribute millions of dollars – yet

The St. Louis team has made a commitment in another location that is better connected to freeways and near the Los Angeles Airport with other sports facilities nearby. Presumably the complete financing by the wealthy team owner is on the table as the taxpayers of Los Angeles have not voted to provide any funds.

Meanwhile in San Diego, despite all the efforts of city officials and their consultants, the push for a new stadium either in Mission Valley or Downtown has failed to rally public support to invest public funds to replace a perfectly good facility. The Qualcomm stadium is definitely in need of major upgrades and deferred maintenance. Some experts believe that the cost of demolition could be invested in these improvements to make the facility more acceptable to the home team and its fans.

A recent tour of the Qualcomm organized by Frank Hope Jr., the architect for the award winning facility, accompanied by a group of 40 architects determined that the stadium has “good bones” and can be modified to suit the current requirements for a first-class stadium. The Mission Valley site has easy access to major freeways, a trolley line and plenty of parking. Some of the 166 acres could be rezoned for development to help with the cost of renovations.

If the Chargers win a bid to relocate in Los Angeles, there’s even better justification to retain the present stadium. A popular alternative use is a satellite campus of San Diego State University which would also serve as its sports center. The Mission Valley site is only one trolley stop from the main campus and could provide necessary parking for the students on the main campus. The Aztec football team and the two holiday bowls would still have a stadium to use. Some of the interior space is suitable to convert to classroom activity and other university functions to relieve the main campus of congestion.

By keeping the present stadium there would be little cause for Cory Briggs to file yet another lawsuit to prevent new development. He’s been successful in blocking the convention center expansion and surely would be opposed to any new development on the Mission Valley Stadium site.

At least most of the media frenzy will slow when the NFL owners make their choice for the Los Angeles market. According to present polls, the citizens of San Diego are not too keen on putting up tax dollars to support billionaire sports team owners.

Besides I once read that football was made for television. That’s where the revenues are and the majority of the fans who want to watch a game.