Petco Park (San Diego)

This article was written by Dave Nielsen - Mike Madigan


Petco Park has been home to the San Diego Padres since 2004. It has proved to be popular with fans and is largely credited with stimulating significant development of the East Village neighborhood in which it is located, development that was necessary to generate tax revenues necessary for the City of San Diego to meet its financial obligations for the ballpark project. Its beneficial impacts on the neighborhood have exceeded expectations even of its supporters.

Achieving public support and building a facility in a decaying urban neighborhood was very challenging. It took seven years from early discussions to opening. It involved a citywide vote and prevailing in 16 lawsuits that sought to halt the entire ballpark project or otherwise affect elements of it. It required the club owner to finance and gain approval of development in the vicinity of the ballpark. Most important, it required a diverse group of individuals and entities to learn how to work together and to do so on the fly. To their credit they did that and they all deserve praise for the results.

New Club Ownership

In 1994, John Moores, a wealthy Texas entrepreneur, philanthropist, and baseball fan, purchased the San Diego Padres for a reported $80 million. This chapter tells the story of the decision by Moores and his team to seek a new venue for the team’s home games. In 1994 times were not good for either major-league baseball or for the club. A strike that began on August 12 resulted in the remainder of the 1994 season being canceled, including the playoffs and World Series. It was the first World Series cancellation in history.1 It also deprived the Padres’ Tony Gwynn of his best opportunity to be the first major-league player to bat .400 since Ted Williams in 1941. At the time, the club had a bad record, attendance was low and so was revenue. A very unpopular trade known as the “fire sale” had sent well-known, highly-paid players to the Miami Marlins for what at that time were by and large a group of unknowns, although few suspected at the time that among the “unknowns” was a future Hall of Famer, Trevor Hoffman, who became one of the most popular players in the Padres’ history.

Still, Moores’ timing was good in many regards. A trade orchestrated by general manager Randy Smith that would bring future All-Stars Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley needed only his approval in December 1994. Moores also inherited a strong cast of inexpensive but productive pitchers headed by Trevor Hoffman, Andy Ashby, and Joey Hamilton, plus a $21 million payroll that he would double within three years.

From 1995 to 1998, the Padres prospered under Moores. In 1996 the team won its first National League West title since 1984. In 1998, the Padres reached the World Series

When Moores purchased the club, he brought in Larry Lucchino as a partner and club president and CEO. Lucchino had served as president and CEO of the Baltimore Orioles and was credited with developing the ballpark at Camden Yards, the first of the so-called “retro” facilities with old-fashioned charm and smaller seating capacities.

Early on, the new ownership group made it clear that they wanted to pursue a new ballpark for the Padres. They had concluded that the current home of the Padres, the joint-use Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium was inappropriate for baseball, citing incompatibility between the needs of football (the Chargers) and baseball (the Padres). As well, the Padres held a distinct second place to the Chargers in terms of stadium revenues. The owners declared that the community deserved a state-of-the-art ballpark. Their shared objective with the city was to make major-league baseball sustainable in San Diego.

Community and City Involvement

San Diego International Sports Council

Early efforts for a new ballpark occurred at the San Diego International Sports Council, which on May 10, 1996, released a report titled “Stadium and Arena Financing Options for San Diego.” The study had been a “team project” conducted by a group of students at San Diego State University as part of the school’s MBA curriculum. The group was led by Erik Judson, who presented the study to the Sports Council. Lucchino was impressed and ultimately hired Judson as the Padres’ first special assistant. The findings of the study proved to be useful in subsequent discussions about a new ballpark for San Diego.

