Although baseball has become San Diego’s only big-time sport, this city does not want for athletic excitement. Fans also need places to expend their energy outside of the Petco Park. To solve this problem allow me to present ALL San Diego Sports Teams – The Padres, and all other Indoor and Outdoor sports teams in San Diego and the venues where you can catch a game.
The Padres, MLB
Let’s start of with the most well-known team in San Diego and the only ‘Big Four’ major talent in the city, the Padres hold a special place in the hearts of fans. The team originally relocated from Los Angeles in 1936 as a Pacific Coast League team, who started Ted Williams on his legendary career. After transitioning to Major League status in 1969 and spending thirty years in Mission Valley, the team now plays at downtown’s beautiful Petco Park, adjacent to the Gaslamp District and East Village.
Legendary players like Tony Gwynn, Randy Johnson, and Trevor Hoffmann have been joined in recent years by Fernando Tatis, Jr., and Manny Machado, among others, creating an engaging team that, with any luck, finally holds World Series-winning potential. For big-time excitement on the field, the Padres never disappoint. Make sure to check the various articles on this site for more specific information about taking in a Padres game.
Petco Park Insider Guide
Petco Park Food Guide
How to Score the Best Seats and Tickets at Petco Park
Get Your Tickets Here
San Diego Sports Teams – Indoors
Minor League Hockey: The Gulls
The Gulls present maybe the best-known minor league team here in San Diego. An American Hockey League (Tier II) affiliate of the NHL Anaheim Ducks, they have played at Pechanga since 2015. Interestingly, they are the fifth San Diego sports team to use that name.
If you’re a hockey fan, you do not want to miss a Gulls game. While some feel tamer after the pageantry of the NHL, they make up for it in raw, brutal competition. I have seen more than my share of fights on this ice, and the games move with a speed to make your head spin. The fans, as true San Diegans, only add to the enjoyment, fueling the fights and keeping the team going strong.
A singular frustration occurs when, once a player you like starts to play well, he gets called up to Anaheim, and the Gulls suffer for it. Apart from that, games are amazing and surprisingly accessible. Tickets begin at twenty dollars, with season tickets less than 500 dollars per seat. Games last from October through April, dovetailing nicely with summer sports.
Indoor Football League: The San Diego Strike Force
San Diego has hosted arena football teams for years, the latest incarnation being the San Diego Strike Force, which began playing in 2018. Although the sport carries an unfortunate reputation as ridiculous and stupid, the truth is that this is real football. The same hard hits, the same enthusiastic crowds, the same amazing plays happen on this field as outside. I cannot wait to attend games in the coming weeks when the season begins.
Indoor football rules mirror those of outdoor football—similar penalty rules, same-sized ball, etc.—albeit with some interesting changes. First, teams consist of only 20 players (eight on the field at any time) who play both defense and offense. With a field half as long, rules forbid punting, which means teams can kick for field goals at, theoretically, any point. Speaking of field goals, the uprights are smaller, so kicks become much harder to make.
One of the more unusual aspects comes from the large nets on either side of the goal posts. If a kicker misses the mark, ricocheting balls stay in play until they touch the ground. Quarterbacks can even bounce plays off these nets as part of a pass. This creates some truly interesting highlight reels. Specific rules also require continual play, so games move with much more speed than outdoor football, and scores routinely climb much higher.
The Strike Force plays from March through September, scratching that football itch throughout the long summer months. Tickets run 15 to 65 dollars, making this a great event for the entire family. Get your tickets here>>
National Lacrosse League: The Seals
Allow me to be frank: These are some of the most fun games you’ll ever see. Period. I generally avoid hyperbole, but few words can describe the thrill and intensity of the San Diego Seals box lacrosse team. A live disc jockey spins records throughout, changing songs nearly every time possession does; Salty, the mascot, makes his grand entrance on the back of a dune buggy; and the players rush across the field pummeling each other with both bodies and nets. Insane trick shots, bouncing plays, flips, dives…you name it, it happens. The action rarely stops, aside from penalties, keeping games very exciting. I attended my first match as a joke and left a true fan.
