29 December 2005

Petco Park tour

I've spent the last week in San Diego visiting family, and while I was there I took in a tour of Petco Park. It proved to be a highly educational experience, especially when trying to look at the venue from the perspective of a team owner such as Lew Wolff. Wolff likes several features of Petco including its "neighborhoods," or areas of regular or season ticket holders. One potential positive in the concept is that the community feel created by neighborhoods could be a factor in subscription retention in years to come, particularly when the novelty effect wears off.

As the tour guide led us through and pointed out many of the unique design elements of Petco, I made some of my own observations:
  1. Revenue-generating opportunities are more diverse at Petco than at SBC Park. The Western Metal Supply building alone has a restaurant, bleachers, and several party suites. The only significant party area at SBC is the concourse behind center field, which is sometimes roped off when it's reserveed for group gatherings.
  2. The Sony Dugout Club, which is reserved for the 150 or so ticketholders immediately behind home plate, is fantastic. It's ostentatious with its huge leather booths, granite tables, and multiple plasma televisions, but if you're a corporate guy looking to impress a client, it's a can't-miss venue. It also has a great view of the Padres' batting cage.
  3. The bleacher concept is only flawed in the sense that the risers descend to the field with the fence partially obstructing some views. Other than that, it's fantastic. The "beach" area will be expanded slightly when the fence is pulled in before the start of the season. BTW, the individual plastic seats on the concrete risers are the Colosseum-Two model made by Dant Clayton, a highly reputable bleacher manufacturer out of Louisville, KY.
  4. The standing room areas are brilliant, perhaps too brilliant. Since the standing room option ($5) has become so popular, seatholders immediately in front of the SRO drinkrails have gotten annoyed at the occasional spilled drink - so much that the Pads are taking out an entire row in front of the drink rail. A nice side effect for the team is that it will create a little more ticket scarcity since a couple hundred seats may be removed from inventory.
  5. The Toyota Terrace has separate club seating and suites. The tour guide pointed out the fact that several Indian gaming interests have suites. Sycuan even holds regular tribal meetings in their suite. I'll expand on this in an article on Las Vegas that will be posted on Friday.
  6. With 17 acres to work with, HOK and architect Antoine Predock had a large space on which they could place buildings, plants, and architectural elements. With an A's ballpark, 17 acres may not be available because of costly land acquisition (5 acres = $30+ million). The acreage was used effectively, as much of the ballpark is recessed from the street, minimizing visual impact.
  7. The use of differing sizes of squarish and rectangular sandstone was a nice touch. It really softens the facade while paying homage to Aztec architecture, albeit with a modern twist.
  8. Ramps are hidden while stairs leading up to the main concourse are prominently featured, which is reminiscent of an Aztec temple. There are 18 elevators and a few escalators, but they are also hidden away.
  9. The stadium appears to be built quite high when looking at it from the field, but that's only because of the proximity of the mezzanine and upper decks, which are both cantilevered well over the lower deck. It would be lower if not for the two levels of suites and club lounges, which effectively add 25-30 feet to the height of the stadium. From the streets lining the outfield, the stadium facade is some 30 feet high when it meets the sidewalk. Look straight up and you'll see the upper two decks. The field is not significantly below the street (~6 feet).
  10. The Park at the Park is a great concept. It's one I think can be integrated into an A's ballpark that could be a big community asset if executed well. It doesn't beat McCovey Cove and the Promenade, however.
  11. The Giants went a little cheap on the video/scoreboard solution deployed at SBC Park. They signed a huge package deal with Panasonic, who not only provided the scoreboard and video board (dubbed Astrovision), but also the TV's in the suites and concourses and the distributed audio system. At Petco, the Padres partnered with Cox Cable and Sony, which meant that HDTV and Sony widescreens are everywhere. There are also little scoreboards above each concourse that have static signage attached. Of course, the Pads had a nice little financial and political delay which allowed them to get the HD stuff in house, which the Giants didn't a few years back. That just means that when it comes time for the Giants to do some upgrades, they won't be cheap. Memo to Lew: 1080p LCD! And Meyer Sound - because nobody does it better!
  12. I counted four different Hussey Seating seat models in use at Petco. The exposed suite seats were covered with tarps. Leather rolling chairs were pulled into each suite. The first tier club seat holders got nice, wide chairs with padded inserts for both the back and seat. The high-roller Sony Dugout Club seats were a high-back variety with fold-out tablets, like those found in a university auditorium. The regular seats were the old-school looking Legend model.
For those who happen to be in San Diego in the near future, I fully recommend the tour. An adult ticket costs $9 with discounts for seniors and kids. The tour runs about 90 minutes.


jrbh said...

My experience of Petco Park -- based on attendance at three ballgames, not the tour -- is different from yours in many respects.

My observations:

(1) The park is structured so that each seating area, or "neighborhood," is exclusive to certain ticketholders. It is virtually impossible to take a stroll, go to the concession stands, etc., without zigging and zagging and being careful about where you're going, and without being constantly challenged by ushers to prove that you're "approved" for the section or area you're in.

(2) The upper deck is, as with most of the newer stadiums, a disaster: steep and very far from the field.

(3) The exclusive clubs are nice indeed, but not particularly innovative, or even all that memorable. Certainly not any nicer than whatever trendy bar you happen to go to. Like those trendy bars, the target audience will get tired of them in a couple of years.

(4) The park, bizarrely, has no grand entrance or concourse. All of the entrances are cramped and confusing.

(5) It's *very* expensive. (Which means two things. It excludes large parts of the public from games, and it also mitigates against the "neighborhood" effect: very few people are going to want to spend the kind of money it takes to go to 81 games at the kind of prices the Padres are charging.)

(6) The "park in a park" has essentially no view of the game. It's hard to believe it will continue to be an experience a lot of fans will want to repeat.

(7) Pointlessly faux-quirky dimensions. You either get that criticism or you don't, I suppose, but speaking for myself, I hate it.

(8) The sound system is good, but awfully loud.

(9) Advertising is *everywhere*. Makes PacBellSBCATT Park look pristine by comparison.

(10) The concourses are very difficult to walk during a heavily attended game. They're narrower than you'd want -- not as narrow as at the Coliseum, of course, but narrow -- and the food lines were quite long.

(11) I don't think you can blame the Padres for this, but the OF dimensions were clearly fucking with the heads of the players at the games I saw. A lot of very frustrated guys on both teams hit 400-foot outs into the damp air and then acted like spoiled Little Leaguers.

(12) Speaking of damp air, the park was built in the coldest place in San Diego in the summer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks ML... I'm going on the tour there in March. I have been to about a half dozen such tours and some are better than others, and I always appreciate it when they provide insights that you would otherwise miss when you attend a game.

Kenny said...

Meyer Sound is a local company (Berkeley) and it's popular among a few of the sound guys I know. The new ballpark, whereever it may be is probably going to be an IA (stagehand's union) venue so they can host stadium concerts there.

If the sound guys have any say into what's going to be used at the new ballpark; it's probably going to be a few Meyer arrays.

I've worked in some venues with Meyer arrays and all I can say is wow.

Anonymous said...

Again, great stuff R.M. I can remember my military days back in the late 80's/early 90's...the area around Petco Park was a complete dump! Now the ballpark district, along with Gaslamp, appears to be the place to be in San Diego. And I love the way they incorporated the Western Metal Supply building into the design...awesome stuff! I plan on taking my family down to SD next summer, and catch a Padres game I will. In closing, great work this year on this blog, and here's hoping 2006 will find San Jose's ballpark dreams coming closer to fruition (sorry Oaklanders)...HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL!!!