SAN DIEGO — The Poinsettia Bowl is finished after 12 years and the Holiday Bowl might need to move to baseball’s Petco Park to survive.
The San Diego Bowl Game Association announced Wednesday that it is dropping the Poinsettia Bowl to focus on the Holiday Bowl, and that it has begun discussions with the Padres about playing the game at downtown’s Petco Park if Qualcomm Stadium closes after 2018.
The announcement came less than two weeks after the NFL’s Chargers said they will move to the Los Angeles area starting with the 2017 season. That prompted the city to begin considering closing aging Qualcomm Stadium after 2018 rather than continuing with costly maintenance. The Chargers left because they couldn’t get a deal with the city to replace Qualcomm Stadium.
Mark Neville, executive director of the bowl game association, said the group’s decision to end the Poinsettia Bowl was not related to the Chargers leaving.
“This is purely a decision made for our organization,’” he said, noting that the bowl landscape is much different than when the Poinsettia Bowl started in 2005.
“It’s a completely different environment. Doing two games in San Diego, in the span of a week, is becoming more and more challenging in relation to ticket sales and sponsorships,” Neville said. “This is absolutely the best move, not only for our organization but for the community. All of that effort going into the Poinsettia Bowl is now going to go squarely into the Holiday Bowl.”
Neville also said the fact that Navy is now a member of the American Athletic Conference and not available to play in the Poinsettia Bowl contributed to the decision. Navy played in the first Poinsettia Bowl, beating Colorado State 51-30, and made three more trips to the game.
Neville said one hard part about dropping the Poinsettia Bowl is that the San Diego County Credit Union had been the title sponsor since the game’s inception. It will also cost the Mountain West Conference a bowl slot. San Diego State played in the game three times. Commissioner Craig Thompson said the conference is vetting future options.
The bowl game association said the Padres have begun speaking with the architectural firm that designed Petco Park about what would be required to play football in the downtown ballpark. It’s not currently possible to lay out a regulation football field, and the team’s lease with the city would have to be amended to allow football.
Petco Park has hosted soccer friendlies, but the layout has been smaller than regulation. The ballpark, opened in 2004, holds 42,445 for baseball.
San Diego State’s football program could be in peril if Qualcomm closes after 2018. However, a private group on Monday announced plans for a smaller stadium that could host an MLS team and the Aztecs. That stadium, which would seat between 20,000 and 30,000, wouldn’t be ready until 2020. If necessary, SDSU might be able to play a few seasons at Petco Park.
If the combined MLS-SDSU stadium is built, it probably would be too small for the Holiday Bowl.
Neville said the bowl game association is lucky to have the Padres and Petco Park as an option. He said it’s possible Petco Park could become the Holiday Bowl’s permanent home. “We look at that as a positive,” he said. “It’s recognized as one of the best ballparks in America, if not the best. Holiday Bowl fans would be excited to enjoy a game with all the amenities that park provides. It would be a pretty good experience.”
The Holiday Bowl began in 1978 and quickly gained a reputation for wild, high-scoring games. It has matched teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences since 1998.
The San Diego Bowl Game Association will host the Navy-Notre Dame game at Qualcomm Stadium on Oct. 27, 2018. It will be Notre Dame’s first visit to San Diego.
Neville said the bowl game association will explore hosting more high-profile intersectional games in the future.
Coincidentally, the Padres began their push for a downtown ballpark in the mid-1990s because they were a secondary tenant to the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium and wanted a baseball-only stadium.
Petco Park has increasingly been used for other events. It has hosted soccer, supercross, monster trucks and concerts by Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, Billy Joel and Madonna.
It hosted the All-Star Game last summer.