Mayor’s Task Force on Padres Planning

Meanwhile, San Diego Mayor Susan Golding had appointed a Task Force on Padres Planning to identify what was needed to guarantee a sustainable future for major-league baseball in San Diego. The task force was chaired by Ron Fowler, who as of 2018 was the Padres executive chairman and a co-owner of the club. The task force’s final report was submitted to the City Council in September 1997 and concluded among other things that:

  • The Padres were an important asset to the life and economy of the San Diego/Tijuana region, and that a community partnership with the owners of the franchise was necessary to protect, preserve, and enhance that asset.
  • The Padres under their current ownership had set new industry standards for regional marketing and community involvement and had been exceptional corporate citizens.
  • Given the significant economic benefits provided by the Padres, the city should play an active, meaningful, and responsible role in assuring the existence of major-league baseball in San Diego well into the millennium.
  • The economics of professional sports had changed significantly. The national trend was away from multisport stadiums to separate baseball-oriented and football-oriented facilities with revenue streams dedicated to the primary sports tenant. Unless some action was taken to change the Padres’ circumstances, they would fall further behind the pack.
  • The Padres could not generate the revenue necessary to become economically viable and remain competitive in Qualcomm Stadium. Their ballpark-related revenues were said to be below the National League and major-league average and far below average in comparison to those clubs with baseball-oriented ballparks.
  • Given the limited size of the San Diego market and media opportunity, the potential popularity and increased revenue streams generated by a new baseball-oriented ballpark were essential to the future economic and competitive success of the Padres and their long-term survival in San Diego.
  • A new baseball-oriented ballpark, properly located and designed, could be a catalyst for both revitalization and expanded economic activity in a city or an area of the city.
  • San Diego had an opportunity to build a ballpark that would be so unique, beautiful, and integrated into its surroundings that it could become an internationally recognized symbol of the city.
  • Although the Padres had made significant strides in corporate development, corporate support was still inadequate when compared to other major-league baseball franchises.
  • San Diego was a community rich in small and midsized businesses. Given this significant “middle market,” the Padres must continue to appeal to those thriving enterprises.
  • While the Padres had been extraordinarily successful in the area of community outreach, the unique circumstances of the San Diego region would require the team to reach out even further into the community and create a network of mutually beneficial relationships.
  • In a new baseball-oriented ballpark with the type of atmosphere and amenities that enhanced the fans’ experience and increased revenues in other cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland and Denver, the Padres could potentially become a stable, competitive, healthy franchise for years to come.

City of San Diego Task Force on Ballpark Planning

The City Council, upon officially receiving the report of the Task Force on Padres Planning, approved a proposal by Mayor Golding to establish a City of San Diego Citizens Task Force on Ballpark Planning to be chaired by Patrick Shea, a partner in the Pillsbury Madison and Sutro law firm. City Councilman Byron Wear was appointed an ex-officio member. Their charge was to look at location and financing options for a ballpark. Specifically, the task force was directed to do the following:

  • SITE SELECTION: To recommend a site that would maximize economic development and vitality for both the Padres and San Diego as a community and be consistent with long-range urban planning principles.
  • FINANCE: To recommend a viable preliminary financing plan that would identify a preferred financing structure to include public, private, corporate, and project-related financing components.
  • DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION: To develop a preliminary project cost estimate for a new ballpark based on analysis of factors such as land assembly, infrastructure requirements, environmental impacts, and design and construction issues, and a construction timetable.

The work of the task force commenced in January 1997. Their final report was submitted to the mayor and City Council in January 1998.

While not official members of the task force, the Padres played an important support role. They provided information and data throughout the process. They provided material from Major League Baseball, other major-league clubs, and outside consultants and experts to assist task force members in their analysis. Padres players and employees gave public comment at various public forums and committee meetings. They also assisted in many of the task force’s special events including the Design and Construction Committee’s public workshop and children’s competition as well as a public forum on January 7, 1998, that included ballpark presentations from other major-league communities.

In the course of its deliberations the task force considered five sites, all within the city limits:

  • The General Dynamics site in Kearny Mesa.
  • Mission Valley, near Qualcomm Stadium.
  • North Embarcadero (Navy property south of Broadway on San Diego Bay).
  • The vacant Lane Field site (home of the minor-league Padres from 1936 to 1957).
  • The South Embarcadero site in the Centre East area of the city.

