San Diego Chargers History
The Chargers are a popular SoCal football team, but do you know much about their history of shifting between Los Angeles and San Diego (and back again?)
The Chargers football team began in Los Angeles in 1960 for their inaugural season, before being based out of San Diego from 1961 all the way through 2017. After decades of playing for America’s Finest City, the Chargers decided to relocate back to Los Angeles.
To us, and many SD locals, the Chargers still feel like a San Diego team. So, let's talk about their history, and how they got to where they are today.
The Chargers Football Team
So, if you didn’t know, the Chargers are a Southern California-based football team. They are part of the NFL (National Football League) and compete as a member club in the American Football Conference (AFC) West Division.
If all that you recognize here is NFL, that’s fine. Basically, the Chargers are a professional American football team. It’s one of three National Football League teams in all of California, the other two of which are the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.
The Chargers have had a history of shifting around stadiums, and SoCal cities, during their lifespan as an NFL team on the West Coast.
But First… the Los Angeles Chargers
The franchise was first established in Los Angeles in 1959 before they played their first season in 1960. The team was first a charter member of the AFL (American Football League.) After the inaugural season, rumors began that the team would be moving to Atlanta, Seattle, or nearby San Diego.
In 1961, a deal was announced, and the Chargers were set to play in Balboa Park’s old Balboa Stadium, which would be the team’s first San Diego home stadium.
Turning into the San Diego Chargers
After the team’s inaugural season, the Chargers were based in San Diego from 1961 all the way up until 2017. That gives us San Diegans over half a century of calling the Chargers our home team.
From 1961 to 1966, the team played at Balboa Stadium until San Diego Stadium was constructed and became the home base for the rest of the team’s San Diego lifespan.
From 1967-1969, the Chargers were the only tenant of this new San Diego Stadium. In 1969, however, the MLB gave San Diego their very own baseball team, our beloved Padres, who then shared San Diego Stadium for over 30 years until the baseball team’s 2004 move into the newly constructed downtown Petco Park.
San Diego Chargers in the AFL
On January 5, 1964, in the AFL championship game, the team won their first, and only, AFL Championship. The San Diego Chargers defeated the Boston Patriots with a final score of 51-10 in their home Balboa Stadium. To this day, it is the Chargers' only league championship season in the AFL or NFL.
The next year, in 1965, the AFL title game saw a painful loss to the Buffalo Bills during a December home game in Balboa Stadium.
San Diego Chargers Go to Super Bowl XXIX
The team joined the NFL in 1970 as a result of the AFL-NFL merger.
In 1994, the San Diego Chargers won their first and only AFC championship game during their run in the NFL and went on to face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl XXIX. The Chargers finished the game with a losing score of 49-26.
More San Diego Stadium Changes
San Diego Stadium went through quite a few changes in its time, including its 1981 name change to Jack Murphy Stadium as a tribute to the recently passed sportswriter who had championed the stadium’s existence.
In 1997, the name changed once again to Qualcomm Stadium after the Qualcomm Corporation’s $18 million purchase of naming rights.
After 56 years, it might be hard to believe that the Chargers weren’t always based in this SoCal city. It’s true, though, the team did start out its run in Los Angeles, our neighbor to the North.
Now…Back to the Los Angeles Chargers
The San Diego Chargers spent years campaigning for a new stadium- Qualcomm Stadium was considered one of the worst stadiums in the National Football League for years, and there was a constant charge to work with the city to replace the stadium.
Even as recently as November of 2016, the team made multiple attempts to get a new stadium space. They finally proposed a referendum that would allocate millions of tax dollars toward a new stadium. When this proposal was rejected by San Diego voters, the team began their plans to move out of San Diego County altogether.
So, the Chargers announced on January 12, 2017, that the team would be leaving town after 56 seasons in San Diego and relocating to Los Angeles, the location where the team previously played. The place where they completed their inaugural season all the way back in 1960, it felt like a sort of full-circle moment in Chargers history.
Ultimately, this shift came after government officials and the franchise could not come to a compromise that would allow the team to continue playing in San Diego.
The Chargers are now the second NFL team in LA, after the Rams. They played at the StubHub Center (then called Dignity Health Sports Park) for 3 seasons until the current SOFI Stadium was opened in September of 2020.
What Happened to The San Diego Chargers Stadium?
After the Chargers left, the stadium was used by San Diego State University. In September 2017, the stadium’s naming rights were purchased by the San Diego County Credit Union, turning it into the SDCCU Stadium. The stadium hosted the San Diego State Aztecs football team through 2019 and the project to demolish the stadium began in December of 2020. By March 2021, the final portions of the outer structure were taken down.
Overall, the demolition project was quick and made room for the building of the San Diego State football team’s new Snapdragon Stadium. The new stadium is smaller, which is more appropriate for the needs of a college-level football team.
So, did you get that? The Chargers went from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to San Diego Stadium/Jack Murphy Stadium/Qualcomm Stadium to Dignity Health Sports Park/StubHub Center to SOFI Stadium.
The End of An Era
After 56 seasons in San Diego, the Chargers, though returned once more to the Los Angeles Chargers, were a longtime sports staple in town. While we miss having our very own NFL team, the Chargers are still near and dear to many fans who are proud to say that they watched them play in the old San Diego Stadium.
Now, we root them on as they take on other teams in the regional AFC (American Football Conference) West Division. Really, we all have to band together when it comes to (some of) our sports here in California… right?
Baseball fans… don’t come for me.
You can currently find the Chargers playing at their home SOFI Stadium, which they share with the other Los Angeles National Football League team, the LA Rams.
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