San Diego's new baseball park was a long time in coming - after work began on the
stadium, construction was suspended for 17 months while new funding sources were
secured and, in the meantime, the skeletal beginnings of the building sat untouched.
Eventually the work resumed and in April, 2004, Petco Park opened its doors for business.
For San Diegans it was worth the wait.
Getting to the venue
Petco Park is located in the southeast corner of San Diego's downtown core. The ballpark
is perfectly situated between the convention center and the city's burgeoning Gaslamp
Quarter, which is a retail district comprising several city blocks. Restaurants, retail stores, a
shopping center, and nightclubs all contribute to an exciting and eclectic mix. I-5 wraps
around downtown, and directional signage off the freeway will point you to Petco Park. Be
forewarned though, parking can be tough. The team has organized the inventory of parking
and assigned color codes to various lots and ramps, setting fixed pricing based on the
distance to walk to the venue. Parking prices run anywhere from $17 right near the ballpark
to as low as $5. Meters are monitored at times but the rules are different from street to
street so place close attention to signage. We recommend taking the San Diego trolley, the
area's light rail system which deposits fans a block away from the ballpark.
Outside the venue
Here is an exciting story and one that is just going to get better as ongoing development
plans continue to take shape. The ballpark is in a superb downtown location, and that
means patrons can enjoy endless dining and shopping options before and after the game.
The Gaslamp Quarter is THE party zone, with eateries to suit any taste or price range. Many
of the establishments cater to the baseball fans, offering food and drink specials and patio
dining beckoning people to come early and stay late. We were wondering what would
happen to the Padres tailgating tradition that was such a great part of the Qualcomm
experience. Indeed, the team offers a "tailgate lot" just east of the ballpark, where fans
can fire up the grills and toss the balls around. Being in a downtown setting, though, this
tradition will never quite be the same.
But the biggest thing one notices outside the venue is the explosion of development that
is reshaping downtown San Diego. The ballpark district is rife with construction cranes,
excavated sites, skeletons of buildings, all promising new office space, condominiums,
hotels and shopping. A tumbledown warehouse area a few blocks east promises a new
residential development called the East Village. Housing prices are high here in San Diego
with even the smallest housing spaces commanding well into six figures, but the whole
scene is quite dynamic. And the Padres are the centerpiece of it all!
Architecture and concourses
Oh, how thankful we were not to find MLB's 13th version of Camden Yards! Petco Park has
a look and feel all its own, and one that is reflective of the architecture and climate of this
area. To begin with, the exterior façade is a gold sandstone color, reminiscent of the
geology of the Torrey Pines cliffs along the area's coastline. White wrought iron gates and
white skeletal steel supports compliment this look nicely. Then there is the landscaping -
beautiful, lush, with planters and flower boxes adorning the rims of each deck, and hanging
gardens cascading down the walls. We can just imagine what these gardens will look like as
the plantings grow in and mature. Both outside the park and in planters in the concourses,
beautiful palms, flowers, lilacs and shrubs all add so much to the ambience of the place,
and being here in southern California, the climate is conducive to this sort of look.
The main entrance to the ballpark is in the southeast corner - a massive Petco Park
marquee adorns the top of the building, and fans who enter here step into a spacious
outdoor public plaza. Your choice of a grand staircase or an escalator takes you up to the
main concourse, and along the right side sandstone wall is a cascading fountain. The
interesting thing about the concourses here is that there are many nooks and crannies to
explore. Plenty of room to navigate, and satellite merchandise stores and concessions
stands on the main level are grouped into mini courts and out of public traffic.
There are escalator towers near the main entrance, and an additional one down the left
field side. Ride the set of escalators to the top from the main entrance, and you will enjoy
the most dramatic view of the concourses, bridges and skywalks here.
At this point it is worth mentioning the Western Metal Supply Building. This historic (nee
1909) structure was kept intact, refurbished, and totally integrated into the ballpark. It is the
signature element of this stadium, from the outside, the concourses and the seating bowl.