The General Dynamics site was eliminated early in the process for lack of interest by the owner. The Lane Field site was eliminated next because it was found to be too small to accommodate a project of this size. Subsequently, both the North Embarcadero and Mission Valley sites were eliminated—the former due to the uncertainty of its availability and the difficulty of confirming a real-time process for obtaining access to the property, and the latter mainly due to locational aspects.

That left the South Embarcadero site (a/k/a East Village or the Historic Warehouse District), and the task force recommended that the mayor and city council select it as the preferred site for a new baseball park. It was described as being immediately adjacent to the thriving Gaslamp Quarter and to have “an approximate site range” bordered on the north by K Street, the south by Commercial Street, the east by 12th Avenue, and the west by 7th or 8th Avenues.

In addition, the task force recommended that the mayor and city council:

  • Create a “Ballpark District” surrounding the ballpark site and establish a “Ballpark District” Board to expedite development of the ballpark and surrounding area.
  • Ensure that the public portion of a financing plan would be justifiable to taxpayers and fair to all parties involved. It would limit City General Fund participation to Transient Occupancy Tax revenues paid by visitors to the city with no other General Fund obligation beyond the specific revenues identified in the financing plan.
  • Promptly enter into negotiations with the Padres for planning, constructing, developing, and operating a new ballpark.

The new ballpark in that location would in the words of the task force become the “anchor tenant” in a revitalized section of the city. It would be surrounded and complemented by commercial and residential development, restoration of existing buildings and landmarks and a variety of parks, promenades, and other public amenities.

With regard to financing, the task force recommended that the agreement between the city and Padres should not guarantee the Padres a profit, but should afford them the opportunity to make a profit.

With regard to design, the report concluded that the ballpark should be one of the signature structures of the downtown skyline and part of an attractive, welcoming “front door” to a beautiful city with a world-class waterfront. The ballpark should express San Diego’s unique character and beauty. It should be in a parklike setting with extensive landscaping and open to the sky, with ample vistas of San Diego. It should be a high quality, state of the art facility with careful attention to every aspect of design and construction. It could be the first step in dramatic neighborhood improvement.

In summary, what became commonly known as the East Village site met most of the parties’ objectives. From the city’s point of view it would quite likely revitalize a portion of the downtown redevelopment area that in the words of former Councilman Byron Wear was financially upside down. Moores and Lucchino had come to appreciate the potential of tax increment financing in order for the city to meet its financial obligations. And Lucchino, looking back at his experience in Baltimore, wanted to expand the scope of this effort to include a comprehensive master plan for the entire surrounding neighborhood. Finally, the city’s Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) had what a former Padres executive years later called an “army” of experts with a record of success. They understood the complexities of California redevelopment law and financing, and had experience in land assembly and negotiations with diverse landowners. They also had in-house urban planning and design expertise.

The final challenge was to select the precise location of the ballpark within the boundaries of the East Village. The site agreed to was between 7th and 10th Avenues and Imperial Avenue and J Street. While some wanted it to be farther to the east, the selected site was close enough to be more easily “fitted into the fabric of downtown.” Several participants in those discussions, in particular master plan architect Boris Dramov, pushed hard for a location close enough to “spark the gap” between the ballpark and the Gaslamp Quarter, which was thriving.

The ballpark was expected to hold up to 46,000 people by means of approximately 42,000 fixed seats, standing-room locations for up to 1,500, and picnic and lawn seating areas in a “Park at the Park” for approximately 2,500. It would be an open-air, natural grass, state-of-the-art, multiple-use ballpark.

On February 23, 1998, the City Council officially received the task force report and authorized a negotiating team recommended by the city manager to negotiate with the Padres. The council directed the city manager to return in three weeks with the necessary timeline to get the matter before the public for a vote as early as November. The timeline presented included a measure on the November 3, 1998, ballot.


