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Balboa Stadium.
Balboa Stadium
Location San Diego, California
Built 1914
Opened 1915
Renovated 1960-61
Owner City of San Diego
Operator San Diego Unified School District
Surface artificial turf
Architect Quayle Brothers
Former names City Stadium
Tenants San Diego Chargers (AFL) (1961-1966)
San Diego Thunder
San Diego High School
San Diego City College
St. Augustine High School (football only)
San Diego Pumitas (NPSL) (1999-2007)
San Diego Toros (NASL) (1968)
Harbor Bowl (NCAA) (1947-1949)
San Diego East-West Christmas Classic (NCAA) (1921-1922)
San Diego Flash (2010) (charity events)
San Diego Boca FC (NPSL) (2011- )
Capacity 15,000 (1914)
23,000 (1960)
34,000 (1961)
3,000 (present)

Balboa Stadium is a football and soccer stadium located in San Diego, California. The original stadium was built in 1914 as part of the many buildings erected for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition located in Balboa Park. Originally called City Stadium, and designed by the Quayle Brothers architectural firm, it is located just to the East of San Diego High School. Auto racing took place on a 1/4 mile dirt track in Balboa Stadium from about 1937 through July 4, 1961 when the racing stopped so the facility could be used for pro football. The Stadium was the home of the American Football League's San Diego Chargers' from 1961-66. The stadium originally had a seating capacity of approximately 15,000 and was expanded in 1961 to 34,000 to accommodate the Chargers when they moved from Los Angeles. The stadium was used for popular music concerts and other public gatherings though the 1970s.


Balboa Stadium witnessed the Chargers' glory years, which featured such players as John Hadl, Lance Alworth, Jack Kemp, and Ernie Ladd, and hosted the 1961, 1963, and 1965 American Football League championship games, as well as the 1961, 1962, and 1963 AFL All-Star games. In their six seasons here, head coach Sid Gillman's club finished with a combined record of 28-12-2, winning four Western Division titles and one league crown. In 1967, the team left Balboa for the new San Diego Stadium (now Qualcomm Stadium) in Mission Valley, where the club's glory slowed and the titles stopped (although they did win several American Football Conference Western Division titles) until they won the AFC championship after the 1994 season.

The stadium also hosted local amateur and professional baseball contests in the period prior to the establishment of the Pacific Coast League Padres in 1936.

Balboa Stadium was one of the hotbeds of midget racing starting in about 1937 until the early 1950s (except for the war years). When interest in midget racing started waning, jalopies became popular. The San Diego Racing Association was formed in 1953 and started sanctioning the racing. By 1958 the San Diego Racing Assn had transformed from a jalopy association to more sleek modified sportsman (the forerunners of today's super modifieds). Jalopy champions of the SDRA at Balboa included Glen Hoagland (1953), Jim Wood (1954), Jack Krogh (1955), Harris Mills (1956), Don Ray (1957), and Mondo Iavelli (1958). Don Thomas (1957) was the inaugural modified champion with Art Pratt being a three time titlest (1958 - 1959 - 1960). Rip Erikson took the honors in the 1961 season that was split between Balboa Stadium and Cajon Speedway. Also holding events at Balboa Stadium during the 1950s were occasional visits by the URA midgets and the NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Models. During the 1950s it was not unusual for more than 10,000 fans to attend a weekly show at Balboa.

President Wilson's speech, 1919

On September 19, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson spoke in front of over 50,000 people in Balboa Stadium in support of the creation of the League of Nations. This was the first presidential speech to use an electronic voice amplification system. This system was invented by Edwin S. Pridham and Peter L. Jensen. They called their invention the "Magnavox" ("Great Voice") moving coil device. The two would go on to found the Magnavox company.[1]

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13799, San Diego, Stadion, Luftaufnahme

Stadium in 1932

On September 21, 1927, Charles Lindbergh visited San Diego, where the Spirit of St. Louis was built by Ryan Aeronautical, and was greeted with a hero's welcome at the stadium. With over 60,000 in attendance (10,000 more than President Wilson) he performed a low-level fly over at 100 feet, dipping his aircraft's wings and circling the stadium 8 times. He landed and was then paraded through the city to the stadium where the crowd had to be held back by 650 U.S. Marines.[2]

The NCAA football Harbor Bowl was held there from 1947 to 1949. The San Diego East-West Christmas Classic was held here in 1921 and 1922.

Also, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb & Satchel Paige have played in this stadium.

Modern stadium[]

The original stadium was destroyed and rebuilt to have a much smaller seating capacity than at the time it housed the Chargers, and most of its distinguishing architectural features were removed. The remaining seating is made up of simple concrete bleachers, which also form the walls of the canyon the field is built in.

The stadium is currently home to San Diego Boca FC, one of San Diego's professional outdoor soccer teams. For promotional purposes Boca FC refer to the stadium as "Boca Stadium". San Diego's largest and oldest running club, the San Diego Track Club also calls Balboa Stadium its home. It is also used by San Diego High School for local high school sporting and other events. During the 1990s and the 2000s, it was also used as the home field (for football only) by St. Augustine High School and San Diego City College. The stadium is owned by the City of San Diego and leased to the San Diego Unified School District, which is responsible for its maintenance.

An article in the San Diego Union-Tribune from November 27, 2006, highlighted the stadium's state of disrepair. The field is covered in artificial turf installed in 2001 that is torn and rippling, and the track surrounding the field has some dangerous depressions thought to be able to cause injury.[3] However, both the turf and the track have since been completely renovated and the information about the stadium's state provided in the article is now obsolete.


  1. When the President Spoke at Balboa Stadium by Gerald A. Shepherd; The Journal of San Diego History Spring 1986, Volume 32, Number 2 [1]
  2. "When the Lone Eagle Returned to San Diego"by Gerald A. Shepherd The Journal of San Diego History Winter 1994, Volume 40, Number 1 & 2 [2]
  3. Track, turf in trouble? | The San Diego Union-Tribune

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