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The Sports Arena
|Former names||San Diego International Sports Center (1966–70)|
San Diego Sports Arena (1970–2005; 2007–10)
iPayOne Center (2005–07)
Valley View Casino Center (2010–18)
|Address||3500 Sports Arena Blvd|
|Location||San Diego, California|
|Owner||City of San Diego|
|Operator||AEG / ASM Global|
Ice hockey, lacrosse indoor soccer: 12,920
|Broke ground||November 18, 1965|
|Opened||November 17, 1966|
|Construction cost||US$6.4 million|
($59.4 million in 2022 dollars)
|Architect||Mark L. Faddis|
|Structural engineer||Richard Bradshaw|
|General contractor||Trepte Construction Company|
San Diego State Aztecs (NCAA) (1966–97 part-time)
San Diego Gulls (WHL) (1966–74)
The arena seats 12,000 for indoor football, 12,920 for ice hockey, indoor soccer and box lacrosse, 14,500 for basketball and tennis, 5,450 for amphitheater concerts and stage shows, 8,900–14,800 for arena concerts, 13,000 for ice shows and the circus, and 16,100 for boxing and mixed martial arts.
The arena is currently home to four professional sports teams: the San Diego Seals of the National Lacrosse League (NLL), San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League (AHL), San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) and the San Diego Strike Force of the Indoor Football League (IFL). Historically, the arena has been home to numerous San Diego-based teams in several different sports. In 2013, U-T San Diego named the arena #3 on its list of the 50 most notable locations in San Diego sports history.
Location and access
The arena is located at 3500 Sports Arena Boulevard, which is slightly southwest of the interchange of Interstate 5 and Interstate 8. It is in the Midway neighborhood, approximately 10 minutes from San Diego International Airport by car and about a mile from the Old Town Transit Center by foot.
The arena was built in 1966 by Robert Breitbard, a local football hero who played for Hoover High School and San Diego State, for $6.4 million. The arena could seat 13,000 for hockey or 13,700 for basketball. At 77 feet tall, the arena was built six years before the current 30 foot maximum height restriction was put into place by the State Coastal Commission in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan.
The arena opened on November 17, 1966, when more than 11,000 pro hockey fans watched the San Diego Gulls (then a member of the Western Hockey League) win their season opener, 4–1, against the Seattle Totems.
Due to the rights to name the arena being sold over time, the arena has changed names:
- San Diego International Sports Arena (November 17, 1966—1970)
- San Diego Sports Arena (1970—March 19, 2005; May 9, 2007—November 12, 2010; December 1, 2018—December 5, 2018)
- iPayOne Center (March 20, 2005—May 8, 2007)
- Valley View Casino Center (November 13, 2010—November 30, 2018)
- Pechanga Arena (December 5, 2018—present)
Naming rights deals
iPayOne, a real estate savings company based in Carlsbad, California, held the arena's naming rights from 2004 until 2007. The deal was worth $2.5 million over five years. In April 2007 the leasing rights holder Arena Group 2000 cancelled the remainder of the contract due to non-payment by iPayOne.
On October 12, 2010, it was announced that the arena's name had been changed to the "Valley View Casino Center", under a $1.5 million, 5-year agreement between the arena operator AEG, the San Pasqual Band of Diegueno Mission Indians and the city of San Diego.
Valley View Casino's naming rights expired November 30, 2018, leaving the arena without an official name until the city council announced on December 4, 2018, that the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, owners of the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, had acquired for $400,000 per year the naming rights to the arena, officially renaming it "Pechanga Arena". The agreement expired in May 2020.
The arena opened on November 17, 1966, with the San Diego Gulls (then a member of the Western Hockey League) winning their season opener, 4–1, against the Seattle Totems. The Gulls were the arena's first tenant. The San Diego State Aztecs men's basketball team join the Gulls on a part-time basis soon afterwards; they played home games at the arena off-and-on to supplement their on-campus, much smaller venue, Peterson Gymnasium. The Aztecs played at the arena until 1997, when they opened their new on-campus venue, Viejas Arena.
On October 14, 1967, the NBA expansion San Diego Rockets became the arena's first professional basketball tenant when they played their season opener and first game in franchise history against the St. Louis Hawks, narrowly losing 98–99.
On January 12, 1971, the Rockets hosted the 1971 NBA All-Star Game at the arena.
At the conclusion of the 1970–71 NBA Season, the Rockets were sold and relocated to Houston. As a result, San Francisco Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli, who was looking for more support for his franchise, decided to make a play for the San Diego market (in addition to the Oakland market, where Oakland Arena had just received a renovation project). Mieuli changed his team's name to the Golden State Warriors for the upcoming season in order to target the state of California as a whole for a fanbase, instead of a single metropolitan area. The Warriors planned to split the season's home games between the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego. The Warriors ultimately hosted just six regular season home games at the San Diego Sports Arena, one each month of the 1971–72 season (October–March). The remainder of the Warriors' home games that season were played at Oakland Arena, where the Warriors settled full-time the following season.
