Mountain West’s new stadium stars have big plans

The University of Hawaii and San Diego State aren’t just competitors on the football field Saturday, when they meet for the Mountain West Conference West Division championship.

They are also waiting to see which of their home stadiums, both touted as game-changers for their athletic departments, will rise off the drawing board and into successful operation first.

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The MWC is in the midst of an unprecedented boom in stadium building that could see four new facilities open in a seven-year period, including downsized replacements for 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium and the 70,561-seat San Diego County Credit Union Stadium.

UH played in the newest one, Colorado State’s year-old, 41,000-seat campus Canvas Stadium, to open the 2018 season. And the Rainbow Warriors and their traveling fans last week drove by Nevada-Las Vegas’ rising home for 2020, the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium adjacent to the I-15 freeway and across from the Mandalay Bay hotel.

What is now known as Sam Boyd Stadium, home to UNLV, opened in 1971 and it remained the newest football facility other than Aloha Stadium for one of the current 12 members until Canvas Stadium debuted in 2017.

Allegiant, for which Nevada citizens put up $750 million in tax bonds, will be shared with the NFL Raiders and be an anchor for a planned industry and events district. Officials said Monday the gleaming facility is 70% completed and should open on schedule and on budget in July 2020.

Meanwhile, San Diego State and the State of Hawaii have announced timelines to open their facilities in 2022 and ‘23, and are taking different paths to get there.

The Aztecs, who have been tenants of the City of San Diego, which owns SDCCU, are in the process of buying 133 acres in Mission Valley, including land the stadium sits on, from the city. It is 4 miles from its Montezuma Mesa campus. The school has a pending offer of $87.7 million before the city council and hopes to close escrow by March 27, 2020, though that could be problematic. Construction could run $250 million-$300 million.

San Diego State athletic director John David Wicker said the school would hire a firm to run the stadium and is currently looking to sell naming rights and also hopes to bring in pro soccer and rugby teams as tenants.

The overall 166-acre parcel, Wicker said, is envisioned to be part of an innovation district that the school hopes will allow faculty, staff and students to work alongside corporations in bio-tech, pharmacy or defense sectors.

UH, meanwhile, will remain a tenant of the state, which is supplying $350 million in funding and is in the process of seeking a public-private partnership with prospective developers for possible entertainment, restaurant, shop and hotel development.

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“We are pleased with the progress of the New Aloha Stadium Entertainment District project,” said Stacey Jones of Crawford Architects, which is overseeing the project for the state. “We are continuing with the environmental impact statement and master planning process and moving toward selecting a developer and design team. We want these partners to help deliver a state-of-the-art, multi-use, sports and entertainment venue,” Jones said in response to questions from the Star-Advertiser.

“That will be something, for teams within a potential (seven-year) time frame to get new stadiums,” Wicker said. “That will be something that hasn’t been done, certainly not any time recently.”

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