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San Diego State University had arguably the worst stadium opening of all-time

It feels hot just looking at this pic.

It feels hot just looking at this pic.
Image: Getty Images

Triple-digit heat, but not an ounce of shade to be found. It sounds like a lyric from that Alanis Morissette song, “Ironic,” but for San Diego State football fans, it was a reality, a nightmare come to life.

SnapDragon Stadium opened up on Aug. 19, 2022, but its first regular season football action came last Saturday as the Aztecs opened up their season against Arizona. However, the excitement of opening day quickly turned into turmoil as fans started boiling in the 100-plus degree heat and 67 percent humidity (at kickoff), looking for any ounce of shade they could find to keep cool.

It was a disastrous inaugural game. A few days later, SDSU athletic director John David Wicker held a press conference to address the concerns around SnapDragon’s debut.

Despite all the heat, Wicker said, “I think the building showed really well. I think people were able to enjoy it as much as they possibly could. I think they really enjoyed the shade that was available on the East and West sides.”

Based on the vitriolic reaction and outrage from the video earlier, it seemed like Wicker was taking fan reaction to Saturday’s experience pretty lightly. So, should he have been more concerned, or were the fans in the video overreacting?

I reached out to someone who was at the game and experienced the event first-hand. Sean O’Connell was attending his first ever college football game at SnapDragon Stadium last Saturday. Accompanied by his girlfriend, who used to work in ticket sales for SDSU, the two were seated in the top bowl, fully exposed to the sun and all its glory.

When asked how difficult it was to find shade, O’Connell told Deadspin, “It was easy, if you didn’t want to be in the stands. Pretty much everywhere, outside of your seat, had shade.

“We probably sat in our seats for only one quarter before it became too unbearable,” O’Connell continued. “We were in the upper bowl, and the amount of breeze you get up there isn’t too terrible, but also it’s super hot air getting blown on you so it’s very little respite.”

According to the video, almost every inch of shade was taken up. People were crowding into every little nook and cranny trying to avoid the light. While that may have been the experience for some fans, O’Connell explained that that did not have to be the case.

“Most of the crowding I saw was just people trying to find a seat somewhere in the shade,” he said. “There was a decent amount of shade available but seating was limited to just benches and concrete foundations underneath steel pillars. If you weren’t sitting, you were still in the shade, but either standing or just sitting on the floor.”

The viral TikTok video also claimed that “ice and water became scarce throughout the stadium.” According to O’Connell, that wasn’t the case. “They didn’t have very many water stations handing out free water. Maybe they had two or three throughout the stadium, which isn’t a lot, but I didn’t have any issues getting water,” he said. “I actually tried to go grab a beer, and they were out of those, so I was like ‘Alright. Can I get a cup of ice water then?’ and they gave me their metal souvenir cup for free with ice and water in it. I didn’t have any issues afterward getting water either. In fact, most of the people that I saw walking around had bottles in their hands.”

The access (or lack thereof) to A/C was a legitimate problem. Outside of the gift shop, there was no publicly accessible area with air conditioning. That said, O’Connell and his party were able to use a few connections to get into a private room with A/C for a “small part” of the game.

O’Connell acknowledged the medical emergencies that happened during the game. “It was probably one of the only times I’ve seen as many people getting escorted around on stretchers,” O’Connell said, adding that while water seemed to be readily available, not everybody knew where to look for it or take the water when given the opportunity, which may have led to more than a few of the hospitalizations and medical emergencies that happened during the game. “I saw about three or four people on stretchers suffering from heat exhaustion being escorted by EMTs, and then maybe another four or five people that were just being checked on by EMS services. I thought that was a pretty high number of people just not able to handle the heat.”

When asked how SDSU could’ve handled the situation better, O’Connell told Deadspin “A retractable awning is the obvious answer, but I don’t know how feasible that would be. Just some way to get more shade to the mid-to-top levels.

“There were a few inflatable tent things, with misters on them,” he said. “Only two of them that I saw, but a few more of those would’ve definitely been a big help.”

A few more mist stations do seem like a pretty quick and easy fix for San Diego State to make. However, I don’t expect we’ll see any changes as we approach the team’s next game this Saturday. Not only is it a quick turnaround, but in his press conference, Wicker explained that people are predicting the weather to be “79 and raining” for SDSU’s tilt with Idaho State. That said, Wicker also claimed that he didn’t know the home opener was going to be that hot until the day of. The school did not prepare for a worst-case scenario and thus, many fans didn’t have a great experience. If they let that happen two weeks in a row, they will have officially lost any confidence their fans may have had in them.

If Wicker and the SDSU athletic staff have learned anything, they should have some misters, extra water bottles, and fans on hand in case the weather proves unpredictable once again. Being prepared for a hot day and having it rain is way better than expecting rain and getting sunshine you weren’t ready for. Hopefully, SDSU can learn from its mistakes, and maybe next year, there will be a little more shade in the seating areas.

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