I just returned from a great trip to San Diego, California, where I was able to enjoy my 37th Major League ballpark, Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. Located near the famous Gas Lamp entertainment district in downtown, the magnificent venue is also across the street from the city’s convention center and the San Diego Bay waterfront. There is plenty of parking garages available, but with the great mass transit that the city has to offer, many fans use local busses and trolleys to go to and from baseball games. In addition, there are some neat pubs and restaurants all located within a couple of blocks of Petco. I chose “Bub’s” and found it to be a great place to hang out before the game with its full open air entrances, mass of flat screen televisions and a menu with a plethora of dining options. Plus the servers were all gorgeous, which really added to the atmosphere!
Quite a few unique amenities jump out to greet you when you first enter the ballpark through the centerfield gates. First of all, there is a miniature baseball diamond called Park at the Park on the outer concourse area that allows youngsters of all ages to play “pick up” baseball games against anyone else who happens to be there at the same time. Secondly, on a little hill overlooking the kids’ park and the main entrance into the stadium, there is a statue of Tony Gwynn. Known as “Mr. Padre,” Southern California born and bred Tony spent his entire 20 year major league career in San Diego, amassing a lifetime batting average of .338. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, Gwynn sadly died of cancer just two months ago in June 2014. Thirdly, since the major pet store chain, Petco, is the naming rights sponsor, there is a special seating section behind the centerfield fence where you can bring your pets to “watch” the game with you! Many stadiums across the country these days designate special dates when you can bring your four legged friends to the games known as “Bark at the Park,” but to my knowledge, this is the only major league facility that permits animals on a regular basis.
Once inside the ballpark, a journey to the upper deck behind home plate provides a wonderful panoramic view of the city’s many tall buildings across the field and beyond the outfield. Turning around, you also have a nice view of the bay and the Coronado Bridge. Part of the mystique of Petco Park, is the inclusion of the old Western Metal Supply Company building as part of the left field ambience. Rather than take down this old structure, the former warehouse built originally in 1909, was renovated and incorporated into an eating, drinking and seating area that begins with the left field foul pole. Besides a great place to enjoy the game with family and friends because of the variety of food and beverage options, the third floor of the building also houses the San Diego Padre Hall of Fame exhibit, complete with artifacts and memorabilia from the team.
Every level of the stadium provides great sight lines for the game and the concession stands provide quite a variety of options, many with a SoCal or Mexican cuisine to showcase the local favorites. Many craft beers were also available, featuring the talents of many of the local small breweries. And, I have to mention the staff. Every person that I spoke with from ticket sellers to security to ushers to concession stand workers were very friendly and oh, so proud of their ballpark. Finally, I have to mention the weather: San Diego boasts nearly 72 degree weather year round, with little or no humidity. Also, I have heard all the songs stating that it never rains in southern California, but being a guy who has worked at baseball parks in rainy Florida for the past 35 years, I was shocked that this major league baseball stadium has no field tarp in visible view on the field!