As the Warriors returned to the Bay Area full-time after their brief experiment in San Diego, the NBA's primary competitor league, the American Basketball Association (ABA) awarded its first—and as it turned out, only—expansion team to San Diego. Dr. Leonard Bloom (President and CEO of the United States Capital Corporation) paid a $1 million expansion fee to the league to start the team. The San Diego Conquistadors began play in the 1972–73 ABA season; however, they were unable to use the Sports Arena for their first two seasons of existence due to a feud between Bloom and Peter Graham, manager of the city-owned 14,400-seat Sports Arena. The Conquistadors (or "Q's" as they were commonly known locally), played at Peterson Gymnasium on the campus of San Diego State University from 1972 until 1974 as a result of the feud.
In late 1974, the Q's were finally allowed to use the Sports Arena, but their first season at the arena would turn out to be their only full season there. In 1975, the ABA, facing mounting financial difficulties, was rumored to be discussing a merger with the NBA and the San Diego franchise was not to be included. The Conquistadors, freshly renamed the Sails, would cease operations just 11 games into the 1975–76 ABA season on November 12, 1975, when the ABA announced that it was folding the San Diego Sails franchise. The Sails were scheduled to host the Indiana Pacers on that day but the game was not played.
In 1972, the Republican Party considered the arena for its National Convention. With little warning, however, the GOP decided to hold the convention in Miami Beach. To compensate for this blow to local prestige, then-mayor (and future California governor) Pete Wilson gave San Diego the by-name of "America's Finest City", which is still the city's official moniker.
The arena was the host of the 1973 Muhammad Ali vs. Ken Norton boxing fight, which, by split decision, San Diego resident Norton won.
In 1978, less than three years after the Sails folded and the ABA's four surviving teams merged with the NBA, the NBA returned to San Diego with the relocation of the Buffalo Braves, which became the San Diego Clippers. In 1981, the Clippers were bought by Los Angeles-based developer Donald Sterling. Sterling, despite failing to gain approval from the NBA to relocate the team to Los Angeles in 1982 and again in 1984, did so anyway following the 1983–84 NBA season, which led to a lawsuit from the league. The team ultimately remained in Los Angeles, however, following a counter-lawsuit brought on by Sterling. The franchise has kept the Clippers name despite its reference being to the ships of San Diego Bay. San Diego has not hosted an NBA regular game since the Clippers' departure.
In both 1979 and 1981 at the San Diego Indoor Track Meet, Irish distance runner Eamonn Coghlan broke the world record for the indoor mile. A photo of him crossing the finish line appeared around the world including on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Coghlan's time for the 1981 race is still the world record for the indoor mile.
The arena has also been home of the San Diego Mariners of the World Hockey Association from 1974 to 1977, the San Diego Friars of World Team Tennis (WTT) from 1975 to 1978, the San Diego Sockers indoor soccer team, which won 10 titles in the arena, and other minor professional sports franchises. The San Diego Sockers made their return to the arena in 2012 for their fourth season in the PASL-Pro from Del Mar Arena. The San Diego Aviators of WTT relocated from New York City prior to the 2014 season and began playing their home matches in the arena. On December 29, 2014, the Aviators announced that the team would move its home matches to the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in nearby Carlsbad for the 2015 season.
The arena has hosted a series of UFC events. The arena hosted UFC Live: Jones vs. Matyushenko on August 1, 2010. The arena hosted UFC Fight Night: Mir vs. Duffee on July 15, 2015. The arena hosted UFC on ESPN: Vera vs. Cruz on August 13, 2022.
On August 7, 2016, the arena played host to the Arena Football League's Los Angeles Kiss as they faced the Cleveland Gladiators in the first round of the AFL Playoffs. The game was moved to San Diego due to the Kiss' home arena, the Honda Center in Anaheim hosting the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus that weekend. The Kiss would lose to the Gladiators 56–52 in front of a crowd of 4,692. It was the first AFL game ever to be played at the arena and the first arena football game played there since 2005, when the AF2's San Diego Riptide played their home games at the arena from 2002 to 2005.
On August 29, 2017, the National Lacrosse League (NLL) announced that billionaire owner Joseph Tsai of Alibaba had been awarded an NLL franchise to begin playing in November 2018 for the 2018–2019 season. The team is known as the San Diego Seals.
In November 2018, the Indoor Football League (IFL) announced an expansion team for the 2019 season called the San Diego Strike Force. The IFL became the top level of professional Indoor football in November 2019 when the Arena Football League announced it was folding.
The Stone Poneys played there on January 13, 1968.
Elvis Presley played there on November 15, 1970, and April 24, 1976. Attendance was 14,659 in 1970 and 17,500 in 1976.
The Grateful Dead played there on November 14, 1973.
Queen performed there four times to sold-out crowds. Their first concert was on March 12, 1976, for their A Night at the Opera Tour which was the band's first headline tour in the US. They next performed on March 5, 1977, as part of their A Day at the Races Tour. Their next concert was during their News of the World Tour on December 16, 1977. The band's last performance was on July 5, 1980, while on The Game Tour.
ABBA played there during their 1979 world tour.
