Thursday, May 05, 2005 | I remember being fairly enthusiastic when the San Diego Padres insisted they needed a baseball-only stadium.
It meant the Chargers and Aztecs wouldn’t have to play a third of a season on a field that was one-third bare-dirt baseball diamond.
Then the Padres decided the new baseball stadium had to be downtown, and I was enthusiastic again. The idea was to build the stadium in what was called East Village, next to Harbor Drive and directly across the street from the Convention Center.
That idea was, of course, insane, squeezing a 45,000-seat baseball stadium into the middle of a city-streets grid at least a mile from the nearest freeways with access from only two directions.
I surely believed, however, that at least one person connected with city government would see the good sense of placing a sports facility there. That person would see that the East Village area would profit from major renovation, the same way Horton Plaza rejuvenated the whole downtown core from Broadway south.
That person would have seen the benefit of having a multi-thousand seat facility next door to the Convention Center, and connecting them, making the sports facility available as a special events venue for Convention Center-based scheduling.
That person would also have known about the Sports Arena, out on Sports Arena Boulevard, and the shape it was in.
And in that person’s mind, a picture would have emerged, and a course of action. At least in one brain in the city, the idea would have formed to put, not a baseball stadium in East Village, but a new sports arena, seating 20,000 for basketball, hockey, Rolling Stones concerts, Billy Graham crusades, presidential nominating conventions and any use incorporating it with the Convention Center a tunnel’s length away.
Out on Sports Arena Boulevard, a massive civic celebration could have been organized around the date the bulldozers came to knock down the old Sports Arena. It would have been more fun to blow it up, and you could have heard the cheering in Jamul.
On that site, or actually a couple hundred yards west of the old Sports Arena location, a new baseball stadium would have risen, 45,000 seats, Early Californian, plazas, fountains, arcades, shops, parking acreage on the flanks of north-south and east-west Interstate highways. Best if the seating faced the downtown skyline to the south and Presidio Park to the east, but that might have put the sun too much in the batters’ eyes. But you still could get Presidio into the backdrop, with Mission Bay, the ocean and Alcala Ridge visible from the upper deck.
I thought surely in those days that such a scenario, killing two or three birds with one shot, would have crossed someone’s mind on C Street.
But it didn’t. Today smack in the middle of downtown we have a whale-in-a-washtub stadium named for dog food, the Western Metal Building for a view, cottage cheese traffic in the streets 70-odd summer nights a year, and out on Sports Arena Blvd., a totally unloved, critically ugly, distinctly smelly, steadily crumbling, flat non-acoustic edifice whose name is now – alarms! – the iPayOne Center. Oh well. It makes more sense this way, is totally more consistent with the stories about potholes, sewer, library, pension fund management, strip joint influence, Fashion Valley sinkholes and appointee-versus-special election debates.
There is a silver lining: the Chargers and Aztecs get to play on grass. But of course the Chargers want a new stadium … Hey! Blow up the iPayOne Center, build an 80,000-seat Early Californian stadium there with thoughtful access from the interstates, put the new sports arena in Mission Valley where even Friars Road could handle … oh, never mind.
Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at