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Petco Park / San Diego Padres

Petco Park is large scale in a number of ways. Padres sluggers are not  especially enamored with the ballpark’s dimensions, especially when they  glance at the extreme power allies. While straightaway center is a  reachable 396 feet, the power allies extend to 402 in left and a  whopping 411 in right. These are especially challenging distances for a near sea-level ballpark, but it all works at Petco Park, perhaps the most underrated ballpark in the majors.

FAST FACTS

Year Opened: 2004
Capacity: 42,455 (plus about 2,500 Park at the Park standing room)
Architect: Populous (formerly HOK Sport)
Dimensions: 334L, 367LC, 396C, 387RC, 322R
Playing Surface: Grass
Website: mlb.com
Phone: 877/374-2784
Ticket Prices: Terrace Infield $62; Premier Club, $69; Terrace Reserved $47; Field Boxes $50; Field Reserved $30; Upper Boxes $28; Left Field Upper Boxes $28; Right Field Lower Boxes $28; Left Field Lower Boxes $28; Right Field Lower Boxes $28; Upper Infield Reserved $23; Upper Reserved $19; Left Field Reserved $15; Right Field Upper Reserved $14; Bleachers $9; Park Pass $5
View seating chart here!
League: National League
Parking: Fans have a choice when it comes to the price and location of parking, but the locations between Petco and the popular Gaslamp Quarter tend to be pricey. More than 27,000 parking spaces are available in the general area with 11,000 designated specifically for Petco Park fans at prices from $3, $5, $8, and $10 depending on proximity to the ballpark. Premium parking is also available directly adjacent to the ballpark for $17. Fans should choose a parking location based upon the direction they’ll be heading after the game. Public transportation at Petco (several bus lines and the trolley) is readily available and encouraged, but San Diego fans have been slow to embrace alternatives.
Address/Directions: 100 Park Blvd., San Diego. For fans traveling by car, four major thoroughfares feed into and out of downtown in all directions: Pacific Highway, Interstate 5, State Route 163 and State Route 94/Martin Luther King Freeway. In addition, eight freeway on- and off-ramps service the area immediately around the ballpark.
Written by: Jim Robins


Considering that Petco Park nearly failed to reach construction phase due to strong community opposition and scandal, the ballpark has overcome some significant challenges to climb the ladder of success, although promised development surrounding the ballpark remains something of an uncertainty.

The project had been rocked by court challenges, a city council scandal and a two-year completion delay. This isn’t surprising, considering the unprecedented scale of redevelopment associated with the Petco Park project. When San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved the ballpark plan in 1998, they endorsed creation of an ambitious 26-block Ballpark Redevelopment District near the city convention center and an already resurgent Gaslamp Quarter. The referendum approval cemented a long-term, large-scale development partnership between the City of San Diego and JMI Realty –- the development arm of Padres owner John Moores.

It is hard to argue with the clear evidence of success. During our late-summer 2005 visit, we saw no less than five super-sized cranes operating within two blocks of the ballpark. We were told that at other times even more construction activity can be seen in the ballpark district. In fact, city redevelopment officials expect the “ancillary development” around Petco Park to produce no less than $1.4 billion in investments involving more than 30 projects within the ballpark’s large redevelopment zone. However, by late 2005 announcement of a scale-back in ballpark district housing development plans created a stir at city hall.

Petco Park is large scale in a number of ways. Padres sluggers are not especially enamored with the ballpark’s dimensions, especially when they glance at the extreme power allies. While straightaway center is a reachable 396 feet, the power allies extend to 402 in left and a whopping 411 in right. These are especially challenging distances for a near sea-level ballpark.

Virtually every seat in Petco Park is a winner, but some locations are especially desirable. The choices are a bit dizzying with no less than 16 categories at 11 price points. If you can find them available and are willing to pay, the top-shelf Terrace Infield seats are the best in the house -– sections 202-210. However, Terrace Reserved further down each line might be somewhat overpriced. For $5 less, Field Boxes put you closest to the action -– especially sections 101-112.

Petco Park is cheap-seat Nirvana. Take your pick – Upper Reserved down either line, Left Field Reserved – all excellent $12 seats, and the beach-side bleachers at $8. For day games, you will want to make a key decision between sun and shade. Pick the bleachers or Upper Reserved down the right field line – especially sections 315, 317 and 323 if you worship the sun. If you want shade, go with the Left Field Reserved (section 226 is best) or Upper Reserved down the left field line – especially sections 316, 318 and 324. Upper Reserved in right field also gives you the best views of the downtown San Diego skyline.

