“America’s Finest City,” a name coined by former San Diego mayor Pete Wilson, has been home to many professional sports teams over the years. NBA basketball, NFL football, and MLB baseball have all called San Diego home since the city’s first pro team, the San Diego Bombers of the Pacific Coast Football League, played at Balboa Stadium back in 1940.
The NBA moved out long ago and the NFL (“No Fun League”) decided to take its money-grabbing to Los Angeles two years ago. But even before the Chargers left, questions about whether or not San Diego is a sports town have been easy to come by as the city has yet to win a championship in any major sport.
Don’t let that fool you. San Diego is a sports town and always has been.
The San Diego sports teams of old didn’t leave because they hate the city or its fans or because of the team’s lack of success but instead left because they believed their franchises would become more valuable. For example, the Spanos family had their eyes set on relocating the Chargers to Los Angeles for a few years. They proceeded to alienate their San Diego fanbase in order to make it look like the fans in San Diego don’t care about the team.
In 2016 the Chargers moved to Los Angeles, turning their backs on their loyal fans. They finished last in the NFL in attendance according to Forbes and the team’s value increase was smaller than any other team in the league despite moving to one of the world’s largest cities. Moving out of San Diego hurt the Chargers’ value as they had lost the support of their fans down south. In other words, they are nothing without San Diego and its fans.
San Diego sports fans seem to always turn up to sporting events as evidence by the Padres and Gulls attendance numbers over the past few years. The Padres haven’t fielded a good team in years but fans still show up to the ballpark. San Diego has never been last in MLB in attendance despite the poor product on the field. Gulls’ attendance is even better as they led the AHL in attendance in 2017-18 and have been top three in attendance since the team’s debut in San Diego back in 2015.
Fans in San Diego are loyal to the teams that actually care about the city and its citizens. The Padres and Gulls actively market themselves as San Diego teams and don’t stray from that model often. They know that they don’t have to try too hard as the fans will show up regardless, as evidenced by the steady attendance of both of the teams.
Aside from the Padres and Gulls, San Diego is also home to professional teams such as the San Diego Legion (Major League Rugby), San Diego Seals (National Lacrosse League), and the San Diego Fleet (Alliance of American Football). Although these teams are lesser-known and are new to the city, they represent the ever-growing nature of the sports industry in San Diego.
- Tony Gwynn Statue San Diego: Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times/MCT | Used With Permission