Last week, Voice of San Diego asked our city’s pre-eminent local urban planners, architects and community members what they want to see happen to Qualcomm Stadium. I’d like to add my thoughts by stepping back and first asking, what would George Marston do?
Sadly, few San Diegans today remember Marston, our greatest civic philanthropist, affectionately known as our “First Citizen,” who gave the city Presidio Park, Junipero Serra Museum and his home adjacent to Balboa Park.
Marston also initiated our jobs-at-all-costs versus improving the quality of our environment debate that resonates to this day. While he lost his mayoral run to a jobs-creator candidate, his big idea for San Diego lives on in the understanding that building toward cultural and social value always equates to economic value, while the converse is not as true.
Most San Diegans intrinsically feel the cultural value of public stadiums. Dating back to ancient coliseums, these civic forums provide a collective respite from our everyday lives with moments of shared spectacle, mortality and entertainment. And these coliseums have historically been important to San Diego, too. Balboa Stadium, now in ruins behind San Diego High School, was promoted as the first of its kind on the Pacific coast and the world’s largest municipal structure when the Panama Exhibition opened a century ago.