Seven years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team decided to scrap their outdated Sony Jumbotron for a fancy high-definition model. The old scoreboard was heading for the garbage heap until people in San Diego heard what was going on.

Qualcomm Stadium has a Jumbotron, one so ancient it’s discontinued. Sony doesn’t even make parts for it anymore. So the Diamondbacks’ trash became San Diego’s treasure. San Diego officials shipped the old Jumbotron from Phoenix. There was $1 million worth of parts inside, Qualcomm Stadium Manager Mike McSweeney said. The city bought the scoreboard for $15,000 and is ready to scavenge it when needed.

Stadium Nuts and Bolts logo“We shrink-wrapped it and it’s in dry storage,” McSweeney said.

The tale of the second-hand Jumbotron perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with Qualcomm Stadium. The building isn’t in danger of falling down. It’s just old and ragged.

Four years ago, a consultant walked through the stadium, which was built in 1967, and pointed out all the things that were broken or in danger of falling apart. The total price tag for the repairs was $79.8 million. At $9.6 million, a new scoreboard was one of the biggest items on the list.

But it’s not like an outdated scoreboard threatens the lives of football fans. The only thing the consultant said critically endangered stadium operations was some exposed wiring that cost $1,500 to repair. The rest of the fixes were for things like the scoreboard – stuff that was old, shabby and hard to replace if it broke.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

The city has repaired the wiring, McSweeney said, though other big problems have arisen since the consultant’s report came out. Pieces of concrete throughout the stadium are flaking and could be dangerous if they break. Metal is rusting. And the structures needed to cushion the stadium as it settles into the ground need some adjustments. The city is patching these problems for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not spending the millions it would need to permanently repair the place.

The stadium also has a reputation as one of the shoddiest in the league. Cris Collinsworth, an NBC analyst and former NFL player, was one of the latest to take a shot at Qualcomm. In a January interview, he called it: “a terrible stadium.”

Here’s a list of the some of the biggest items on Qualcomm’s fix-it list, in the consultant’s order of priority, and what each will cost:

Replace security cameras stadium-wide, $2.8 million

Install new lighting, $6.1 million

Replace all plumbing, $12.1 million

Replace entire heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system, $11 million

Replace scoreboard, $9.6 million

    This article relates to: Chargers Stadium, Land Use, Must Reads, Quest

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    2016 ballot measure questions:

    Should the City of San Diego raise it's TOT taxes by up to $1 billion?                                         Yes ____    No ___

    Should the City sell off taxpayer owned land underneath the stadium and sports arena?             Yes ____   No ___

    If voters say yes, what should the revenue from these actions be spent on? Choose one:

    1. Fixing the city's neighborhood infrastructure backlog (streets, sewers, parks, etc.).       _______

    2. Building a replacement football stadium for the Chargers.                                               _______

    3. Building an expansion of the convention center.                                                               _______

    Let's practice a little democracy for a change and let the taxpaying voters decide how these funds

    should be spent.  Any takers?

    DavidM subscriber

    @Don Wood  Why are the taxpayers taking all the trouble of electing a city council if that council can't be trusted to make decisions?

    Bob Gardner
    Bob Gardner subscriber

    One more thing folks. Just remember we are probably only about 20 years away from the Padres saying that Petco Park needs to be replaced.

    Janet Shelton
    Janet Shelton subscriber

    You know, my house is getting old and wouldn't it be great to knock it down and build a new and better one!  Well, that is if I could get others to pay for it, even if they don't benefit or benefit just a little.  It certainly would help my neighbors because surely the value of their property would go up and I'd be paying more property taxes so the gov would benefit.  I sure can't figure how raising my taxes to give to the Chargers charity will benefit me in any way out here in Escondido. 

    michael-leonard subscriber

    And don't forget the fact that, as old as it is, The Q is an architectural gem -- as far as stadia are concerned, anyway. 

    Mr. Benz, every structure falls down eventually. The foundation is NOT sinking, the cushioning structures need adjustment. 

    The best use is always re-use.

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    @michael-leonard  The foundation of the addition IS SINKING and is susceptible to liquefaction.

    " Foundation – 

    o Stadium additions are supported by large spread footings, compared to the original construction which was built on concrete piers sunk 65 feet into the ground, these additions are susceptible to liquefaction. 

    o Differential settlement of 4-5 inches between sections 42 and 43 is an issue"

    The Q's brutalist style is an architectural eyesore and the best use of the property is to sell the land to developers who will demo this monstrosity.

    Paul Girard
    Paul Girard subscribermember

    I keep hearing how it floods when it rains, but there is no mention o that in the article. Of course, it doesn't rain that often in SD, except in the football post-season. What did the architects say, who think there is a viable rehab for the Q?

