- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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And so we will have a Pac-12 championship game at a neutral site.
Levi’s Stadium is going to give fans a new experience for the Pac-12 championship game and the opportunity to travel to a city that wouldn’t have been on their travel list before. The stadium itself is in Santa Clara, Calif. -- about one hour outside of San Francisco and 10 minutes from the San Jose (Calif.) International Airport.
But this got the Pac-12 blog thinking. If league commissioner Larry Scott ever decided that it would be a rotating neutral site for every season’s championship, where would you most like to see the game?
So we racked our brains and came up with three other stadiums. These three stadiums all fit a criterion, which we established. First, it must be a neutral site. As much as we love the view at Husky Stadium or the feel of the Rose Bowl, neutral means neutral and since we can’t go to Switzerland, our options became a bit more limited.
Second, it would need to be a sizable stadium with the growing interest in the Pac-12 conference, so we looked in the 65,000-plus seating level. And third, it needs to be in a favorable city. A championship game is going to bring an influx of football fans and those fans need food, drink and entertainment.
Thus, we came up with three fantastic options that span the entire west coast and give an array of options for football fans.
1. CenturyLink Field, Seattle. Though the obvious headliner for this stadium is the Backstreet Boys’ reunion tour (May 22, tickets still available), this would be an excellent choice for the Pac-12 championship game. The stadium seats 67,000 but can be expanded to 72,000 for special events. The field is fantastic and is the home of the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders FC. The city of Seattle is a gem. Where else can you visit the original Starbucks, the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and go for an underground city tour all in one day? The main deterrent would be the weather. The average low in Seattle in December is 36 degrees and the average high is 47. So if fans are looking for a tropical getaway (and the Seattle Aquarium just isn’t going to do it for you), then this wouldn’t be the best place. But for a fan who wants good football, a great stadium and fantastic food and drink, this could be a very viable option.
2. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver. Again, a great city, a great venue and another great option for the Pac-12 championship game. Like Seattle, it is a city that wouldn’t feature a tropical climate in early December (Average high: 43, average low: 17), but haven’t you ever watched the fans at Lambeau Field and wondered what it was like to bundle up and watch a game? (No? OK, fine.) But imagine the satisfaction you could get walking into the stadium and shouting, “Omaha! Omaha!” Similar to Seattle, it’s an easily accessible city and one that people would have no problem spending a few days in. Between the live music, the Denver Art Museum and food options, you can’t go wrong. And if you have a free day before the big game, head out to the mountains and get in a day of skiing or snowboarding.
3. Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego. All right, so here’s an option that would bring fans to a location where they wouldn’t have to worry about packing a parka. In December, temperatures range between 48 and 65 degrees, on average. So for those who would gripe about the Pac-12 North teams having such a huge advantage if the game were to be played in Seattle or Denver, this might be the best option for you. The stadium seats just over 70,000 and has 19,000 parking spots on site (the most of these three options). And who doesn’t want to visit San Diego? Between the opportunity to quote Anchorman, a trip to the world-famous San Diego Zoo or the USS Midway Museum, there’s plenty to see and do.
11hChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell