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SDSU To Play 2021 Football Games In Carson

Aztec running back Jordan Byrd rushes up the middle in the game against Weber...

Photo by Ernie Anderson / SDSU Athletics

Above: Aztec running back Jordan Byrd rushes up the middle in the game against Weber State on Aug. 31, 2019.

San Diego State University's football team will play its 2021 home games at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson while the university works on its new campus and stadium in Mission Valley, school officials announced Tuesday.

The decision allows the university continue its work on the construction site adjacent to SDCCU Stadium, with the new stadium scheduled to open in fall 2022.

Listen to this story by John Carroll.

"Once the sale of the site was finalized with the city, and we knew we could play football in Aztec Stadium in fall 2022, based on all the information we had gathered, it became clear the existing stadium had to come down in the first quarter of 2021," SDSU Athletic Director John David Wicker said.

"Our intention had been to play a final season in SDCCU Stadium. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced our hand and we must move the 2021 games as well."

Some Aztecs fans posting on a Facebook page not connected with SDSU were not happy. "Trash idea to play in LA. Horrible," one said. "I won’t be renewing my season tickets."

"Instead of asking people to give you money, how about offering buses to and from San Diego?" wondered another.

Longtime San Diego sports radio talk show host Lee Hamilton said he was aghast at the decision at first. But he said once he considered the big picture, including the deterioration of SDCCU stadium, he thought the university made the right decision.

“I think they were shocked at the deterioration, and it just scared the daylights out of them what the cost of the operation would really be,” Hamilton told KPBS.

The Aztecs' fall 2020 football season has been moved to the spring because of the coronavirus. Although the spring schedule has yet to be announced by the Mountain West Conference, the Aztecs' fall 2021 slate includes seven home games, including matchups with Utah, Boise State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Nevada, New Mexico State and Towson.

Carson is about 110 miles north of SDCCU Stadium.

SDCCU Stadium will be replaced by a new stadium as part of the SDSU Mission Valley project. In addition to a 35,000-seat multi-purpose stadium for Aztec football, the project also includes a mixed-use development that is transit-oriented. SDSU Mission Valley will include transit, retail, housing, and the development of more than 80 acres of community parks and open space, including a 34-acre river park.

According to the university, the decision to demolish SDCCU Stadium earlier than originally planned will move the timeline for the entire project ahead.

"This is not a decision we made lightly," said Tom McCarron, senior vice president of the SDSU Mission Valley project.

"Getting the site ready for future development is critical for SDSU to realize the vision we have shared with the community over the past many years. The accelerated development timeline not only keeps the stadium on schedule, but also the River Park and development plans for the residential housing and the Innovation District."

The Aztecs previously played at SDCCU Stadium, formerly San Diego Stadium, Jack Murphy Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium, which opened in 1967. SDSU's first game in the facility was Sept. 15, 1967, when the Aztecs defeated Tennessee State, 16-8.

Opened in 2003, the 27,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park has played host to National Football League, XFL, Major League Soccer and World Cup championship events. The Los Angeles Chargers called the facility home in 2017, 2018 and 2019, while the XFL's Wildcats made their debut this spring.

With the announcement of the venue change, San Diego State has played its final football games at SDCCU Stadium. The Aztecs ended their run with a pair of victories. SDSU defeated Fresno State University, 17-7, on Nov. 15 and Brigham Young University, 13-3, on Nov. 30.

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