Design and Construction Teams

Even before the task force report was released, the Padres had retained an architectural team which included:

  • Design architect Antoine Predock
  • Executive architect Joe Spear, HOK + Venue + Event
  • Master plan architect Boris Dramov, ROMA Design Group

In June 1998, well in advance of the November election, the Padres unveiled renderings of “A Ballpark for San Diego.”

Meanwhile Ballpark Builders was formed, a joint venture composed of Clark Construction Group, Inc., Nielsen Dillingham Builders, and Barnhart PCL. The joint venture retained Hines Interests Limited Partnership to act as construction manager for development of the ballpark.

Ballpark Design

From the beginning, the Padres and their team worked to design a ballpark that would reflect San Diego’s position on the ocean and in the semi-arid Southwest. Thus, the final design, unlike other ballparks being developed at the time, would be clad in sandstone rather than brick, to reflect images of the iconic cliffs in the nearby Torrey Pines State Preserve. Other distinctive features to be included were a large waterfall at the home plate entrance as well as planters filled with a variety of plants throughout the facility.

One feature of the ballpark did, however, harken back to Lucchino’s experience in Baltimore – incorporation of the historic Western Metal Supply Company building into the ballpark design, similar to the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards. One corner of the building in San Diego became the left-field foul pole, thus setting the precise location of the field. This novel idea required approval of Major League Baseball. Ultimately the building would house the Padres’ team store, a bar and grill, party suites to be rented for individual games with balconies for viewing games, and bleacher seating on top of the building.

The design included a 2.8-acre “Park at the Park” just outside the center-field fence. It was to include a grassy area, a play area for children, a miniature Wiffle Ball diamond, and a sand “beach” where children could play while parents watched the action on the field from the higher ground. The park would be available to the general public except during games. Admission during games was to be $5 per person and a video display would be installed for those sitting in view-obstructed areas.

Memorandum of Understanding

Meanwhile the Padres, the city, the City Redevelopment Agency and CCDC had begun to work on a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU covered a Ballpark District, Construction of a Baseball Park, and a Redevelopment Project. It outlined the responsibilities of each party for the project, including:

  • Land acquisition, construction, and installation of the ballpark,
  • Parking facilities and other public improvements.
  • Requirements for ancillary development, including hotels, retail and residential facilities, and office space,

The estimated project cost was $452.6 million, to be funded by four key elements of investment:

  • City of San Diego, $225.0 million.
  • Redevelopment Agency, $ 61.0 million.
  • Padres/Private Sources, $145.6 million.
  • Other/Port, $21.0 million.

Responsibilities for developing the project were to be spread among the various parties as follows:

  • The city was to be responsible for the planning and construction of infrastructure improvements in the area.
  • CCDC was to be responsible for the acquisition of land.
  • The Padres were to be responsible for building the ballpark facility.
  • The Padres, or developers the Padres could designate, were to be responsible to build the ancillary development.

Proposition C

On November 3, 1998, in a citywide election, 59.64 percent of those voting approved the MOU after a very spirited campaign in which the Padres played a major role. Larry Lucchino recalled that the club treated it as a political campaign and they and their representatives “spoke everywhere.” It certainly helped that the credibility of the club had improved with the division championship in 1996 and, in particular, the National League pennant in 1998, just before the voting took place.

Early Progress

Construction of the “Ballpark Facility” officially commenced in May 2000, when the city issued a “Project Site Notice to Proceed,” although demolition of existing buildings had begun on February 10, 2000. The first highly visible construction event occurred on April 1, with the “Ballpark Blast,” the implosion of a former San Diego Gas and Electric building. This was a major media event and helped keep momentum going for the project. Lucchino strongly believed that momentum was important in major projects and tried to use media events related to the ballpark’s progress to maintain public interest. On August 12, “Ballpark Blast II” brought down the former San Diego Refrigeration building, the last building to be cleared within the ballpark’s footprint. The first concrete for the new ballpark had been poured the previous month.

