July 7, 2008

Ballpark Review - Petco Park

It's difficult to do a ballpark review without actually attending a game there. Some might say it's not all that fair. Well that, my friends, is the liberty that I get with reviewing a stadium for a blog. Screw you if you want a game, you're going to get my review from a walkaround and walkthrough of the ballpark on gameday. I personally preferred cheap margaritas and good Mexican food than seeing a riveting Padres-Twins interleague game (raise your hand if you think interleague should be limited to local "rivalry" series).
This is the view from leftfield at Petco from the team store, where you can buy such beautiful items as this:
or this
However, despite the array of largely hideous apparel from one of the most offensive teams to ever grace the uniform world (hello Paul Lukas), the team store does give access to a pen in the leftfield corner while the game is not going on.
The team store is housed in the old Western Metal Company building which is built into the leftfield line and gives Petco its signature quirk.

The terraces along the Western Metal Supply Company building offer seating. What you see in the foreground are the seats in the "park in the park." This is Petco's version of standing room only. For a few bucks on the day of the game, you get access to the park just behind the centerfield seats, a few in-stadium food vendors, and access to this grassy berm with backless bleacher seating. However, the bleachers are curved conveniently for one's ass to fit in.
In the background of the picture above, you can see arguably the most important thing about Petco... a large highrise representing the revitalization of the Gaslamp Quarter neighborhood of San Diego. Petco stands along the San Diego Bay at the southern end of Gaslamp. Gaslamp is about a twenty-square-block area of vibrance. Gaslamp separates Petco from the downtown business district. On game nights, the bars in Gaslamp along 4th and 5th streets are hopping, especially after games let out. From locals in San Diego, I hear that Gaslamp used to be an area of urban decay. If this is true, then Petco really is proof of how a ballpark can revitalize a downtown area.
The weather for games in San Diego can't be beat. However, even for a game in late June, it's going to be in the upper 50s or low 60s by the end of the game, with a fairly strong breeze outside since you are right near the water. Bring a jacket, even in the dead of summer.
As stated, Petco benefits from beautiful weather. Petco also benefits from easy access by mass transit from San Diego's light rail system. However, my gut reaction is that Petco is like the guy who is reasonably talented at hoops and has a good jump shot, but is obsessed with trying to be the guy with all the talent and the flashy game and never will be that guy. Don't get me wrong... Petco is nice. It's certainly nicer than Angels Stadium. However, it tries to pull off the retro look somewhat unsuccessfully. The building that juts into leftfield is an unadulterated rip off the Warehouse at Camden Yards. The outdoor scaffolding of the stadium though is very much like Nationals Park - exposed steelwork. The stadium backs to San Diego Bay so that the Bay is roughly behind home plate. Like Nationals Park, Petco Park was placed on a plot of land that handicapped it from maximizing the benefit of the city's skyline.
I've heard that Petco has excellent food options. I can tell you from walking past exposed menus on the shuttered vendors that those food options are RIDICULOUSLY expensive, only eclipsed by maybe Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway Park. Bottom line, nice stadium, very clean, nice accessibility, great rehab of a neighborhood, and a hell of an upgrade over Qualcomm Stadium.


4 Responses:

J-Red said...

Ummm, Petco predates Nationals Park (and the Padres win more than 37% of their games)

Russell said...

Having attended an actual game at Petco, I feel capable of throwing in a few comments. When I was there 3 or 4 years ago, I enjoyed my Petco experience very much. The stadium was rather new but the Gas Lamp District was already nice. The atmosphere was good, and tickets were inexpensive and easy to obtain. I never eat at stadiums, so I can't add anything about the food or the prices.

My only complaints were that most of the outfield seats were hopelessly out of HR range and that the stadium wasn't very full. The attendance may have changed, but balls certainly don't fly out of there like the Juice Box or Citizens Bank. I don't mind a pitchers' park, but it takes away from the excitement of the bleacher seats.

I do agree with Jeremy in that I was disappointed they didn't do more with the geography/cityscape. I liked what SF and Seattle did with their new(ish), West Coast stadiums a lot more.

michael said...

As one who has been to a dozen games at Petco, I agree with Russell and Jeremy on many points. The Western Metal building is a little contrived, and the stadium is nowhere near as nice as Camden or AT&T;, and probably comes in just behind Safeco, and just ahead of the Ballpark at Arlington on my list of the new "retro" parks.

Due to the large center field dimensions and cool marine air, home runs are sparse, leading to lower scoring games. It does get MUCH warmer in San Diego in late July, August and September. San Diego is far enough south that (unlike Los Angeles and other California cities) it even gets a tad humid there (although nothing like east coast humidity), so if you go to a night game in August, it will probably still be in the mid 70s at 10pm when the games end, so you can leave the jacket at home.

However, I disagree on thwe stadium placement issue. San Diego's skyline is pathetic and looks like a broken toolbox. If they faced the stadium towards the bay, then batters would be looking into the sunset as they were batting, which is obviously unacceptable. I think they did the best the could.

It is true that the stadium has completely changes downtown. The Gaslamp was nothing a decade ago, and downtown was all bail bonds shops, seedy motels and bums. Now the seedy motels have been replaced with high-rise condos, the bail bonds shops replaced with upscale restaurants and bars, and the bums...well, the climate is perfect, so the bums remain. The stadium has definitely changed the city for the better. And as with any downtown park, plentiful free parking is available if you know where to look.

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