As a nice touch, each match begins with a recording of a Kumeyaay representative explaining how the sport, North America’s oldest, grew out of Native American traditions several centuries ago. Fans listen respectfully to the short presentation, then proceed to cheer for the rest of the evening. The energy within the arena becomes electric over the course of the game.
Kings and Convicts Brewing, like with the Legion, sponsors these matches with their Hougoumont (no one seems able to pronounce it; no worries), a very refreshing pilsner with a small price tag. I highly recommend it as a companion to any Seals game.
Tickets remain relatively inexpensive, costing 15 to 90 dollars, during a season that lasts December to April.
Indoor Soccer: The Sockers, MASL
The San Diego Sockers, who play in the Major Arena Soccer League, trace their roots to San Diego’s 1978 soccer team of the same name. Through various league changes, disappearances, and revivals, the team has become a strong, consistent contender in arena soccer. In fact, from 2010 to 2013, the Sockers held the longest win record of any team in US professional soccer history.
These family-friendly games draw crowds based on the similar fast pace and non-stop action shown in other soccer leagues. Most of the rules align with those of outdoor soccer leagues, with some surprising changes due to the nature of the arena. The smaller space in an area necessitates small goals and penalty areas. The wall, like in arena football, doesn’t necessarily stop play, and kicks that bounce off it remain playable. A match consists of four quarters rather than two halves, with total regulation time topping out at one hour.
In keeping with the family-friendly team, the Sockers also support a minor-league affiliate at Pechanga, the Sockers 2. The team formed during the creation of the Tier II Major Arena Soccer League 2, opening more opportunities for players to progress professionally. These games, like their Tier I counterparts, offer a similarly unique, exhilarating experience for the next generation of star athletes.
Sockers tickets cost from 20 to 45 dollars, covering December through April. Tickets to the Sockers 2 cost 10 dollars apiece with free parking included. The Sockers 2 follow the same season, although their games end in March.
In the Midway District, just south of Mission Bay, rises the concrete hulk of Pechanga Arena. Initially constructed as the San Diego International Sports Arena in 1966—and transitioning through a half-dozen names to its present moniker—the site played host to some of the biggest entertainment events in San Diego over its 56-year lifetime. Think wrestling, boxing, ultimate fighting, and martial arts; concerts, conventions, and world tours; and even weekly swap meets in the western parking lot. Most long-term San Diegans have strong memories associated with the big names that have passed through this venue.
Perhaps most importantly, the Arena has housed dozens of athletic teams, supporting basketball, hockey, and indoor versions of soccer and football of varying levels, among many others. Four primary teams of startling diversity currently call Pechanga home, each with a strong fanbase and engaging gameplay.
Pechanga has aged, certainly, but the venue endures as a great destination here in San Diego. As a smaller arena, the space feels more intimate than the larger ones. Fans sit very close to the action, and you can often hear words exchanged between players. Developers have plans to remodel or even rebuild the arena, as locals well know, but negotiations with the city continue. Now seems a great time to experience the historic space before it vanishes.
Pechanga Arena Food Options
Inside, food options abound, consisting of popcorn, hot dogs, pretzels, and candies familiar to stadium fans everywhere. I recommend the Philly cheese steaks, personally, although I miss the poutine stand. One group also operates a place for great Italian subs. Drinks also flow liberally with dollar beer nights throughout the various seasons. Outside, beyond a sea of asphalt parking lot, local restaurants and familiar chains fill the surrounding Midway neighborhood. Some of these places sit within easy walking distance, although they can crowd rapidly prior to events. If pressed for time, eating at home often proves the best option.
