Sports Travel: If You Love Baseball, You Will Love Petco Park In San Diego

Sports Travel: If You Love Baseball, You Will Love Petco Park In San Diego

By Alan Snel of LVSportsBiz.com

It’s been a while since I visited the site of the San Diego Padres ballpark.

In January 1999, I took a stroll around the downtown San Diego warehouse district to report a story for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on a sunbelt city building a new ballpark for the local Major League Baseball team because the Marlins at the time were wishing to build a new ballyard at the same time.

I was in San Diego County for the MLB owners meeting at the time when the Lords of Baseball gave the thumbs up to submarine-throwing righthander by the name John Henry to be the new owner of the Marlins just two years after former Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga guided the South Florida baseball franchise to a World Series championship.

Weirdly enough, after writing the story for the proposed Padres ballpark 23 years ago, I have never visited the MLB venue.

Until this week.

My childhood team, the New York Mets, visited San Diego as part of their Southern California road trip.

It was time for me to make a road trip, too.

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Petco Park opened in 2004 after construction of more than $450 million thanks to a public-private partnership. The ballpark opened after two public votes and lawsuits, replacing old Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium. Petco, a pet supplies retailer in San Diego, bought the original naming rights for $60 million under a 21-year deal before it was extended to 2027. (As a point of comparison, the public tourism agency, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, paid a whopping $80 million under a 20-year deal to Summerlin master developer Howard Hughes Corporation to call a minor league baseball park, Las Vegas Ballpark.)

The Padres ballpark is situated near the convention center, restaurants and residences and the downtown vibe around the venue reminded me of Coors Field in the LoDo neighborhood in Denver and T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

The San Diego ballpark is a baseball funhouse crammed with lots of retail, craft beers, food options at points of sale that are literally everywhere.

The open air concourses are an aesthetic combination of shopping, eating and plant-watching, with vegetation displayed throughout the venue. The hanging ivy is thick and adorns a main concourse.

Baseball is a slow-moving game lasting more than three hours, so the place where it’s played can offer mini-places inside where you can hang out for 20 or 30 minutes and just move on to the next attraction in the ballpark. That’s the strength of the San Diego ballyard — it’s a baseball theme park that will have something to create a memory for you.

The ballpark is a beauty, right up there with the generation of retro-style venues in Pittsburgh, Denver and Baltimore. San Diego is big on craft beer, so the ballpark has a beer stand row and refrigerated beer cans at purchase stations throughout the venue.

The park beyond centerfield features the Tony Gwynn statue and allows fans to roll out a blanket on the grass and catch the game in a pastoral setting amid an urban setting. You have to buy a ticket to get access to that section of the ballpark.

The Western Metal Supply Co. Building gets lots of attention. The four-story building goes back to 1909 and locals enjoyed telling me that the 51,400-square-foot building was moved to fit the configuration of the ballyard.

It’s among the many fun quirks about the ballpark.

There are many terrific touches, and seeing fans walk through the brick building as an organic part of the venue gives you a great game experience.

The non-symmetry of the ballpark layout is like a quirky buffet of baseball treats. If you love baseball, you’ll love this ballpark.

San Diego is the eighth biggest city of the nation and the Padres are the only major league team of the Big 4 leagues to have a home in this city, with the Chargers now playing at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

The ballpark the Padres built after I visited a warehouse district 23 years ago has spurred new businesses around the venue. Here’s one example — a craft brewery taking over an old Wonder Bread building.


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