Ryan Chartrand

Cal Poly is among a handful of candidates to host five high school football state championship games in December, a California Interscholastic Federation official said Tuesday.

On-campus Alex G. Spanos Stadium would serve as the San Luis Obispo venue for the 2008 CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games, and is one of seven sites being considered.

The others are L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Stanford Stadium, San Jose State’s Spartan Stadium, the Home Depot Center in Carson, Memorial Stadium in Bakersfield and UC Davis’ Aggie Stadium, according to various reports confirmed by Ron Nocetti, director of state championship events for the CIF, the state governing body of high school athletics.

Visits will be conducted at the sites in the first 10 to 14 days of April, and a decision should be made “very shortly” afterward, Nocetti said.

Advantages Spanos Stadium may hold over the more high-profile settings seem to be its equivalent distance from both the southern and northern parts of the state, and its price compared to the larger options.

“There are a lot of factors we’ll be looking at,” Nocetti explained. “We want to choose a venue we think will support high school football, and we want to make sure it will be convenient for schools to travel to.”

Spanos Stadium, which was renovated from 2005 to 2006, has a seating capacity of 11,750.

From the other six possibilities, only Aggie Stadium, which seated 10,743 as of last year, was smaller.

Although those numbers pale in comparison to the seating offered by L.A. Memorial Coliseum (92,000), Stanford Stadium (50,000), Spartan Stadium (30,456), the Home Depot Center (27,000) and Bakersfield’s Memorial Stadium (20,000), it may not matter.

According to Nocetti, while the newness of the bowl games, which started in 2006 as a three-game format continued in 2007, makes their future attendance “pretty much impossible to tell,” they drew about a combined 13,000 fans in their inaugural trial and approximately 11,000 last year.

Jonni Biaggini, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Visitors and Conference Bureau, said the increased games could attract up to 25,000 people during their slated weekend, reported to be Dec. 20-21.

“We’re looking for the site that gives us the best of both worlds with regard to size, amenities, training rooms, locker rooms, parking, travel and so on,” Nocetti said. “Every site has its trade-offs.”

The growth of the bowls, which were contracted by the Home Depot Center for their first two years, heightens the importance of finding the most efficient, fair and convenient travel distances for the expanded amount of teams, Nocetti said.

Of the six teams that played in the three divisional championships in 2007, on average, there was a more than 300-mile difference in distance to Carson between the three closer schools and their more removed counterparts.

The Division I title contest had the second-widest gap, as De La Salle of Concord ventured roughly 385 miles to the Home Depot Center, about 330 more than its opponent, Centennial of Corona.

While journeys to the other possible spots could exacerbate or repeat the imbalance, a San Luis Obispo neutral site would render the discrepancy in travel between Concord and Corona to less than five miles.

Overall, the 300-plus average-mileage disparity between last year’s bowls’ respective contestants would be reduced to about 40.

The CIF, Nocetti explained, extends requests for proposals to visitors bureaus throughout the state, and then has a committee review submissions to determine suitable sites to visit.

After being contacted in late February, the San Luis Obispo County bureau immediately reached out to Cal Poly to use Spanos Stadium and then returned its proposal, Biaggini said.

“Having high schools from all over the state would bring all kinds of people – family, visitors and wonderful supporters,” she said. “It would certainly be a benefit to Cal Poly and a great economic boom for the community if we were able to get the championships.”

Substantial in Cal Poly’s bid to host the bowls, Biaggini emphasized, is their taking place in December, perfectly coinciding with the university’s winter break, and the Central Coast’s scenic appeal in general.

“The great part about this championship for us would be that it happens at a slow time for Cal Poly, and there’s good tourism in San Luis Obispo, so it’d be a really good match,” she said. “Spanos (Stadium) has all the amenities these games would seem to need and it’s at Cal Poly and in San Luis Obispo, which in themselves are attractive venues.”

Alison Cone, Cal Poly’s athletic director, fully endorsed the bureau’s enthusiasm and echoed Biaggini’s sentiments.

“It would be exciting to have the very best high school players in the state of California play games in Spanos Stadium,” Cone said. “It would be good for the (football) program, certainly good for the community and would expose that many more high school students to Cal Poly.”

Neither Nocetti nor Biaggini would disclose financial parameters of San Luis Obispo County’s proposal.

Last season’s trio of Dec. 15 championships reportedly cost the CIF approximately $124,000 strictly to rent the Home Depot Center for the day.

Such a demanding tab reportedly makes another arrangement unlikely between the Carson stadium and the CIF, which netted a reported $61,000 in profit in December and will again have to account for a variety of expenditures in addition to the travel costs.

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