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    @David Benz @DavidM @Paul Girard It rained about 33 inches in 2010 and almost broke the all time record for San Diego.  It did break the record of any rain since the stadium was built.  Using extreme examples just denigrates your argument.

    DavidM subscriber

    @Paul Girard  I've been going there for the better part of 30 years, including some incredible downpours.  I've not seen "flooding" in the stadium, nor do I recall hearing about it.  There are walkways which, due to settlement, have water ponding, and the parking lot has flooded as the River rises.  But flooding in the stadium? No.

    DavidM subscriber

    @David Benz Thanks for the idea; I'm sure that made you feel very smart but I'm not sure condescension is really called for here.

    So, Google says that the stadium flooded in 2010, but doesn't say how long it took to clear and whether any games were affected.

    Bob Gardner
    Bob Gardner subscriber

    One of the best reasons for the City of San Diego not to pay for and build a new stadium is the fact that they will never maintain it properly. If the government builds something, the maintenance gets deferred and deferred and deferred. Just look at our water system, the sewer system,  the roads, Qualcomm Stadium, the Sports Arena, Petco Park, the convention center, city hall, etc. etc etc. This is true at all levels of government. Politicians never have the fortitude when they are budgeting to pay for maintenance. They would rather spend money to build new monuments to themselves and then move on.

    Edward Moretti
    Edward Moretti

    It's a Catch-22 situation, isn't it? Millions are needed in repairs but why repair something that has so obviously outlived it's purpose in much the same manner that Balboa Stadium did. 

    David Benz
    David Benz subscriber

    Rusting rebar, spalling concrete, and a sinking foundation are more than cosmetic problems.  Those are signs of structural failure, the stadium is in danger of falling down eventually.  Don't be surprised if it is condemned right after the Chargers leave for LA, will help us get out of the SDSU lease.

    Geoff Page
    Geoff Page subscribermember

    @David Benz That edifice will never fall down in anyone's lifetime reading this nor that of their kids or their kid's kids.

    Joe Jones
    Joe Jones subscriber

    I attended the first Charger game at Qualcomm Stadium in 1967 and the most recent one last December. Yes, it needs improvements. But, oddly enough, the view of the football field from my seat is exactly as good now as it was then.  The stadium cost $196M in 2015 dollars (27M in 1967). Somehow, though, the cost of a new stadium is supposedly 4 to 6 times more than the rate of inflation. Wow. I guess a football field will look a whole lot better in that stadium.

    The city has not renovated the Q for the simple fact that the Chargers have offered no quid pro quo. They've made it crystal clear that only a "new" stadium will do. So why should the city spend any more taxpayer money on the Q than is absolutely necessary?

    The Chargers have also it made quite obvious what they think of their local fans. As a club seat holder who has spent north of 60k over the past decade, I (literally) watched in amazement as they refused to replace the old tube TVs in the stadium clubs until a couple years ago (while charging $11 and up for a beer in the interim.) 

    As for the idea that a franchise worth an estimated $1.2B spent a measly $15 mil over 14 years on a quest for a new stadium...I'm not impressed. If the stadium were truly that big of a deal, they should have spent 50M.

    Hope they stay. If they go, I have other places to spend my money.

    Ed Price
    Ed Price

    The Mission Valley location is unquestionably the best site in San Diego County for a stadium. It's central, well served by freeways, has its own trolley stop, is convenient to hotel rooms, has a large parking lot, and the land is already owned. Putting a new stadium near the convention center is dumb; these facilities do not compliment each other in any way. The convention center already has huge problems with car access and parking, trolley facilities must be revised, port facilities will be impacted, and adjacent land is expensive. Isn't it amazing that this latest "advisory group" can suddenly see the light, but only after an emergency departure of the Chargers is hinted?

    I'm thinking that there is a fix in process; we are watching the steps in an orchestrated dance to build a new stadium in Mission Valley, and the only way to get this is to frighten the electorate with all sorts of worse options (like no team at all or a ridiculous new facility downtown). Since our voters apparently cannot exist without the circus of football, it comes down to why we must replace the existing stadium in Mission Valley with a new stadium? Exactly why can't the Chargers make their fortune in Qualcom? Is there anybody in San Diego that refuses to buy a ticket because of security cameras, flaking paint or rusty steel? Is the seating inadequate? If so, could the stadium be expanded out two sides, saving the cost of building considerable new structure?

    Maybe the City of San Diego shouldn't be the main host and landlord; maybe a regional or county authority should own a new stadium. That way, the whole county could shoulder the rather massive expenditures (and increased taxes) that the fans demand. But before the public gets obligated for anything, we should see the beneficiaries (that money machine called the Chargers, and the football cartel in general) really open their books and prove how this is all worth the costs. Heaven forbid, but maybe San Diego should recognize its changing demographics and consider whether the lead sports team for San Diego should be a world-class soccer franchise rather than football! After all, does the kind of circus really matter?