In a venue clearly designed to give virtually every fan a good view, it is difficult to deem particular seats as underrated. Every seat inside the two Tower Lofts is superb and fairly priced. Particularly good values are available in the Upper Reserved sections(especially sections 315-318 and 323-324), as well as Left Field Reserved section 226 located next to the funky Western Metal Supply Party Suites. Truly the most underrated seats, though, are the $8 bleachers flanked by the sand beach beyond the center field fence and the Park at the Park. This is the place to come if you have young children who enjoy playing in the sand, or if you crave going shoeless with soft grass cushioning your feet between the bleacher rows.

You can gain entrance to the Park at the Park for $5 and plop down your blanket on the grassy knoll, but for $3 more you can get comfortably formed bleacher seats near the sandy beach play area, as well as access to the ballpark’s many outstanding common areas. In addition, the Party Suites in the Western Metal Supply Co. building are fine for partying, but somewhat isolated for actually watching the game. One corner of the building serves as the left field foul pole. For the most part, the preservation of the old Western Metal Supply building works well. A team store is located here, and the excellent display area features an interesting history of area baseball and neighborhood archeological finds. Petco really invites fans to stroll around the spacious concourses, and a quick tour of the Western Metal Supply is a must-see. Nearby is the well-designed left field standing area where socializing with a beer and some ballpark cuisine come naturally.

If you have disdain for modern ballparks with quirks designed into them, you might find a few Petco peeves. The outfield fence has a large number of jogs, and its height fluctuates nearly as much as the Dow Jones industrials. The fence line starts at only 4 feet in the left field corner, 7 feet in left center, climbs to 12 feet in right, and drops to 10 feet in the extended right porch area in foul territory near the right field foul pole. The visitor’s bullpen is squeezed into right field foul territory, but home relievers can stretch out in their roominess beyond the left-field fence. Despite the many quirks, it all fits together with a consistent theme. We especially enjoy the “neighborhood” seating concept that allows for a human scale factor without the resulting isolation found in some stadium designs. In our view, Petco Park’s distinctive and enduring qualities far outnumber a few quirks that might annoy you.

Ultimately, Petco Park manages to accomplish the rare feat of catering not only to the fan focused entirely on the game, but also the visitor interested in the overall experience.

CONCESSIONS
Petco Park is meant to be far more than watching a ballgame, and the concessions are a big part of the value-added experience. No fewer than seven restaurants are offered, but don’t plan of visiting all of them (some in the restricted Terrace seating areas). You have a lot of cuisine choices here –- at a price. You have some fairly good deals on food if you look closely — $3.50 for a tasty “world famous” fish taco at Rubio’s Fresh Mexican, and you can look for a Tastee-Freez soft serve dessert at $3.75. Out in the Park at the Park, you can sample Randy Jones’ BBQ, including ribs or chicken, barbecue pork or beef sandwiches with chips, or a half-pound slugger (hamburger).

The best part of the concessions is the wide-open dining area overlooking the bay. Finding a seat near the closed-circuit TV might prove challenging. Another option is to dine in the left field standing area (as mentioned above). You can go upscale in your food selection; for instance, Anthony’s Fish Grotto offers a Shrimp Avocado Salad or a bowl of clam chowder — and you rarely have to wait long in line. And, of course, you can find sushi at this ballpark.

As for beverages, you can find a very wide array of beers – domestic and imported. Possibly the most interesting is San Diego’s Stone Pale Ale served in only one location — near the left-field corner standing area (mentioned above). Also available: a yard glass of margarita and white wine.

FOR THE KIDS
Children are not exactly spoiled at Petco Park. The kids’ amusement area in the 2.8-acre Park at the Park is located as far away from any bustling ballpark activity as you can get. Not surprisingly, this area is virtually ignored most of the time. On the other hand, the Little League infield next to the ballpark provides youngsters with batting practice fun that is well-staffed by the Padres.

BEFORE/AFTER THE GAME
Unless you’re somewhat of a homebody staying at the adjoining Omni Hotel San Diego, which is connected to main concourse of the ballpark, you will want to venture out at least a few blocks from Petco Park to check out the dining and bar scene and shopping located in the Gaslamp Quarter. Most of the activity is centered along Fifth Avenue extending several blocks from busy Market Street. If you want old neighborhood dive bar authenticity, try Tivoli (505 Sixth Av., 619/232-6754). Exploring further from the ballpark will bring you to the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter where almost every possible palate can be satisfied. If you’re a fan of the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce, you’ll want to seek out the fine dining at Croce’s (802 5th Av., 619/233-4355) — owned by Ingrid Croce in tribute to her late husband. One of your best bets is a fine old deli plainly named the Cheese Shop (627 Fourth Av., 619/232-2303 or 619/232-0302); superb sandwiches, good beer, friendly service, reasonably priced.

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