The corridors and concourses flow seamlessly into this building. On the ground floor is a
high ceilinged team store, the second and third levels house party suites, and the top level
one can find the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill, open to all ticketholders and a nice view of the
field for those lucky enough to make their way onto the porch.
The concourses, corridors and even the ramps are best enjoyed at night, for this is when
the well designed soft lighting transforms this venue. Landscaping is floodlit in different
colors, concession canopies and counters resonate soft blue and beige backlit lighting,
and subtle floor lights marks the paths on the ramps. Steel beams are bathed in floodlights,
and it all gives a beautiful look to the place.
Again, there is lots to describe here and plenty of different seating and viewing options.
The ballpark seats over 42,000, but it has a real large look to the place, as though it should
be a bigger stadium. Field level, a large club seat porch, and the upper deck make this a
three level building, and there are two levels of outfield decks on the left and right field
sides. But that doesn't mean there aren't many other ways to enjoy watching a game here,
and that is what makes this venue stand out. Here we go- on the roof of the Western Metal
Supply Building are a set of white metal bleachers, completely reminiscent of the bleachers
on the rooftops across from Wrigley. In the outfield, fans can rent their own little party area
directly above the Padres bullpen, and enjoy wooden bench seats and counter tops. Then
there is "the Park at the Park", a large berm which stretches across the entire back of the
stadium. A portion of this grassy knoll is reserved for a mini ball field, while the rest of it is
for folks wishing to enjoy the game sitting on the grass with their blankets. Of course, there
is a bit of an obstruction, because there is a wide pathway extended across the front of this
entire area, and the center field batters eye wall is also an impediment, but a large video
board showing live action means fans here don't have to miss any of the action. Also here
is a center field bleacher section with contoured backless bench seating and a GRASS floor.
How about that! Then also, there are plenty of little nooks and crannies to stop and watch
the game from, but the most notable one is right at field level, at the left field foul pole.
Fans walking through the main team store can walk down a ramp, out to field level, and
watch the game through a chain link fence."
The main scoreboard here is at left centerfield. "Friarvision" is a crystal clear high
definition video board, and is accompanied by a large one color dot matrix board above it,
as well as at field level on the left and right field corners, which are used for in-game stats
and out of town scores as well. Digital LED ribbon boards run along the upper balconies
along the baselines. Stationary back lit ad panels run along the club level porch.
Food items here are somewhat varied, and blackened chicken sandwiches and chicken
Caesar salads seem to be a popular choice. The two signature food items here and not to
be missed are Randy Jones Bar-B-Q, which can be found out in center field in the Park at
the Park, and second, the fish tacos, a uniquely San Diego treat which can be found at the
La Comida stand on the field and upper levels. Kettle corn and margarita bars also available
The main team store is on the main floor of the Western Metal Supply Building, with high
ceilings, original wood pillars and brick walls has a real rustic look. In addition to the Hall of
Fame Bar and Grill, the PCL Bar and Grill on the first base side is open to all fans.
The club level here is somewhat of a disappointment compared to others we have seen.
Concourses are plain and bland, and the only real amenity offered here is access to a
series of different restaurants- the Baja Bistro, Club 19, Coronado's and the Wind and Sea
Lounge. No premium concession items or nice eating areas on the concourses.
Suites ring the top the club level and more suites can be found in the Supply Building as
well as stacked suites situated in two towers on the upper decks, one on the 1st and the
other on the 3rd base side.
Four players have had their numbers retired by the Padres- Dave Winfield, Randy Jones,
Steve Garvey and baseball's Jackie Robinson. Founding owner Ray Kroc is also
immortalized with these players. The team has had limited success on the field, with two
National League titles - in 1984 and 1998. While these accomplishments and names were
heralded in a big way in the arches of Qualcomm Stadium, it was a disappointment to see
that none of this was displayed in the seating bowl at Petco Park. A nice tribute to these
players and murals of celebration scenes from those seasons can be found in an exhibit in
the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill.