Duran Duran played two nights there on April 16, 1984, and April 17, 1984, as part of their Sing Blue Silver World Tour. They played there again July 28, 1987, as part of their Strange Behaviour World Tour; also that night American all-female band The Bangles joined them on stage to sing their hit "If She Knew What She Wants". They also played there on February 25, 2005, as part of their Astronaut World Tour when they reformed the band to its original lineup.
The German heavy metal rock group The Scorpions performed there during their 1984 World Wide live tour.
Van Halen played two shows on May 20 and 21 on their 1984 Tour; two shows on their 1986 5150 Tour on June 28 and 29, 1986; a show on their 1988 OU812 tour on November 19, 1988; two shows on their For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge Tour on May 1 and 3, 1992; and finally on their 1995 The Balance "Ambulance" Tour on April 2, 1995.
Janet Jackson has performed six concerts at this venue. She performed a sold-out show on April 23, 1990, for her Rhythm Nation Tour. She returned to the venue on February 24, 1994, for the Janet World Tour, another sold-out show. She performed sold-out shows for her The Velvet Rope Tour and All for You Tour. She came back on September 20, 2008, for her Rock Witchu Tour. She played a date here on October 7, 2017, during her State of the World Tour.
Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine played there on three separate occasions, first on July 17, 1991, during her “Into The Light World Tour,” second on July 31, 1996, during her “Evolution World Tour,” and third on August 19, 2004, during her “Live & Re-Wrapped Tour”.
Metallica performed two consecutive shows, during their Wherever We May Roam Tour, on January 13–14, 1992. The shows were recorded and later released on VHS and DVD, entitled Live Shit: Binge & Purge on November 23, 1993.
Britney Spears opened her 2004 Onyx Hotel Tour.
Eric Clapton performed at the venue on March 15, 2007, with special guests JJ Cale, Doyle Bramhall II, Derek Trucks, and Robert Cray. Nine years later, Clapton released audio and video/DVD recordings of the show in honor of Cale, who died in 2013, on the live album Live in San Diego.
Justin Bieber performed a sold-out show there on October 30, 2010, as part of his My World Tour; three years later he performed there again to a sold-out show on June 22, 2013, during his Believe Tour. Bieber returned there on March 29, 2016, to perform to a sold-out show as part of his Purpose World Tour, And On February 18, 2022, Bieber returned there for his Justice World Tour.
Madonna played a date there on October 29, 2015, becoming her first-ever performance in the arena, during her Rebel Heart Tour. The show sold 10,500 seats and grossed over $1.6 million with ticket prices ranging from $50 to $355, becoming one of the most expensive concerts.
Country-pop singer Carrie Underwood has performed in the arena multiple times, first on October 1, 2010, during her Play On Tour; the second on October 20, 2012, during her Blown Away Tour; the third on September 16, 2016, during her Storyteller Tour: Stories in the Round; and the fourth on September 10, 2019, during her Cry Pretty Tour 360, making her one of the artists with the most performances in the arena.
Bad Bunny brought his El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo to Pechanga on February 23, 2022, selling out the arena. Previously, Bad Bunny played at the arena on November 22, 2019, as part of his X 100Pre Tour and on August 25, 2018, as part of his La Nueva Religión Tour.
The arena has hosted several WWE events, including many episodes of Raw and Smackdown, some ECW episodes, one episode of the original NXT, many House shows (live events), Vengeance (2001), which saw the unification of the WCW Championship and WWE Championship, Taboo Tuesday (2005), and One Night Stand (2008).
The arena has also been home to events of the original Roller Games league, featuring its flagship team, the Los Angeles Thunderbirds, as well as the alternating Roller Derby leagues of the time, featuring their flagship team, the San Francisco Bay Bombers.
The arena hosted Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live in 2019.
Future of the facility
As use of the arena for sports and entertainment declined during the 1990s and 2000s, the city considered plans to redevelop the property. A Request For Proposals (RFP) was issued, and in August 2020 Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced that the city had chosen a developer to convert the arena and its surrounding 48 acres into an entertainment district. The proposed plan would include a new sports arena, thousands of housing units, and retail and park space. In a November 2020 election, the city's voters removed a pre-existing height limit of 30 feet on structures in the area, giving developers more flexibility. However, in June 2021 the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) notified the city that the plan violated the state's recently modified Surplus Land Act, which mandates that local governments must offer surplus land first to developers who will reserve 25% of housing units for low-income families. In July the city prepared to declare the property surplus, meaning not needed for the city's use, with the condition that any proposal should include refurbishing or replacing the sports arena as an entertainment venue. If the state HCD approves that condition, the city will issue a new RFP to a state-approved list of affordable housing developers. The November 2022 election again has Measure E on the ballot for San Diego voters to remove or preserve the current height restrictions for the neighborhood zone west of the I-5 freeway and south of I-8 down to the San Diego International Airport including Liberty Station and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Meanwhile, three developers are proposing a new mixed use arena with housing, shopping, and parks. The projects are titled "Midway Rising", "Hometown SD", and "Midway Village+". In 2023, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke joined the group as a majority investor, bringing a massive boost as he had previously redeveloped the Hollywood Park Racetrack in Inglewood.
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