Discover Story Ideas Details Back to Story Ideas

Score First-Hand Insight into California Sports

Mar. 16, 2018

From storied sports franchises and classic rivalries to legendary tournaments and must-see ballparks, arenas and stadiums, California’s collection of spectator-sport options is on a serious winning streak.

The Pros
Fans of the big leagues can catch some of the most fabled professional teams in sports history, including the NBA’s Bay Area team, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the L.A. Clippers and the Sacramento Kings. On the gridiron, there’s the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders (better hurry, though… they’re decamping for Las Vegas in 2019), and L.A.’s newest power couple, the Rams and Chargers. Other pro league icons include Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres, L.A. Dodgers, Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants; the NHL’s L.A. Kings, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks; and the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks.

Sports Palaces
California has some of the world’s most jaw-dropping arenas, stadiums and ballparks … and the list is only getting longer. Debuting in 2014 was Levi’s Stadium, home field for the 49ers. Given its location in Santa Clara, the heart of Silicon Valley, this facility has all the cutting-edge amenities you would expect, including an in-stadium app that offers concession deliveries to your seat and live streaming of the game. And the turf isn’t the only thing that’s green — the stadium is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Befitting its star status, Levi’s Stadium will host the College Football National Championship in 2019.

Even newer is the Kings’ Golden 1 Center, which opened in 2016 and spurred a renaissance in Sacramento’s Downtown Commons (DoCo) neighborhood. This technology-packed, $560 million arena is LEED certified, highlights local food with its concessions, and features an 18-foot Jeff Koons sculpture in its community plaza. The dazzling Golden 1 Center is also surrounded by restaurants, shopping and a new hotel.

In the pipeline are even more projects that have both sports fans and design aficionados on the edge of their seats anticipating game day:

  • In April 2018, Los Angeles welcomes the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park. The 22,000-seat facility is the new home of Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC, whose investors include Magic Johnson and Will Ferrell. The site is also the permanent location of the Grand Prix Rugby Series Championship Sevens and will host Olympic events when the Summer Games return to L.A. in 2028.
  • 2019 will see the Warriors moving across the bay from Oakland to San Francisco and the $1 billion Chase Center Arena. The privately financed Chase Center will feature state-of-the-art technology, fine dining options, and a waterfront park.
  • The Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park will debut in 2020 and not only act as a shared home for the Rams and Chargers but be part of a 298-acre entertainment complex. The glass-domed stadium will be joined by a theater venue, casino, shopping and dining options, NFL-themed hotels, and a West Coast wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The $2.6 billion project is the most expensive in NFL history and will be the site of Super Bowl LVI in 2022.


Also not to be overlooked are some of the most beloved ballparks in baseball, including Dodger Stadium, the third-oldest MLB stadium and a Mid-Century Modernist gem; the Giants’ bayside AT&T Park, where kayakers gather in McCovey Cove for splashdown home runs; and the Padres’ Petco Park, which consists of a collection of seven historic buildings. Behind-the-scenes tours are available at each of them.

The Old College Try
There is no more heated rivalry in sports than the crosstown throw downs that occur between the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. Whether it’s football, basketball, baseball, volleyball or water polo, it’s no holds barred between the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins for L.A. bragging rights.

In Northern California, meanwhile, “The Big Game” refers to one thing only: The annual football matchup between Stanford and Cal (aka, University of California, Berkeley).

The Golden State also plays host to a handful of college football bowl games including the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl, which first kicked off in 1902 and is traditionally played on New Year’s Day.

On the Beach
The beaches of Southern California are known for their chill, relaxed atmosphere but when the spirit of competition kicks in — watch out. Two of the state’s iconic sports — surfing and beach volleyball — stage major pro events at spots like Hermosa, Manhattan and Huntington beaches. Further south, Oceanside is the setting for an annual longboarding competition and the Supergirl Surf Pro, the biggest women’s surf event in the world. Oceanside also hosts the World Beach Soccer Championships each May, while San Diego’s Mission Bay is the location of the World Championship Over-the-Line Tournament, a raucous and uniquely SoCal softball competition.

Another slam-dunk California experience is the Venice Beach Basketball League, where street-ball legends, former NBAers, college hoop players, and professional dunkers, organized into 12 invitational teams, engage in a high-flying style of play to the beats of a DJ. It could only happen in Venice.

Legendary Tournaments
Big names competing for big paydays are the order of the day at some of the most prestigious golf and tennis tournaments in the world, set in some of the planet’s most stunning locales.

The California coastline provides the sublime backdrop for two of the PGA’s most famous gatherings: the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the Monterey Peninsula and the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

Tennis fans will want to head to the Palm Springs area for the BNP Paribas Open. This two-week tourney draws more than 300,000 people for both men’s and women’s singles and doubles matches at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which Bloomberg describes as “the most resplendent place on earth to watch tennis.”

Pony Up
“The turf meets the surf” at the Del Mar Racetrack where thoroughbred racing has been a summer institution since crooner Bing Crosby and some of his famous buddies brought the sport of kings to this seaside enclave in 1937. You don’t have to be royalty, though, to enjoy skilled horseman competing in fast-paced polo matches at the San Diego Surf Polo Club and the Will Rogers Polo Club in Pacific Palisades.

And showing off the state’s western roots are some down-home rodeos, such as the Lakeside Rodeo, which has been bucking and bronking east of San Diego since 1964, and the Cal Poly Rodeo, one of the largest college rodeos in the nation, held in San Luis Obispo.

Going for the Gold
The L.A. Olympics may not be here until 2028, but California has a couple of spots that honor Games past and future. A spectacular tram ride up to Squaw Valley’s High Camp (elevation 8,200 feet) in North Lake Tahoe will bring you to the 1960 Winter Olympics Ski Museum, which collects memorabilia about the Games that established the area as an international winter-sports destination. South of San Diego is the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center, where current and future Olympians train in sports ranging from archery to BMX, rugby to track and field; tours and special programs are available.

And while surfing won’t be an official Olympic sport until 2020, you can catch up on its history and pioneers — and score some cool swag — at the California Surf Museum in Oceanside.