"The Ghosts of Qualcomm Stadium"


Built in 1967 and known for the past two decades as Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego’s 70,000-seat multipurpose stadium had its fate sealed in 2016 when the NFL’s San Diego Chargers left town for Los Angeles. Originally built with $27 million in taxpayer funds (over $200 million in today’s dollars), the stadium will play out the string before it closes at the end of this year with sporadic events including San Diego State Aztecs home football games, occasional concerts, and the annual Holliday Bowl. A long-time home for the San Diego Padres before 2003, this classic example of Brutalist architecture once housed three Super Bowls, two World Series, a “crusade” by the televangelist Billy Graham, and concerts by Metallica, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Beyoncé. Even though the two principal tenants, the Padres and Chargers, have long since left the space (now called San Diego County Credit Union Stadium) behind for newer arenas, taxpayers are still responsible for covering annual operating deficits as high as 2017’s total of $8.7 million.

This project will not only track the material realities of the stadium’s abandonment and the economic consequences for the city, but also explore the loss of arousal for various kinds of audiences who visited “The Q”. In studying the “ghosts” the performance space will leave behind, I mean to invoke not only Marvin Carlson’s formulations from The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine, but also Mike Pearson’s distinction between “host” and “ghost” in Site-Specific Performance. Whereas Carlson tracks the ways that past events “ghost” subsequent performances, Pearson sees the preexisting spatial narratives as a “host” and the present-day circumstances as a “ghost” that inhabits them. What kinds of performance events will ghost the stadium site before and after it is closed this December? How will these events and the deserted site note the presence and absence of both past and present audiences? How will a performance space designed for arousing events function without them?