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College football: Aztecs taking different stadium approach than Hawaii

October 25, 2017 - 12:05am

The university’s football home is an aging, deteriorating stadium that will cost upwards of $100 million just in basic health and safety repairs to maintain for another decade.

But a new, smaller facility in the 35,000-seat range on adjacent land in the current footprint is envisioned as part of a public-private partnership.

Aloha Stadium?

Well, it could be, but in this instance we’re also talking the Rainbow Warriors’ opponent this week in Halawa — San Diego State.

Behind the scenes of their on-the-field competition there are parallel hopes of getting in new homes in the next five to seven years. But a key difference is the paths they are taking to get there and the constituencies they are relying upon.

One, Hawaii, is being guided by the vision of the appointed Aloha Stadium Authority and trusting in the long haul backing of the governor and legislators to see the project through to conclusion.

The other, San Diego State, is looking to its public arm, Friends of SDSU, to spearhead its proposal and largely eschewing elected officials by taking it directly to the city’s voters on a one-shot, winner-take-all basis against a rival group.

Friends of SDSU (the school is not permitted to directly campaign for a ballot initiative) last week began a petition drive to secure approximately 71,000 signatures of registered voters to place a proposal to secure the land on next year’s ballot and replace the 50-year-old San Diego County Credit Union Stadium (formerly known as Qualcomm, Jack Murphy, etc.).

In that it would be going head-to-head on the ballot against SoccerCity, of which Landon Donovan is an investor.

The Aztecs have also commissioned a prominent architectural firm used in Aloha Stadium studies, Populous of Kansas City, Mo., to come up with renderings for a new stadium by the end of next month. The stadium is envisioned as part of a westward expansion of the landlocked SDSU campus that is already connected by public transport.

UH, meanwhile, after commissioning its own study in 2014 by then-athletic director Ben Jay, is waiting to see what becomes of the Aloha Stadium Authority’s push with the governor and legislature. Current AD David Matlin said UH is not now promoting a separate proposal.

UH and SDSU are the only schools in the 12-member Mountain West Conference that do not own or operate the stadiums that they play in and are in increasing need of new facilities.

Another MWC member, Colorado State, opened its $220 million, 36,500-seat, on-campus stadium this season, while Nevada-Las Vegas will piggyback the Raiders’ move into a $1.9 billion, domed 65,000-seat stadium there sometime around 2020.

SCCU Stadium, which seats 70,561, opened in 1967 at a cost of $27 million. Aloha Stadium, which has a 50,000-seat capacity, debuted in 1975 at a cost of $32 million.

SDSU’s needs were given added urgency by the relocation of the Chargers to Los Angeles and the area’s hopes of attracting a pro soccer franchise.

The Aztecs envision a 35,000-seat facility with a $150 million price tag that would suit both football and soccer and be expandable to 55,000 seats, should the NFL someday return to the city. It would be funded through donations, private development and a bond issue, a spokesman said.

Aloha Stadium studies have suggested a 31,000-seat facility expandable to 40,000 at a cost of $324.5 million (in 2017 dollars) with ancillary development to help defray costs.

But funding beyond what has already been earmarked for an environmental impact statement depends upon continued support from the governor and legislature for the project to move ahead.

Unlike Saturday’s game, determining the winner in the stadium sweepstakes will take a lot longer.

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