Robert Sosa has been going to soccer games at the StubHub Center since it opened in 2003, and he has some advice for fans who will be going there to watch the Chargers.
“Get here early,” he said before a recent Galaxy game.
Sosa typically arrives as many as five hours before kickoff to scout out tailgating spots in the northwest parking lot. And he just lives down the street from the StubHub Center.
That won’t be possible, or necessary, at Chargers games. For starters, the parking lots won’t open until four hours before game time. Plus the designated tailgating spots — most of which have been sold for $80 a game — already have been assigned.
And there will be other differences in the game-day experience at StubHub Center, one of the larger stadiums in MLS but by far the smallest venue in the NFL. Yet, rather than complaining about their cramped home, the Chargers are marketing its uniqueness
“The intimacy of the parking is like the intimacy inside the stadium,” said Ken Derrett, a senior vice-president with the team. “I think it’s going to create this whole getting-to-know-your-neighbor [atmosphere].”
The lots at Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers’ former home, have more than 19,000 parking spaces spread over 122 acres. As a result, individual tailgate parties take on the size and feel of a block party.
That won’t be possible at the much-smaller StubHub Center, which borrows nearly half its 8,500 parking spaces from nearby Cal State Dominguez Hills. So tailgating has been limited to narrowly marked spaces in the silver, gold and bronze lots in the northwest corner of the facility.
Game-day parking will cost between $40 and $100, depending on the proximity to the stadium.
Three-and-a-half hours before the kickoff, the southwest and southeast stadium gates will open, allowing ticket-holders access to concession stands and bathrooms in the adjacent tennis stadium. Musical entertainment, a bar, beer trucks, kiosks selling a wide variety of food, meet-and-greet sessions with former Chargers legends and other activities also will be available.
Out-of-town NFL games will be broadcast on wide-screen TVs.
“There is a place for folks to come in that either don’t have a tailgate [spot] or that parked in one of the non-tailigating lots, so they can come in and enjoy the atmosphere,” said Katie Pandolfo, the facilities general manager at the StubHub Center.
Another option is buying tailgate parking spaces on the secondary market. Before the first exhibition game with Seattle, a pair of Seahawks fans bought a tailgate spot for $40 — half the face value.
To ease traffic congestion in and out of the parking lots, Pandolfo is urging fans to use the free park-and-ride lots or take public transportation to the Harbor Gateway Transit Center or the Del Amo Station, then take courtesy shuttles to the StubHub. Shuttles will run every 10 minutes beginning 2½ hours before kickoff and ending about 90 minutes after each game.
“We know that people will say, ‘Oh parking prices, it’s kind of expensive,’” Pandolfo said. “There’s a free option if you don’t want to come on site, you don’t want to go through the traffic.”
The experience inside the stadium will be different too — and not always for the better.
Glen Fletcher, a season ticket-holder, said he liked the closeness of the confined stadium. But during the preseason game against Seattle he learned there were drawbacks to that as well.
“Things were looking great until [the Chargers] got close to scoring,” he said. “Then the field camera came rolling up and blocked our view of the end zone.”
That wasn’t enough to sour Fletcher on the NFL at the StubHub Center, though, and the players like the intimate theater experience as well.
“That’s the perfect word right there — intimate,” safety Tre Boston said after the Chargers’ first game in Carson. “It’s very different for me. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s almost like high school football all over again.
“When it gets to rocking and real season games come around, the crowd can get into it.”