When the whistle blew on Super Bowl XXXVII on Jan. 27, 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tasted Super Bowl victory for the first time, and San Diego tasted the Super Bowl experience for the last.
At the time, National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue hinted that this could be San Diego's final Super Bowl at a lunch that included reporters, when he said “the outlook doesn't look promising” for future Super Bowls. But now that San Diego's hometown Chargers have spent two years trying to locate a site for a new stadium, CityBeat checked in with the league for a final answer. Would the NFL like to come back to San Diego for a Super Bowl?
“Yes, but only in a different stadium,” wrote NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy in an e-mail with some questionable grammar. “Stadium is sub-optimal on its own and even more so when compared to other first-class stadiums San Diego competes against to host the Super Bowl.”
San Diego's stadium has hosted three Super Bowls in the past—in 1988 (when it was still The Murph), 1998 and 2003, generally to rave reviews from visitors. But the stadium was built in 1965, and despite expensive renovations in the late 1990s, it remains what it was: an aging dual-use stadium in an age of specialty sites. That's because Qualcomm was built to house both the Chargers in football and the Padres in baseball. The dual use meant the stands had to be built to accommodate the rectangular football field as easily as the baseball diamond. And for fans, that could be a problem: Seats angled for a good view of home plate during a Padres game were turned all wrong for a football game. Seats at the 50-yard line are farther from the field than they are at other stadiums, and support pillars that present no problem for one sport can stand directly in the view of a fan of the other.
Compounding all the problems, the stadium is simply old. The Chargers have been saying for years that Qualcomm can't compete with fancy renovations like what happened with Lambeau Field in Green Bay, or spiffy new stadiums like the one the New England Patriots built in Massachusetts.
McCarthy echoed these problems as he outlined what he expects in a Super Bowl-friendly stadium: “a world-class experience that NFL fans who have attended other Super Bowls are accustomed to. [S]ightlines that accommodate all fans. [F]irst-class fan amenities such as spacious concourses, variety of food options and concession areas, many more bathrooms. Larger number of suites and club seats.”
But he emphasized that San Diego possesses many of the traits that the league wants in a Super Bowl city: “hotels, hospitality facilities, restaurants, weather, ancillary activities such as golf, ample volunteer base, friendly people,” he wrote.
The Chargers, meanwhile, have been aware of this problem for some time. They're currently closely examining a site in Oceanside as a possible location. Mark Fabiani, who speaks for the team on these matters, also promised that they're still not taking calls from other cities. San Diego may not get any more Super Bowls, but it seems like it still gets to keep its team.
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