Qualcomm Stadium: Past, Present, and Future
Qualcomm Stadium: Past, Present, and Future

Recently I attended the AIA San Diego’s Preservation Committee’s tour of Qualcomm Stadium (I am the committee’s secretary). Soon after its completion in 1967, this multipurpose facility, originally called San Diego Stadium, won the AIA National Honor Award. The tour made it clear to me that there is still plenty to like about the stadium.


Frank Hope, Jr., whose firm designed the facility, shared fascinating insights with our tour group. To become familiar with the state of the art of stadium design, in the mid-1960’s he visited new stadiums across the U.S.. He found these to be highly prominent but unattractive structures. He vowed to create a stadium that was a beautiful building. In order to do this, chief designer Gary Allen made numerous design innovations. For example:


*By raising the grade upon which the stadium was built, the design reduced the risk of flood damage and also lessened the facility’s perceived height (the field and the first several rows of seating are actually lower than the entry elevation).


*The exterior wall of the stadium is capped by a continuous, elevated, rail-like structure (at upper left in photo) housing the light fixtures that illuminate the playing field. Maintenance of the lights is simple- workers can use the support structure to reach each light fixture. Numerous individual fixtures are consolidated into a single, visually cohesive element. The openings below this structure make the stadium seem less massive.


*Circular ramp-towers have a pleasing simplicity that belies their efficiency (the round shape ramps allows each of the ramp entrance and exits to line up vertically) and their economy (pre-cast concrete spandrels were used for the guard walls of each ramp). The ramp-towers are reminiscent of the spiral ramp inside Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum.


 As the tour drew to a close, we speculated what might happen to this stadium if a replacement for it is ever built. Historians tell us that in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries AD, much of the Coliseum of Rome was covered with houses and gardens. If no longer valued as a sports venue, perhaps Qualcomm Stadium could take on some new but useful function, just as the great Coliseum did in the past.

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