As a fun suggestion, just north of the arena lies Bay City Brewing. This brewpub features a large outdoor area with games and some excellent brews and a rotating food truck, all less than a 5-minute walk from the arena. Everyone else seems to have discovered it, however, so lines get long, especially for Gulls games. Make sure to order your food and a second round at the very start, even when you come early.
When visiting, the arena has decent connections to the rest of the city. Old Town, with the Coaster, Amtrak, and blue and green Trolley lines, represents the closest transit hub, about a mile away from the arena. The walk from Old Town runs through heavy commercial and industrial areas, but it isn’t too bad. The #8 and #9 buses also leave Old Town every fifteen minutes and travel along Sports Arena Blvd., stopping just in front of the arena. Otherwise, attendees can always ride share or drive themselves. Parking generally runs 10 or 20 dollars, although this changes for special events.
Why attend an Indoor Sporting Event in San Diego?
These alternative indoor sporting events should have a wider reach. They present matches of unparalleled fun and excitement at a much lower price point than the bigger leagues. Several teams offer buy-one-get-one tickets, specialty gifts or shirts for specific matches, or food and drink specials to entice fans. These events make games more accessible to families and groups.
Games generally take less time, too, meaning you can build more of an evening around each event. It’s far easier to get dinner before and a walk afterward when the game only lasts a couple of hours. Also, less advertising minimizes commercial interruptions, keeping the focus on the sport and its athletes. Why wouldn’t someone want to go to a game?
Finally, the people who attend these games come for them, and most fans support their teams wholeheartedly with little distraction. The players also seem to work as if they have something to prove, pouring their hearts into every play, every game. This drive and enthusiasm on both sides of the match make them incredible spectacles for all to enjoy.
San Diego Sports Teams – Outdoors
While everyone associates the beautiful city of San Diego with the Padres, perhaps baseball isn’t your thing—it isn’t for everyone, after all—or perhaps you visited during one of San Diego’s Other Summers, those that some places call ‘spring,’ ‘fall’ or, that most foreign of all words, ‘winter,’ and we have no ball games to attend. Never fear, my professional outdoor-sports-loving friend: Our great city has you covered, regardless of the size of your field.
San Diego Outdoor Soccer: The Loyal, the Wave, and Albion
San Diego boasts three professional soccer teams, representing the United Soccer League Championship (men’s tier II), the National Women’s Soccer League, and the National Independent Soccer League (men’s tier III). For the most part, rules among the leagues match those of Major League Soccer. Each team brings a unique excitement and drive to the sport, and I suggest all three teams for an afternoon or evening out. Games run from March or April through October on a better-than-weekly schedule.
The Loyal SC, USLC
The Loyal debuted in 2020 with a drive to become, in their words, “For now, For Always, For San Diego.” The shield represents possibly the coolest attribute of the team. Prior to their inception, the team worked with hundreds of community members to discuss what the team should be, and how it should reflect San Diego. The final crest, emblazoned onto every kit, contains numerous references to the city we all love; I leave it to the reader to find out their meanings. They currently play at Torero Stadium on the University of San Diego campus, with plans to relocate to Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley next season.
Loyal games keep you glued to the action throughout. The athleticism on display astounds me, and fans enjoy watching the next generation of amazing talent hone their skills in a smaller venue. Here, you can see the expressions on faces, hear the chatter among players, and intensely feel the raw energy and emotion throughout the space. The atmosphere, of course, literally echoes this enthusiasm, thanks to the valley surrounding the venue and the northern stands, where the Locals, an intense cheering squad, lead the charge.
Single-game tickets cost between 25 and 70 dollars. Get your tickets here>> You already know the main concessions on hand—beer, hot dogs, popcorn, and the like—and they hit the spot per usual. However, the stadium also sells incredible burritos and nachos, East African cuisine, and supports a handful of other local spots on the Plaza above the field. Don’t forget Kensington Brewing, which provides two incredible Torero brews, an IPA and a blonde, that I highly recommend.
