Just a few months before the scheduled demolition of the San Diego County Credit Union Stadium, members of the news media were allowed inside for a final public tour of the facility on Tuesday.
Reporters walked in to see dying grass, faded seats, rust taking over stairwells, and a garbled message on the old scoreboard. To be sure, the 53-year old stadium has seen better days.
“There is a sense of nostalgia about the place,” said Gina Jacobs, the vice-resident for SDSU Mission Valley Development.
The origins of what was originally called San Diego Stadium formally started in the 1960s. Sportswriter Jack Murphy helped persuade city leaders to build a new multi-purpose stadium. The project was overwhelmingly approved through a $25 million dollar bond.
On June 30, 2020, the city approved the sale of 135 acres of land and the existing stadium to SDSU for $88 million. A new Aztecs Stadium will be a centerpiece for a $3.5 billion project that will include housing, office and retail space, hotels and parklands to be constructed over the next 15-years.
The first game ever played in the stadium was a pre-season football game between the Chargers and Detroit Lions in August 1967. Major League Baseball's Padres made the stadium their home, too, and played their first game in April 1968. The San Diego State Aztecs played at the stadium from 1967 through 2019.
Over it’s history, the stadium – at various times known as Jack Murphy Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium and, now, SDCCU Stadium -- hosted three Super Bowls, two Major League Baseball All-Star Games, and two World Series. In 1998, it became the only stadium to ever host both the Super Bowl and World Series in the same year.
Canepa is now a columnist at the UT and perhaps has seen more games at the old stadium than anyone.
“I have mixed emotions, because I think, I really think, the stadium could have been saved if it was taken care of, and it wasn’t,” said longtime San Diego sportswriter Nick Canepa. "I’m going to miss it. I spent a lot of time in that place. Almost over 50 years -- oh, my goodness!"
Canepa blames city leaders for failing to maintain the facility.
“It was like an old person who died of loneliness," Canepa said. "And that’s it: It’s lonely. It’s just sitting there and it’s a shame, but that’s progress."
The university allowed unfettered access for reporters allowed to tour the stadium for a last time.
The old Padres first-base dugout is still hidden under what was to be permanent seating. Old telephones are still on the wall, though a phone – presumably the bullpen phone – has been removed.
The locker rooms are still intact. In fact, a large Charger’s lightning bolt can be found emblazoned in the carpet.
Unlike many other stadiums that have been demolished, SDCCU Stadium will not be imploded, due, in part, to state air-quality restrictions, according to Jacobs. Instead, it will be taken down in stages, starting with exterior structures -- some of which has already begun.
“In the first quarter of 2021 is when we’ll start taking the physical structure down more significantly, and it’ll take us a good four to six months to make it where it’s a flat site,” Jacobs said.
The university will repurpose some of the historical items now at the stadium, Jacobs said, including the statue of the man considered most responsible for the stadium’s construction.
“For example, the Jack Murphy statue that’s here, we’re going to be moving that into the new stadium, so we’re going to be bringing a piece of the old stadium back with us into the new stadium to make sure that we can recognize the history,” Jacobs said.
Some items, like the stadium seats, will be sold, but those plans have not yet been finalized, Jacobs added.