In January 2001 the city manager reported that between the city, CCDC, the Padres, and private developers, $138 million had been expended toward completion of the project. The manager also reminded the City Council and public that he was to provide a maximum of $225 million to the construction of the project from the net proceeds of a financing. But the report ominously noted that legal challenges remained to be resolved before city financing could commence.


Initially the project proceeded smoothly. But in spite of broad public support and the popularity of the club and its leadership, there was serious and protracted opposition. Some opponents argued that the public investment was not justified given the projected economic benefit. Others argued that public funding of facilities for private use was wrong. The latter group, led by former City Councilman Bruce Henderson, initially objected to placing the matter on the ballot at all and took the matter to court. They were overruled and Proposition C was approved handily.

But approval of Proposition C was only the beginning of what proved to be a succession of court cases. The opponents filed a series of lawsuits challenging follow-up actions of the City Council to approve the project. It was a complex process. Each step implementing the MOU required a separate vote of the council and each in turn resulted in new lawsuits, ultimately amounting to 16, incorporating more than 70 separate causes of action, six of which were appealed. The city and the Padres prevailed in all of them. But it took considerable time to achieve success.

Suspension of Construction

One of the consequences of the ongoing litigation was that the city could not sell bonds to cover its obligations under the MOU. In order to sell tax-exempt bonds, public agencies such as the city must obtain a legal opinion confirming that the process has been conducted according to all applicable laws, and that there is no outstanding litigation considered relevant to this determination. Not knowing when all this could be resolved in court, the city and the Padres were forced to suspend construction in October 2000. 

By then 20.3 percent of the estimated budget had been spent on various portions of the ballpark facility, including all demolition, all foundation work, some portion of the underground utility work, partial construction of the concrete structure, and work relating to the creation of the main seating bowl.

On January 30, 2002, the San Diego Superior Court dismissed the last of the lawsuits, and two weeks later the city sold bonds to finance the project, raising $130 million. Construction resumed on February 28, 2002, after a delay of 16 months.

During that period however, some important work had proceeded, most importantly delivery of structural steel from Korea beginning on December 22, 2000. While buying the steel was expensive and at the time seemed risky, it turned out to be a wise move, as steel prices increased substantially and delivery times lengthened during the 16-month delay.

Public Relations and Outreach

From the beginning of this project, the Padres demonstrated considerable skill in garnering and maintaining public awareness and support. During the Proposition C campaign, Lucchino and other members of his staff and consulting team were involved in literally hundreds of presentations. Lucchino successfully recruited influential fans and business leaders to lend their support and appear at public meetings and hearings.

Throughout this process, even during the suspension period, Lucchino worked constantly to maintain public support for the project, to never lose momentum and to maintain a sense that a new ballpark in East Village was a good thing and inevitable. Events and announcements large and small were staged regularly including:

  • 6/8/98: Unveiling of the first renderings of “A Ballpark for San Diego.”
  • 2/15/99: Unveiling of a scale model of the ballpark.
  • 8/4/99: JMI presentation of design plans for a 33-story hotel and tower to be built just west of the ballpark, connected by a sky bridge over Seventh Avenue.
  • 2/12/2000: Symbolic right-field foul pole ceremony to mark the site with San Diego native Ted Williams.
  • 4/1/2000: “Ballpark Blast I,” implosion of the former SDG&E building.
  • 8/12/2000: “Ballpark Blast II,” implosion of last building in the ballpark footprint.
  • 10/7/2001: Announcement of the ballpark’s address: 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.

All during this time Lucchino was busy. During games he used his private box at Qualcomm Stadium to meet and greet as many people as possible. They were each hosted for an inning or two and then dispatched to some other prime location, often the press box, making room for the next group. He never missed an opportunity to garner goodwill and promote the project.


