Opened in 2004, Petco Park in San Diego incorporates elements of retro design with the area’s tropical seaside atmosphere. It is a great place for pitchers, and has been the site of some interesting baseball events.
The park hosted playoff games in 2005 and 2006, when the Padres won the National League West division, but lost in the divisional round both years to St. Louis. The first baseball played at Petco was a college baseball tournament hosted by San Diego State, coached by former Tony Gwynn, an eight-time National League batting champion and Hall-of-Famer who spent his entire career with the Padres (Petco’s offical address is 19 Tony Gwynn Way). The March 11, 2004 game set a record for attendance for a college baseball game.
In 2006, Petco hosted the semi-finals and final of the first World Baseball Classic, and in 2009 was the site of second-round games for the same event. Relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman became the first to earn 500 saves when he closed out the Padres’ 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 6, 2007. On August 4, 2007, Barry Bonds hit his 755th home run, tying Henry Aaron’s record for home runs in a season.
San Diego and Colorado played the longest game in the majors in 15 years on April 17, 2008, when they needed 22 innings to produce a 2-1 Colorado win. A swarm of honey bees halted play between the Padres and Houston for 52 minutes on July 2, 2009; a beekeeper arrived to exterminate the bees, which had begun hovering around a seat in left field. On June 15, 2010, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake briefly stopped play between the Padres and Toronto.
Currently, the best players associated with Petco Park are Hoffman, a likely future member of the Hall of Fame, pitcher Jake Peavy, who was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2009, and Adrian Gonzalez, who is a San Diego native and one of the game’s top sluggers and fielding first baseman.
At the end of the 2008 season Petco Park was ranked 29th in hits and 30th in home runs; it is 334 and 322 feet down the left and right field lines, respectively. Left field is 367 feet, while right field is 382 feet. The alleys are farther away than center field—402 feet each compared to 396 feet.
Instead of the red-brick exterior and green-seat interior of many retro downtown ballparks, Petco Park has an Indian sandstone and stucco exterior, with exposed steel painted white and blue fixed seats. Palm and jacaranda trees greet visitors. Once inside, fans in the grandstand have views of San Diego Bay, the San Diego skyline and Balboa Park, site of the San Diego Zoo.
The three-tier grandstand stretches from the right field foul pole to just shy of the left field foul pole. There, the Western Metal Supply Co. building takes over. The century-old brick structure was headed for demolition to make way for the stadium, but was instead blended into the design. Renovated, it houses a team store, suites, and a restaurant. There is space on the roof for bleachers that can be retracted for parties. There is an entrance from the building to the left field standing room area.
The portion of K Street between 7th and 10th avenues behind left and center fields is closed to automobiles. In addition to the standing-room area in left, there is the Park at the Park. A grassy area above center field, the 2.7 acre Park at the Park is accessed on game days for $5; when there is no game, the area is free to anyone. The Park at the Park also includes a Little League infield, a kids’ play area and a statue of Gwynn. Beyond the right field fence is The Beach, an area of sand open to all during batting practice but only bleacher ticket holders afterward.
When a Padre hits a home run, the locale’s naval flavor takes over. A foghorn booms, a recording of the actual horn from the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear aircraft carrier whose home port is San Diego. Keeping with the theme, in the mezzanine below the right field stands is Power Alley, a family entertainment area with a batting cage, a pitching game and a salute to the military, which includes military-style Padres merchandise, a history of the USS Midway and a tribute to major leaguers who served in the military.
Padres retired numbers (Steve Garvey, Gwynn, Hall-of-Famer Dave Winfield, Randy Jones) are above the batter’s eye. The initials of longtime owner Ray Kroc (RAK) and a star honoring the “Hang A Star” trademark saying of Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman, are on the front of the press box in the Toyota Terrace Club.
With the 2010 Padres in first in the NL West by 3.5 games at the end of July, Coleman may yet announce another playoff run and Petco Park may show off its seaside charm to a national audience for the first time since 2006.