Snapdragon Stadium update: New year signals sprint to the finish

The debut of Snapdragon Stadium, the first phase of SDSU Mission Valley, is now just eight months away.
(Kirk Kenney / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Seats, video boards, field on first-quarter to-do list with eight months remaining before stadium’s debut


Editor’s note: San Diego State aims to build its new 35,000-capacity stadium in time for the football team’s season opener against Arizona — Sept. 3, 2022 — which is now 243 days away. The Union-Tribune is doing monthly updates tracking the stadium’s progress.

It was quiet during a visit to the SDSU Mission Valley property on Saturday, except for a lone bulldozer driver pushing dirt back and forth just south of Snapdragon Stadium.

Apparently, he missed the memo that New Year’s Day is a holiday.

Or he was intent on making double time — triple time? — working on a holiday weekend.

Or maybe he was just joyriding.

There is joy among San Diego State fans as the calendar flips and the sprint begins toward the opening of Snapdragon Stadium, which is now just eight months away.

Asked if there is an added immediacy with 2022 upon us, Derek Grice, SDSU’s executive associate athletic director of Mission Valley development, said:

“There’s always urgency in everything we do in the way we’ve approached this. But I feel very comfortable with where we are. ... We’ve been planning for this moment. We’ve made sure that we’ve done all the things we need to do, pulled all the levers to stay on track and on budget.”

The $310 million stadium features 33,000 seats (plus 2,000 standing-room only space).

A special ceremony to commemorate placing the stadium’s first seat was scheduled for mid-December. Former SDSU stars Brian Sipe, Marshall Faulk and DJ Pumphrey were among those planning to attend the ceremony.

Steady rain the day before the event that created muddy grounds on the stadium floor led to the event being postponed. A makeup date has yet to be announced.

Seat installation was expected to begin nearly three weeks ago, although no seats were seen during a scan with binoculars Saturday looking down from the Serra Mesa hillside above the stadium.

Installing the seats is expected to last into April.

A week of late-December rain storms has not delayed progress, according to Grice.

“Every project has what we call ‘float,’ ” Grice said. The reference is to the window of time for starting various aspects of construction without putting the overall project behind.

“We’re fortunate in that we’ve gotten through a large portion of the project, which could have been impacted by rain earlier,” Grice said. “We’re at a place now where we’re able to focus in on those trades that we can (use) when we do have weather come around and be able to continue working toward our scheduled goal.

“There’s a lot of work going on inside, not only the outer buildings but also into the premium tower and outer spaces.”

Most notable on the exterior over the past month is work on the west (home) side where gathering spaces are being framed.

Snapdragon Stadium will feature grass areas adjacent to west entrance for premium parking during events.
(Kirk Kenney / San Diego Union-Tribune)

There also is an expanse of concrete at the northwest corner that looks somewhat out of place pointing toward Friars Road. It will seem more appropriately placed once the premium parking spaces are built west of the stadium. And when the 400-room hotel north of the stadium comes along in a later phase.

Snapdragon Stadium will include two Daktronics video boards (more on that next month). Panels are being installed on the back of the auxiliary board located at the northwest corner. Only the frame is evident now of the primary board at the southeast corner.

The video boards are expected to be completed in February and March, according to Grice.

He said seat installation will get going in earnest during January. Other work will include continuing to finish steps and other cast-in-place concrete on the site as well as hardscape and interior finishes, including drywall and utilities.

Attention soon will turn to the field itself. It has been used for heavy equipment to move steel and precast concrete into place, but that work is complete.

So preparation can begin with drainage and irrigation for the field as well as what Grice called “root zone materials” before sod installation comes in May or June.

“We’ll probably push that as late as we can,” Grice said. “We’ll continue to try to keep it growing off site and then do the sod installation, give us time to get it installed before we have a soft opening event.”

Several fans have had questions about parking and tailgating at the new stadium. Other aspects of site preparation need to be completed over the first few months of 2022 before school officials can best provide such details.

Elsewhere on the SDSU Mission Valley property:

The project is actually very visible from Friars Road at the moment.

Green construction fencing around the perimeter of the site is mostly gone, perhaps blown down by the high winds that accompanied recent storms.

It was not immediately known if it would be replaced.

Removed — finally — is the signage above the main entrance that labeled the facility as SDCCU Stadium.

The main entrance at SDSU Mission Valley is blocked off while underground work continues for drainage on the property.
(Kirk Kenney / San Diego Union-Tribune)

In fact, the main entrance to the stadium is blocked by concrete barriers.

That prevents access east to the Mission Village Drive frontage road, which is trenched down the middle.

Huge storm drain segments were notable on the eastern park of the property, waiting to be placed deep underground.

There is a hole at the center of the property where a stadium stood for half a century. Instead, there is a huge pile of crushed concrete from that stadium that will be used as fill on the property.

Much of the property’s east side — where 4,600 residential units as well as retail is planned — has been built up with fill. That phase of construction is still years off, and a great deal of dirt still needs to be pushed back and forth before site preparation is complete.

That guy in the bulldozer better have some buddies, or he’s going to be working every holiday for the foreseeable future.