My final day in California was spent in sunny (just kidding, it was cloudy) San Diego. I think California hates me because it’s always gloomy and cold when I visit. Personally, I prefer summer in the Midwest, but I have a feeling these folks have the advantage in the winter! Again overcast skies couldn’t keep me from the ocean and I spent the afternoon rock climbing, beach house hunting, and bravely dipping my feet in the chilly water at La Jolla. I met some nice locals who gave me some advice on using the trolley, so to cut down on parking costs I rode it into the city. Parking is free at the Old Town Transit Center and if you’re willing to take the risk, so is the trolley ride. I paid $5, but no one checked my ticket, so I’m assuming locals use this as a free service, much like in Phoenix.
I got off at the 12th and Imperial stop with the other Padres fans and followed them to the park, or I would have missed it (not really, but close). The outside of Petco Park is unlike any other ballpark in the league with sandstone walls that connect to tiled stone and heavily windowed offices. Flowers and vines overflow and hang off the walls adding bursts of color that offset the tan. Not until you pass the main ticket office and come to the home plate entrance does the building start to resemble a stadium. The stands curve out and there is a zigzagging of white steel with the words Petco Park that give it away. The area from home plate to left field was gated off (though there is a left field gate), so I went back around first base to the center field gate. There are plenty of bars and restaurants near this gate to hang out in before or after a game- Petco is conveniently located in the heart of the downtown scene!
Once I entered the park, I was immediately sucked into the wine festival that was going on in the “Park at the Park” section behind center field. Every Friday home game has a different theme/event and this week was wine. There were tickets for sale and plenty of vendors to choose from, including local wineries. The grassy slope in the outfield is a cheap ticket on game nights, but only a limited number are available, so get to the park early for those. Flanking the batter’s eye and retired numbers are bleachers in center field with a “beach” in front where the visitor’s bullpen should hypothetically be located. Sorry visiting team, your pitchers have to warm up in foul territory on the first baseline! To the left of the batter’s eye is a picnic terrace and the home team bullpen. There is a concourse between the grass and bleacher seats with live music before games and a baseball diamond for kids to play on. It was pretty crowded for the wine festival, though it did clear out a bit once the game started.
Petco Park has a lot of nooks and crannies to explore, making it a bit of a maze to navigate! I hit a few “dead ends” before making my way up some stairs to the main concourse and down to the field to watch the Reds warm up. Looking around the park I noticed it wasn’t just the concourse that had a lot of angles, so does the outfield. In the corner of left field is a brick building, the Western Metal Supply Co. that adds a touch of red brick to an otherwise un-retro park. I made my way back up to the concourse to find a spot to watch the first at bat and was pleasantly surprised by how pretty the main concourse is. Seems like a weird word to describe a baseball park, but it’s the only one that does this place justice! There are hanging vines and flowers throughout and the concession stands look rather fancy with the sandstone fronts. The Mercado area is adorned with a string of lights and even has a wine bar- you stay classy, San Diego! There are a ton of local options for food, as the Padres have really tried to make the park a taste of the city. A little overwhelmed by love for the stadium, I had to refocus and find some standing room to watch some of the game (seriously, you forget you’re at a ballgame it’s so nice!). Standing room is aplenty at this level and there are even rails for you to put your food on. I stayed behind home plate for a couple innings before spotting the Friar and continuing my little journey around the park.
Besides flowers and sandstone, what this park has in surplus are white steel beams and ramps. I walked up and down a lot of ramps! To get over to the right field bleachers I passed the all you can eat seats and headed under the bleachers to a small, enclosed concourse that housed concessions and an area devoted to military appreciation. Many stadiums salute the fine men and women that serve our country, but Petco Park goes above and beyond with their tributes. I ended back at the “Park at the Park” section and noticed a crepe station. That might be a first at the ballpark, so I had one. YUM!
With the 100 level scoured, I headed up to the bar in the Western Metal Supply Co. to see the view from the 200 level seats. While this bar is open to all fans, the rest of the 200 level or the Toyota Terrence is club and suite level seating. There are escalators around the main concourse that lead up to this level but are for ticket holders only. If you go to the base of the brick building you can find stairs or an elevator up to the bar that is open to all fans. This bar is awesome with plenty of Padres history on display and even some outdoor seating. It’s also great to watch from inside since once the sun (which came out around 3) goes down, it gets awfully chilly here! So tired of wearing a jacket in July, but I had to put it on after I left the bar for further exploration of the park.
I continued my ascent to the 300 level which is a skinny concourse but fits the fancy theme of the park. There is an outdoor bar and seating in the right field corner, but it was mostly abandoned (due to the cold weather or since the Padres were getting a beat down by the Reds). There are a bunch of indoor bars around the park, so if you get cold, you can move to one of those. I walked around the stands at this level and assessed that not only the view of the field is great, but the view of downtown as well. My camera doesn’t do it justice. Along the first base line is a bell, so I asked one of the stadium employees the significance. He told me it was a rally bell (not getting much of a workout tonight) and they ring it after wins. He asked if this was my first time at the park and after I said yes, I was brought into the guest services and given a button and some Padres gear. So awesome! Make sure you visit the guest services in every park you visit to see what they give to first timers (makes for a fun little souvenir).
For the last two innings, I ended up in the left field bleachers where my seat was located. There was another abandoned outdoor bar and a few levels of standing room. The Reds ended up getting the win (6-0). I stopped at Tin Fish Gaslamp for a fish taco before heading back to my car and LA.
For this trip, I spent $13.50 on my ticket, $5 for the trolley ride, $12 on food, and $75 on a hotel. For my entire trip to SoCal (4 days, 3 ballparks), I spent $556. Another thank you to Bruce Christopher for sponsoring my flight out here, I am so appreciative of your support in my pursuit! I would have loved to spend more time in San Diego, but fitting in 30 MLB trips in a summer means I need to be quick! I highly suggest you make this park and city at least a weekend trip! Every staff member I spoke was polite and friendly and the fans were great too! One of the Padres employees told me they like to think Petco Park is the Nordstrom of ballparks and I have to agree, they made a lot of ballparks look like Sears!