Flow: The Sacred Significance of Rivers Lake

Updated: Apr 6

When the Chargers moved to Los Angeles in 2017 from their 50-year home in San Diego, fans and observers alike struggled to grasp the reasons--and the significance--of the transition. Theories were many: some suggested the move was prompted by the team's ownership being financially underwater. Others claimed the Spanos family was all wet. Still others saw the move as a necessary transformation--a hydrating rebirth.

The Bolts would ultimately touch down on SoFi Stadium in sunny Inglewood, California. But with the stadium came an ingenious feature: a man-made lake, tranquilly observing the buzz of every event the stadium holds.

A successful campaign to name the body of water “Rivers Lake” gained the attention of Google Maps, which has now conformed to the naming of this lake (the story of which you can find here: https://www.riverslake.org/post/the-rivers-lake-story).

Rivers Lake, nestled between parking lots and the southern point of the stadium, is unmissable. On gamedays, fans flock to not only the stadium, but to the lake itself. This is true, regardless of which team visitors follow: many fans take photos by the undisturbed surface of the clear water. Visiting it represents an essential stop in one’s journey to SoFi: if you see a Chargers game, you ought to see Rivers Lake.

Rivers Lake by SoFi Stadium (photo courtesy of SoFi Stadium)

Rivers Lake is both well-named and environmentally friendly. But it could have more enticement, more significance, more meaning.

Throughout history, bodies of water have represented sites of importance and change particularly in works of religious and cultural literature. Could Rivers Lake do the same for Chargers fans? Could it mean something more?

Water has represented religious importance for many years. For Hindus, water is believed to hold purifying and cleansing powers. Buddhists practice water offerings at shrines on their path to enlightenment. Christians are baptized in water in order to join the family of God. Notable religious stories involving water include Moses parting the Red Sea and a great flood that cleansed mankind and their sins in the famous Noah’s Ark.

Religious pilgrimages and imagery with water are often interlinked. For example, a famous pilgrimage my Spanish parents have completed and often tell me about – El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is akin to a river system, with routes coming from across Europe to eventually converge on the tomb of St. James in the Catedral de Santiago in north-west Spain.

Similar imagery could be applied to Inglewood. Chargers fans from across the globe make their own paths, their own estuaries, to feed to one destination of significance for them: Rivers Lake and SoFi stadium.

The final destination on El Camino de Santiago: Catedral de Santiago de Compostela (John Harper / Getty Images)

Bodies of water also hold social and cultural significance: presently, they represent a place of social gathering and recreation. People visit bodies of water such as oceans, rivers or swimming pools with friends and family. They participate in activities such as kayaking, canoeing or surfing.

Water is a source of vitality and safety for animals, as well. Drinking at oases in the desert, hippos bathing in water and insects of all sorts drinking at small puddles in harmony, temporarily putting their predatory instincts aside despite the close proximity to their prey. As an entomologist I have pleasantly observed this many times.

A variety of animals drinking together at an oasis (Shutterstock)

But what does all this mean for SoFi Stadium, Rivers Lake and Chargers fans? There can be some religious connotation. A visit to the Lake could baptize young people to Chargers fandom or cleanse fans of other teams, correcting the error of their ways and bringing them into support of the Chargers. It could represent a site of pilgrimage.

Even if of no religious importance, it assuredly represents a place of interaction. A place where people flock to watch their favorite team play. A binding of the community under a common appreciation for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Fans visiting Rivers Lake by SoFi on gameday (@UnclePMo on Twitter)

Whatever its meaning, Rivers Lake and its neighbor SoFi stadium have brought people together for a time of social interaction and joy. It will continue to do so for many years to come.

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water” – Loren Eiseley.