Neighborhood Issues

Leading up to final approval by the City Council, residents of the communities near the proposed ballpark expressed serious concerns about the impact to their neighborhoods, in particular traffic, parking, noise, and light impacts in Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, Golden Hill South Park, and North Park. Lucchino dispatched his consulting team to meet with these groups to try to allay their fears and develop mitigation measures to minimize impacts should they occur. At a critical juncture, he brought in a former citizen activist from Baltimore who lived near Camden Yards and had originally opposed a ballpark in his neighborhood. He met with people in their homes, responded to their questions and offered suggestions as to how the city and the Padres could deal with their issues. His presentations and suggestions proved to be very helpful for the neighbors as well as the City Council in its deliberations.

Traffic and Parking Impacts

Fears concerning potential traffic and parking impacts proved to be largely unfounded. The majority of games and events would not occur during rush hour. Unlike the traffic pattern at Qualcomm Stadium, there were multiple points of ingress and egress, including Interstate 5 and State Routes 163 and 94, and a grid system of surface streets. There would be three trolley stations within easy walking distance.

For event parking the Padres identified available parking spaces in the downtown area and showed them on a map that was widely distributed. They worked with the city and East Village businesses to implement street parking restrictions on event days. And for the adjoining residential neighborhoods, the city prepared a parking permit program that proved not to be needed. Thus, opposition fears that there would be too few parking spaces proved not to be true as other parking-lot owners adapted both availability and pricing to match Padres games.

Historic Preservation

A number of buildings on the ballpark site and elsewhere in the proposed Ballpark District were considered to be of historical significance. These concerns were well articulated by, among others, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the local Save Our Heritage Organization. The Padres, JMI, and the city worked with these organizations and were able to develop a comprehensive agreement for the preservation of historic buildings in the Ballpark District. In all, 11 buildings were preserved and seven allowed to be demolished. The most challenging historic undertaking was the relocation of the Showley Brothers Candy Factory, a building constructed of unreinforced masonry. Historic preservationists insisted that the building be moved intact the one block to its new home within the project boundaries rather than be dismantled and rebuilt. This was a very expensive proposition, but one the Padres successfully (with nervous members of the planning and construction teams holding their collective breath), managed to accomplish. It is now the headquarters of Bumble Bee Tuna.

Another structure, Rosario Hall, the oldest wooden building built in downtown, had to be relocated across the trolley tracks, which necessitated closing a trolley line and a midnight move. It, too, was successful.

Resumption of Construction and Ballpark Completion

On February 16, 2002, then-Mayor Dick Murphy issued an official “Notice to Proceed” with construction, thus ending a 16-month suspension. Construction proceeded relatively smoothly from there and included the following milestone dates:

  • 7/8/2002: Arrival of first shipment of “Padre Gold” sandstone.
  • 8/22/2002: Construction one-third complete
  • 12/18/2002: Construction 50 percent complete.
  • 12/22/2002: Padres and Petco Animal Supplies, Inc. announced a 22-year sponsorship agreement that included naming rights.
  • 2/14/03: “Topping Out” ceremony.
  • 5/5/03: Installation of first “Pacific Blue” seat.
  • 8/4/2003: 75 percent of construction complete.
  • 9/3-4/2003: Installation of Bull’s Eye Bermuda sod on playing field.
  • 9/22/2003: Relocation of Showley Brothers Candy Factory,
  • 9/28/2003: Last Padres game at Qualcomm Stadium – 35th and final season. Home plate transferred to Petco Park.
  • 1/21/2004: First players workout.
  • 2/20/2004: Substantial completion. Keys and certificate of occupancy handed to the Padres.
  • 3/11/2004: First event: Aztec Invitational College Baseball Tournament.
  • 4/3/2004: First exhibition game: Padres vs Mariners.
  • 4/8/2004: Opening day: Padres 4, Giants 3.


