Construction crews put symbolic final steel beam into Aztec Stadium

Jayne Yutig


Noelani Sapla

Los trabajadores del acero insertan la última viga en el Estadio Azteca, completando la parte estructural del estadio.

by Andrew Finley, Assistant Sports Editor

The San Diego State University campus expansion in Mission Valley reached a milestone achievement on July 14 as steel workers inserted the final steel beam into the future home of Aztec football. Construction workers, media crews and distinguished guests from both SDSU and the city of San Diego gathered on Bashor Field to witness the topping off ceremony. 

The lifting and setting of the final steel beam is a milestone tradition in the construction industry, stemming from Nordic construction, when the structure of their buildings included a live branch in the final girder, representing the life that would come from within the building. President of Clark Construction in the Southern California division and former SDSU alumnus Carlos Gonzalez remarked on the significance of the topping-off ceremony.

One of the 2,500 steel beams that makes up the stadium structure.
It’s a tradition in construction for workers and contributors to sign the last beam, and for a tree to go up with it. The tree symbolizes the new life the building will inhabit, and the lives of those who worked on the building. (Noelani Sapla)

“(The topping-off ceremony) represents a significant milestone because we go from that raw construction of foundation and structure and we then go into the next phase of the finishing touches,” Gonzalez said in a speech at the ceremony. “This is a great moment of celebration in construction.”

The excitement of the new stadium reaching its symbolic halfway point, along with the remainder of the Mission Valley expansion makes it easy for residents to assume the project will be completed sooner rather than later. As construction crews continue to do work on the stadium, Gonzalez is encouraging San Diegans to be patient and to temper expectations. 

“Things don’t quite change as quickly as they do with steel, but they still transform,” Gonzalez said. “Before the end of the year, we’ll have the first seat installed, and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of you back to continue celebrating the progress on construction.”

The Mission Valley campus began construction in November of 2020 after the demolition of SDCCU Stadium. Aztec Stadium is expected to be completed in time for the SDSU football team to compete on Sept. 3, 2022 against the University of Arizona. 

The new stadium is only the first addition to what will be an entirely new addition to the SDSU campus. The expansion project includes around 4,000 new homes, classrooms and a new river park on the south end of the project. San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said this is exactly how he expects San Diego to grow. 

“San Diego is the eighth largest city in the United States, the second largest in California; in my opinion, too often (San Diegans) have not acted like it,” Mayor Gloria said during the topping-off ceremony. “This is big stuff. This is bold stuff. This is big city energy and I want to see a lot more of it here in San Diego in the years ahead.” 

Many San Diegans believe that the expansion is long overdue for the city. Such an expansion has not occurred since the 2004 completion of Petco Park, which transformed Downtown San Diego into the bustling city that it is today. The excitement of growth is evident with SDSU President Adela de la Torre during the ceremony. 

“I have to pinch, kick (myself), and shout out; what an amazing accomplishment we have here,” President de la Torre said in a speech. “This is something that I started before I even came as president but now it’s a reality.” 

The skeleton of the new Aztec Stadium is all that stands in the land that was once the parking lot of SDCCU Stadium. Tractors are being used to transfer and flatten dirt around the job site in preparation for the rest of the expansion. Leaders of the project said an expected 6,000 workers will have worked on the stadium by it’s completion.