Here are the renderings for an entirely theoretical retractable-roof downtown Chargers stadium, should the Chargers actually stay in San Diego. The NFL gave the city one more year to pay up—to cover $1.15 billion of the total cost of the $1.8 billion stadium/convention center project—or the Chargers are off to join the Rams in L.A. It looks pretty! But renderings always look pretty.
The renderings were released to kick off a petition drive, which the team hopes will result in a ballot initiative on Election Day. The initiative is solely about funding—this design has nothing to do with it, and is subject to change. But lookit the skyline!
And lookit the beautiful...convention center!
And...the boat show...!
Here is a truth: there is no way to design an attractive football stadium. There are ones that are uglier than others, to be sure, and distinctive ones, but an objectively beautiful football stadium? Can’t be done. My working theory, ginned up literally minutes ago, is that it’s because you can’t actually see into or out of one—you’re in a bowl, and there are only so many ways to gussy up a bowl.
(This same theory applies to hockey/basketball arenas, where “functional” is the pinnacle of design. Baseball stadiums, on the other hand, can absolutely be works of art.)
Oh sure, these renderings look great. Everything has an unearthly glow, and an artificial sheen, and there are no actual people to ruin things like they do to reality—let’s see how ethereal the game day experience is when you’re stepping over a prone fat man in a throwback Tomlinson jersey and no pants lying in a puddle of his own filth.
Renderings lie. And not even in that anything remotely charming is inevitably scaled back or replaced in the name of savings or functionality. Look how impressive MetLife Stadium promised to be! Look how soulless it actually is. Wouldn’t you want to watch football games in a place like this? 49ers fans don’t.
Stadiums are a license to print money. Profit margins are higher when teams don’t have to pay even half the cost of their own stadium. Residents are more likely to vote to pay for a team’s stadium if they think it’ll be pretty. Renderings make stadiums look pretty. The Chargers want San Diego to pay $1.15 billion for these pretty pictures.