Development of the Ballpark District was the culmination of a larger effort launched by then-Mayor Pete Wilson and shopping center developer Ernest Hahn in the early 1970s.

Wilson very much wanted to redevelop the downtown and Hahn was a willing partner provided the city first commit to construction of a convention center and housing in the area. Based on his experience in Las Vegas, Hahn felt strongly that a convention center would attract out-of-town visitors and new residents and be the necessary first step in stimulating downtown redevelopment. Wilson launched the effort to develop a convention center, which culminated in its approval under Mayor Roger Hedgecock and first-phase completion under Mayor Maureen O’Connor. Hahn in turn developed Horton Plaza, a major shopping center in the geographic center of the downtown area.

While the shape of retail has changed dramatically since then and the center will soon be repurposed, the two projects provided the spark that resulted in the transformation of the areas west of the Ballpark District.

The challenge of those who planned the ballpark and ancillary development in East Village was to build on those successes and create the spark necessary to bridge the physical gap between the vibrant Gaslamp Quarter to the west and the mostly deserted and rundown East Village. By almost any measure they were successful beyond anyone’s expectations. And it was accomplished with only minimal disruption, requiring relocation of only 22 people.

The ballpark, especially the Park at the Park, has created a unique personality and feel in the neighborhood. Thousands of new residents have moved into high-rise, townhouse, and loft homes. A luxury hotel is linked to the ballpark by a pedestrian bridge. A new Central Library with its distinctive design has been built immediately east of the ballpark.

Only two other features of the original Ballpark District plan remain unfinished. Due to regulatory delays and financing issues, the at-grade rail crossing at Park Boulevard was not open as of 2018 although a dramatic pedestrian bridge at that location provided some access to the nearby hotel, convention center, and waterfront. And the “D-1” parcel near the railroad tracks remained vacant. Originally planned for a hotel, its development seems dependent on future expansion of the convention center.

Since Petco Park opened in 2004, nearly all of the early hopes for the project have been fulfilled. The ballpark itself gets high marks from both locals and visitors. The decision to rely on light-rail transit, buses, and other alternative transportation systems, as well as private parking lot entrepreneurs, has justified the minimal dedicated parking lot capacity. Rock and Pop concerts (the Rolling Stones, Madonna, the Eagles, etc.) as well as corporate and civic events, have turned the ballpark into a year-round activity center and the project continues to catalyze new development in the East Village.

Last revised: August 1, 2019

MIKE MADIGAN is retired from a career in the development industry. He served as the City of San Diego’s “Ballpark Czar” during the development of the Petco Park project. A native San Diegan, he attended his first Padres game in 1948.

DAVE NIELSEN grew up in Modesto, California where he attended professional baseball games at Del Webb Field, home of the Modesto Reds. He attended Wheaton College in Illinois and the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. He was living in Puerto Rico in 1971 when native son Roberto Clemente figured prominently in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles, a cause for national celebration. He has resided and worked in San Diego since 1972. He was part of Larry Lucchino’s planning team during the development of Petco Park.



City of San Diego, “Report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Padres Planning,” September 19, 1997.

City of San Diego, “The Report of the City of San Diego Task Force on Ballpark Planning,” January 29, 1998.

Stanford Graduate School of Business, “PETCO Park as a Catalyst for Urban Redevelopment,” February 19, 2008.

Moores, Jennifer, and Jim Forni, foreword by Tony Gwynn. The Sweet Spot: The Story of the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park (Solana Beach, California: Canum Entertainment, 2004).

The authors wish to thank the following for assistance in preparing this article: Larry Lucchino, Eric Judson, former City Councilmember Byron Wear, Rick Vogle, and Jim Chatfield.

All photos courtesy of the San Diego Padres.



1 The first World Series was held in 1903, with the Boston Americans triumphing over the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1904, the New York Giants declined to play the Boston team. From 1905 on, the World Series has been held on a regular basis, with the exception of 1994.