Home runs, hits, errors
Home run- to the nice historical display located on the main level of the Western Metal
Supply Building. A museum-like timeline of baseball history in San Diego and the history of
the growth of downtown and the baseball park district is all laid out very nicely here.
Definitely worth checking out!
Hits- or playing the hits, as the Padres played the theme "Meet the Mets" between one of
the innings, in tribute to the visiting team. And the classic 60s version, which is a great sing
along song even today.
Home run- Petco Park was the scene of a mysterious and rare sighting, No not Bigfoot, or
the Abominable Snowman, or the Loch Ness Monster - something even rarer (at least lately
anyways). Yes folks, the karma of the the Ultimate Sports Road Trip returned on Friday night
with a 7-6 Padres win over the Amazin' Mets.
Error- on the downside, one of the great and unique moments of a Padres game occurs
when All Star relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman enters the game with a slim lead in the late
innings, and AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" blaring over the sound system. So here it is: top of the
ninth, Padres are protecting a one run lead and out comes....Akinori Otsuka?????
Error... file this one under "ballpark not quite done yet". Randy Jones BBQ stand not set to
open until May 11th.
Hit..Arriving late to the park???? Then enter through the entrance near the Western
Metals Supply Building (that's at least the sixth time we've mentioned that building) and
head up the stairs/escalator. You'll notice the running scoreboard of the game
overhead..that's all you'll need to know.
Home run- High definition television monitors are still on the pricey side, but that didn't
stop these folks from installing them all through the building. The Padres broadcast over
100 games in amazing high-def, and if you haven't yet seen the technology, you are really
Hit-.(here's the seventh mention)-.the suite nearest the left field foul pole in the Western
Supply building does hang over the playing field, nice quirk!
Home Run....probably more of a Hit, literally! The deep dimensions of Petco's power alleys
(402 in left and 411 in right) and thick San Diego Bay air have combined to make this the
anti-Coors Field and as Bonds proof as possible. What a refreshing change from all of the
homer happy parks that have gone up in the past decade. Message to Padres
management? leave the fences exactly where they are!!!
Home run- and an assist to Padres Media Relations Manager Luis Garcia, who furnished us
with press credentials for our assignment with Sports and Leisure Magazine.
Great being able to maneuver around a venue and take photos with a press pass dangling
around your neck.
Grand Slam - Lodging in San Diego- 0$.....Use of transportation in San Diego- 0$....having a
family member reside in the City of San Diego-PRICELESS!
A very big and well deserved thank you goes out to Peter's sister Katy Farrell of San Diego
for putting us up for the weekend at her place and allowing us use of her car. In a related
item- we welcome her friend Dave Dominguez along with Gary Herman and "The King" Mike
Casiano into the Ultimate Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame for being with us, as we planted the
flag at Petco on Friday night.
Petco Park serves up just about everything that is right with new ballpark design - first off
all, something unique and distinctive rather than just following that cookie cutter Kelly
green seat red brick façade overused formula. Second, a downtown location, and not just
anywhere in downtown, but in a spot that fits well in the surrounding neighborhood - a
convention center, housing, entertainment and restaurants all nearby. And just being San
Diego, chances are the weather will be perfect and counting on a day at the park which is
not too hot or cold is a plus. Lastly, there is so much to do and so much to see in this venue
that one visit doesn't quite cover it. One has to spend an entire weekend or more to fully
experience all the amenities that this place has to offer.
All these new ballparks are so nice, it's getting hard to tell them apart, hard to distinguish
their uniqueness among their peers. But we say this with virtual certainty - there is no
place quite like Petco Park, with its architecture, hanging gardens and its unique look. And
a venue to enjoy, savor and experience.
Food and team store 7
Scoreboard and electronics 8
Fan support 6
Location and neighborhood 10
Banners and history 7
In game entertainment 5
Concourses/fan comfort 8
Bonus: Western Metal Supply Building 3; Landscaping 1; USRT assist 2; Park at the park 2
and May 2,