Snapdragon Stadium Review: A GREAT New Home For The Aztecs
The San Diego State Aztecs disappointed in their season opener, but Snapdragon Stadium ROCKS.
Temperatures peaked at 108+ degrees and new concessions stands struggled, but this stadium will serve SDSU very well.
San Diego, CA – Saturday, September 3rd was a memorable day for Aztec Nation as San Diego State football played its first game in a brand new venue. The home team could not claim victory and it was the hottest day on record ever in San Diego for an official football match, including the NFL’s Chargers. While some concessions stands were not fully prepared to handle the crowd of 34,046 fans, a dynamite new venue is here to serve Aztecs football for many years to come if you look past the anomalies.
As an SDSU alum, a sports writer, and an Aztecs football and basketball superfan, I took it upon myself to cut through the national media’s headlines and provide a first-hand chronicle of the Snapdragon experience.
GAME ONE EXPERIENCE
Arriving at Snapdragon, my son Quinn and I reached Friar’s Road two-and-a-half hours before kickoff. We paid in advance online to park in the orange lot. Even arriving early, it took us 15 minutes from stadium entrance to the lot.
We parked and then entered the largest tailgate scene I’ve ever seen at an Aztecs event. Both the orange and yellow lots were fully packed with San Diego State tents, campers, flags, and fans. Aztec Nation was out in full force.
Walking through the orange lot and over to the yellow lot, we stopped by the Sons of Montezuma tailgate tent to visit founder, content director, and podcaster Matteo Ortiz as he hosted his live game day podcast, along with co-host Dan Morton. The crew gave out merchandise and distributed shirts, flags, and NIL gear to dedicated fans. I needed something to beat the heat, so Matteo handed me an AleSmith Aztec Ale in a S.O.M. koozie and we talked football. Sons of Montezuma is a growing, iconic part of the Aztec Nation, and Matteo’s podcasts are superb, featuring insightful player interviews.
Next, Quinn and I moved over to the festive Aztec Village just outside of the main entrance. DJs spun beats as affiliated companies held events for fans to enjoy, as well as food and drinks for everyone to sample. We visited the “Aztec Throne”, donning football helmets to do so, before entering the stadium entrance.
We entered the stadium quickly and easily with our electronic tickets. I won’t disclose what I paid for my section 110, Row 5 tickets, but I definitely did my part to help cover the $310,000,000 stadium bill. Inside, huge masses sought relief around mist stations and in the shade. It was 102 degrees.
Before the game, we ordered chicken and drinks at the Crack Shack. Two soft drinks (called “subscriptions”) cost $10 apiece. We also grabbed water and headed to our seats, just three rows from the field. It was unbelievably hot. At 12:15 PM, fifteen minutes before kickoff, a pair of F-17 Falcons flew overhead, followed by a short ceremony led by university president Adela De La Torre, who was subsequently booed, due to her cancellation of the Aztec Spirit Warrior. Microphones were not optimized, so fans noted speeches and later referee calls were not completely audible.
Until kickoff, most fans stayed beneath the upper deck in shaded areas, as it became pretty apparent the heat was not just a nuisance, but a critical situation. We saw people wheeled out on stretchers before the game started.
A Dos Equis indoor bar was built into the stadium, but fans needed a pricey club membership to attend. Word circulated that all enclosed restaurants, bars and lounges were VIP club membership only for the time being.
Aside from the stunning heat, the atmosphere just before kickoff was great. The sound system for music rocked, the university band trumpeted, the marching band was in formation on the field, cheerleaders danced, and coaches and staff were game time ready.
After kickoff, on the very first play it was clear the Aztecs had issues to work out… but this is not a game recap. By the end of the first quarter, the temperature had reached 108 degrees. Quinn and I had to step out of the sun every 25 minutes to avoid getting heat stroke and all shaded areas were jam packed with people who had the same idea.
By the second half, the whole stadium had run out of ice and water became scarce. When the third quarter rolled around, stadium employees obtained reserves and started handing out water for the sake of safety. More people were carted away on an ongoing basis, though.
With minutes left in the game, and with no illusions of an 18-point miracle comeback, we visited the SDSU Team Store, a nice air-conditioned merchandise center, for some Aztec gear. The shop was nice, but at full capacity. We then watched the end of the game before hitting the road. Getting from the lot to the interstate took 20 minutes.
The incredible hot weather was a freak event, as temperatures this time of year in San Diego are normally 20 degrees cooler (editor’s note: The high in San Diego one calendar year earlier was 75 degrees). In addition, most Aztecs home games start closer to 7:00 PM. Heat aside, this stadium rocks.
I have compiled a list of first-game anomalies, all of which are likely to be remedied in the near term. Next, I have detailed Snapdragon Stadium pros and cons and then will issue an overall grade.