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San Diego State University is Celebrating 125 Years

Big name concerts, cultural and educational programs, world class athletics, great eats — and other reasons to visit San Diego’s oldest institution of higher learning this year.
Hepner Hall

Hepner Hall

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Even if you’re not one of San Diego State University’s nearly 500,000 living alumni, chances are you’ve visited campus for a concert or an Aztecs game. If not, now’s a great time to take the College Avenue off-ramp when you spot the SDSU freeway marquee sign on Interstate 8.

San Diego’s oldest institution of higher learning officially kicked off a 600-day celebration of its 125th anniversary on March 14.

Once founded in 1897 as a training school for aspiring elementary teachers, and located above a drugstore in the present-day Gaslamp Quarter, today SDSU is a nationally ranked, internationally known academic and research powerhouse that provides billions in annual economic impact in San Diego and communities around the world.

Away from the high-tech labs and lecture halls on campus, you’ll find hidden gems like public art, a turtle pond and peaceful gardens. And with SDSU Mission Valley — a new stadium, Snapdragon Stadium, opening soon — there’ll be even more places for you to visit. Here’s your cheat sheet:

Coming Soon — SDSU Mission Valley and Snapdragon Stadium

Snapdragon Stadium

Snapdragon Stadium

Snapdragon Stadium, the first feature of SDSU Mission Valley, will open Sept. 3 for the Aztec football team’s home opener against the University of Arizona Wildcats. The 35,000-capacity stadium will include food options from local eateries including Hodad’s, The Crack Shack, Cali BBQ, Best Pizza and Brew, Everbowl, Gaglione Brothers, The Taco Stand and Batch & Box. In addition to SDSU football, women’s lacrosse, women’s soccer and men’s soccer, the venue will be home to the San Diego Wave Futbol Club, the National Women’s Soccer League expansion team, and the San Diego Legion, the Major League Rugby (MLR) team.

Approximately 80 acres of community park and open space, including a 34-acre River Park scheduled for completion in 2023, will also be a centerpiece of SDSU Mission Valley. Construction on the SDSU Mission Valley Innovation District where SDSU researchers will work alongside public and private partners, as well as a residential community including affordable housing,  will also begin as soon as 2023 (next year!).

Did You Know? 

SDSU generates more than $5.6 billion in annual economic activity in the San Diego region, according to the most recent estimate.

-About 75% of the County of San Diego’s public health workforce are alumni of SDSU’s School of Public Health

-Alumna Ellen Ochoa was NASA’s first Latina astronaut in space and director of its Johnson Space Center

-Other well-known alumni include: Rubio’s Coastal Grill Founder Ralph Rubio, film producer Kathleen Kennedy, Mandalorian actor Carl Weathers, Blenders Eyewear CEO Chase Fisher, the late legendary conceptual artist John Baldessari and former San Diego Mayors Kevin Faulconer and Jerry Sanders. Two others from the world of sports: Major League Baseball pitcher Stephen Strasburg and NBA star Kawhi Leonard, who both earned postseason MVP awards in the same year (2019). And, of course, the greatest Padre of them all: Tony Gwynn.

-U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Eleanor Roosevelt all gave speeches at SDSU.

-Lady Gaga, Ella Fitzgerald, Buffalo Springfield, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Joan Baez, Fleetwood Mac and Rihanna have all rocked SDSU venues.

Must-See Spots on Campus

SDSU Healing Garden

SDSU Healing Garden

Healing Garden

If you haven’t been to campus for a few years, you’ve never seen the newest landmark: the Native and Indigenous Healing Garden. One of the newest features of the SDSU landscape is just steps away from the original buildings of the Main Quad.

Developed early in 2020, the garden recognizes both the university’s Aztec identity and its location on historic Kumeyaay land. It is a place that embodies the symbols and plants of life and of healing — physically, mentally and emotionally  — and also features a 60-foot mural, designed by students, that captures the significance of plants to Indigenous life in the region of the Aztecs. Learn more about SDSU’s Healing Garden.



Headlining Performances Under the Stars

Come for a concert at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at SDSU (upcoming shows include Interpol, April 29; New Kids On The Block, May 26; Tenacious D, June 26; David Gray, July 31; Alicia Keys, Sept. 9) — stay for the great eats and scenic spots. For a list of upcoming events and concerts, visit the CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theatre page.

SDSU Healing Garden

SDSU Healing Garden

Mediterranean Garden

For still more botanical delights, head over to the Mediterranean Garden, between the Physical Sciences and Life Sciences Buildings and Hepner Hall. This peaceful enclave, developed in the mid-’90s, includes plants from five continents and a fountain from Baja California—a gift from the senior class of 1997. This is a popular spot to meet up with friends or enjoy a picnic before catching a show at the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theater.

SDSU Turtle Pond

SDSU Turtle Pond

Turtle Pond

Relax, meditate and look — but please don’t touch or feed the inhabitants. The koi and turtle pond outside of Scripps Cottage (another campus treasure) is widely considered the most peaceful place on campus.


Arriving at campus by trolley? Before leaving the only underground station on the MTS Green Line, look above and below for two public art features: the “TapRoots” descending from the station’s ceiling, and 60 granite stepping stones with symbols representing academic disciplines at SDSU.

Before the station opened in 2005, Carlsbad artist Anne Mudge worked with a design team and the Metropolitan Transit System on a variety of striking art components, drawing full attention to its underground location as the showcase station of the Green Line. Her stainless steel “TapRoots” descend from the station’s ceiling as if connected to trees planted above. Underfoot, she designed 60 granite stepping stones with symbols for the academic disciplines at SDSU: comedy and tragedy masks for theater; a glucose formula for chemistry.

SDSU Art Benches

SDSU Art Benches

Art Benches

Who needs advertising when you can turn a bench into a work of art? The student-designed and painted benches, part of Arts Alive SDSU, can be found all over campus, with some adorning historic Works Progress Administration benches from the previous century. View Art Benches Slideshow

Aztec Lanes

Aztec Lanes

Aztec Lanes

Aztec Lanes is SDSU’s bowling and games center open to students, faculty/staff and community members located on the first floor of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. Enjoy 12 bowling lanes as well as a games lounge including big-screen TVs, billiards, table tennis and gaming consoles. Aztec Lanes offers a multitude of services, including bowling classes, social leagues, reservations and special events.

Families can enjoy Kids Bowl Free all summer long from May 14 to August 21, register today!

For rates, reservations, and more information visit the Aztec Lanes site here.

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