Statement: “The stadium’s the oldest one in the country and it’s the second oldest while I was there,” former San Diego Mayor Susan Golding said about Qualcomm Stadium on NBC7 San Diego June 23.
Analysis: As part of a series of interviews with government officials, NBC asked Golding to reflect on the lasting impacts of her administration, whose decisions in the 1990s contributed to the city’s current financial woes.
Among them, NBC highlighted Golding’s negotiations to keep the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers threatened to leave for a better stadium in the early 1990s so the city agreed to pay for $78 million in renovations. The city is still paying off the debt today as the Chargers push for a new stadium.
NBC news anchor Susan Taylor asked Golding to justify the public expense since the Spanos family benefits from the team’s profits. “Why would the city come in and subsidize the Chargers? It just seems like a bad idea,” Taylor said.
The stadium was old, leaking and needed repairs, Golding replied. “The stadium’s the oldest one in the country and it’s the second oldest while I was there,” she added.
Golding provided no other context to explain her stadium comparison. On its face, she suggested that Qualcomm Stadium is now the oldest NFL stadium and was the second oldest when she was mayor of San Diego.
Neither assertion is true. We didn’t conduct an exhaustive history of NFL stadiums, but found enough to debunk to Golding’s comparison.
Qualcomm Stadium became the Chargers’ home in 1967. At least three NFL teams currently use stadiums that were built before Qualcomm Stadium (Soldier Field in Chicago, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Candlestick Park in San Francisco and Overstock Coliseum in Oakland). Three of the stadiums hosted an NFL team before Qualcomm (the Bears moved to Solider Field in 1971).
Since the four stadiums are older than Qualcomm Stadium today, they would have also been older than Qualcomm Stadium when Golding was mayor. So we asked Golding to clarify her statement.
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“In 1992 I was told it was the second oldest,” she wrote in an email. “It may have referred to dual use stadiums. It has been almost twenty years so I do not remember the source of the information.”
“If I said ‘today’ I meant at the time,” she later added. “I do not have current information. I could only comment on what I knew at the time.”
Golding said we might find more information in city manager memos from the 1990s. Instead, we called the city manager at the time, Jack McGrory, and he called Golding’s comparison inaccurate.
“We certainly weren’t the oldest stadium,” McGrory said. “We were one of the last multi-purpose stadiums.”
We’ve stamped Golding’s statement False since it doesn’t accurately compare the age of Qualcomm Stadium and other NFL stadiums.
Although Golding didn’t mention renovations as part of her comparison, it’s worth noting that Qualcomm Stadium and some of the older stadiums had undergone them before the 1990s. Qualcomm Stadium added 8,000 seats in 1984, Soldier Field added 9,950 seats in 1981 and Lambeau Field added 18,257 seats between 1961 and 1985.
Both Lambeau Field and Soldier Field have also completed massive renovation projects since the 1990s while Qualcomm Stadium has stayed much the same. About $300 million in renovations to Lambeau Field between 2000 and 2003 were heavily funded by local taxes and the state. A $400 million facelift to Soldier Field in 2003 received funding from the Bears and hotel taxes.
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