Although not ideal, transit options exist for getting to the stadium. The campus rises above Linda Vista Road, the only real access point. The #44 bus traces the road every fifteen minutes, and the stadium is a little over a mile (~30 minutes, although about 200 ft of elevation) from the Linda Vista Trolley stop off the green line. Otherwise, the site includes parking with the price of a ticket, or you can always rideshare.
Once on campus, I must mention the stunning architecture on hand. Originally constructed in 1949 as the San Diego College for Women, USD eventually grew into an enormous private university and respected law school. The area contains dozens of beautiful Mission-style structures and one of the grandest Roman Catholic churches in the area. When taking in a game, no matter what sport or team, make time to at least walk the grand plaza through the center of campus.
The Wave FC, NWSL
An expansion team in its inaugural season, the Wave signifies the expansion of the NWSL into San Diego. Beginning this spring, the team will play at Torero Stadium, just like the Loyal, so check above for the particulars. The Wave will likewise move to Snapdragon Stadium next season. Several big names from the World Cup squad, including Alex Morgan, fill the roster, promising exciting games.
Tickets run from between 35 and 150 dollars, and the two teams have offset their schedules to allow more fans to enjoy both teams. Get your tickets here>> The Wave mark the return of major-league soccer to San Diego, and I cannot wait to see how they perform.
Albion San Diego, NISL
Albion San Diego presents a slightly different take on American soccer. It began in Point Loma in 1981 and built an organization encompassing several youth soccer teams of various tiers, culminating in the third-tier, NISL professional team. Players can move among the various levels relatively easily as a result, giving more opportunities to top talent. In December 2021, they absorbed San Diego 1904 FC, another NISL team in the area.
Canyon Crest Stadium
Albion play at Canyon Crest Stadium, located in Carmel Valley off the 56. Games remain fast-paced as always, with plenty of stellar talent to enjoy. Since many fans have watched players rise through the ranks over the years, those in attendance get to cheer old friends, building an impressive, enjoyable atmosphere. Unfortunately, due to its location on a high school field, the venue lacks any sort of specialized concessions. A strip mall next door hosts several restaurants of varying quality for before and after dining. Beyond the mall, the neighborhood offers little for visitors.
Tickets cost twelve dollars for general admission—and only eight dollars for kids—making Albion games an ideal family outing. The stadium also forbids alcoholic beverages as a note. Residing in a very suburban area with few transit options, fans essentially must drive to the location, which supports free parking.
American Ultimate Disc League: The Growlers
How many of you played Ultimate Frisbee in college? The Growlers play that, only somewhat more professionally. For those of you in the dark, think football and soccer mixed with frisbees. As such, the atmosphere holds a certain goofy quality that makes these games pure fun. The clock never stops and fans provide plenty of excitement, with good humor about the sport everywhere. The silliness mixed with sincere professionalism makes these very satisfying games, particularly given San Diego’s qualities.
Mission Bay Stadium
The Growlers play at Mission Bay Stadium, just off the water, from April through September. The place prohibits alcoholic beverages due to its high school location, keeping the atmosphere active, yet tame. Like Canyon Crest Academy, basic stadium food comprises the bulk of food options on hand. Nearby Garnet Avenue offers plenty of other opportunities, though, and I must suggest Bub’s at the Beach, nearer the Pacific, for awesome bar food and easy access to the beach and pier. Adventurous fans can also picnic or grill on Mission Bay around a game.
Tickets cost as little as twelve dollars. Get your tickets here>> The stadium connects easily to the rest of the city. It offers free parking, and the blue line Trolley extension has its Garnet Avenue stop about a mile from the venue. If the walk proves too far, the #27 bus stops a couple of blocks from the entrance. And, naturally, fans can always rideshare.
Major League Rugby: The Legion
Ah, rugby: American football’s rougher father. The San Diego Legion, who draw their inspiration from the Romans—Centurions patrol the stands and start most of the cheers—came to San Diego in 2017, and their roster contains several big players from the European leagues, most notably captain Ma’a Nonu.
As a recent convert to rugby, I enjoy the games immensely. The sport has much more of a party atmosphere resembling American football. Unlike its cousin, however, rugby runs continuously, and drop-kicks, punts, tackles, and even fumbles do nothing to stop the clock. Manic energy suffuses the events, leaving fans breathless by the final whistle. The chanting and screaming likewise never end.
SDSU Sports Deck
The team currently plays at the SDSU Sports Deck, but, like most other teams on this list, will move to Snapdragon Stadium in 2023. Situated in the center of campus, atop the southern Mesa, the Deck rests on two levels of parking, with restrooms and refreshments at the end zones. From the stands, you can see San Diego and Coronado in the distance, and all of Mission Valley. With spartan concessions, the place feels like a high school stadium. The sole exception: Kings and Convicts Brewing Co. recently sponsored the Legion games with a specialty lager. Apart from providing delicious refreshments, it feels good to support the team.
Like Torero stadium, make sure to walk the campus grounds. The university was beautifully constructed in the Mission style, and I enjoy meandering its grounds before games. College Avenue, on the edge of campus, supports numerous eateries, so fans can easily dine before or after the match.
The Trolley green line presents the best option for attending games, with the SDSU station less than half a mile away from the Sports Deck. Additionally, several bus lines converge on campus, and parking beneath the field costs 10 dollars. Tickets cost as little as 17 dollars for general admission section, but it absolutely pays to splurge for the seats closer to midfield.
San Diego College Sports
If, after all these options, nothing quite scratches that sports itch like baseball, there are still plenty of options.
If you’ve never considered college baseball and softball, think again. Time-based rules keep the games lightning-quick, compared to the majors, and the talent on display can rival minor league—and even some major league—players out there. Fans literally watch the next generation of players cut their teeth, and debating which players will make it big adds another fun dimension to games.
All three San Diego universities host both baseball and softball teams. Attending one costs as little as five or ten dollars—less than even the options presented here. Even more exciting: All three field NCAA Division I teams, meaning they compete with one another throughout the season. These intra-city matches push some intense rivalries anyone can enjoy.
In addition, these universities maintain college-level football and basketball teams, which play through the fall, winter, and spring. Tickets tend to cost more for these higher-profile sports and can vary widely depending on several factors, so check each university’s athletics page for more details.
Why Sports Fans Should Check Out These “Other” San Diego Sports Teams
If you get the opportunity, attend some of these games of these “other” San Diego Sports Teams. I initially went to most of them expecting a tongue-in-cheek absurdity, only to find a genuine love of sport and team pride that amazed me—I even bought jerseys and tees. Most of these teams arrived in San Diego very recently and, thus, need new fans and opportunities to define themselves. As a convert, you could have a hand in how that happens.
These events tone down the razzle-dazzle, over-commercialized insanity that most major-league sports have become, and push more focus on the games and players. I find myself more engaged with the athletes on the field at all venues. With smaller crowds and arenas, you sit much closer to the action. In fact, several teams welcome fan interaction following games, giving high-fives and autographs aplenty.
Moreover, as small teams in little-publicized sports, most attendees primarily support the team and its message. The fans I saw wore the gear and watched the games intently, with few distracted by their phones or conversation. The lower entry cost for these teams makes them more accessible to families and groups as well. For a unique and exhilarating experience that won’t break the bank, you cannot fail with any of these other San Diego sports teams.
Finally—and I feel somewhat like a traitor for this, given my love of the Padres—the games lasted fewer than four hours. Most of them ended inside of two or three at most, with plenty of time to tailgate, explore neighborhoods, or grab dinner and a drink to let traffic die down before heading home.
For True Sports Fanatics: ALL San Diego Sports Teams was written by Ben J. Byard for San Diego Explorer.
Last Updated on June 14, 2022 by sandiegoexplorer
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