As Petco Park celebrates 10 years since opening in 2004, the effects of the Padres’ home ballpark are mixed, according to a new study by the National University System Institute for Policy Research (NUSIPR).
The stadium has transformed a run-down neighborhood into an attraction for both tourists and residents.
That's where the study found the greatest impact. The area added more than 15,000 residents – nearly doubling to 32,544 – and 14,700 housing units (to 24,168) between 2000 and 2013.
“The ballpark really activated downtown at least 81 days a year,” said Erik Bruvold, a policy researcher at National University. “It created more street traffic, more vibrancy. And that really encouraged people to move into the community.”
But that didn’t really translate into more jobs. About 64,000 people worked downtown in 2014, about the same as in 2004. Kris Michell, CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“We have been through the worst recession since the great depression so the fact that we've stayed even is good,” she said.
What about actual baseball fans? After spiking to 3 million in the inaugural 2004 season – setting the team record by more than 400,000 – the number of fans walking through the gates has dropped by almost a million fans a year.
Attendance dipped below 2 million in 2009 but has topped 2.1 million every year since.
A drop is to be expected after a new ballpark opens, and the Padres’ attendance hasn’t been that far off from the league average. Of course, anyone who has been to a game knows that more often than not the opposing team is supplying a majority of fans.
That led to $67.6 million in out-of-facility spending in 2013, according to the study. That includes restaurants, non-ballpark entertainment and hotels.
So, if the ballpark brings in money, why not put it into use more often? Aside from the 81 home games and a handful of concerts, the stadium doesn’t get a whole lot of action.
The recent Davis Cup tennis tournament was an interesting example of finding other ways to get fans in the park. Whether or not that could be considered a hit, it at least drew attention to Petco in the offseason.
Other stadiums have experimented with events like the recent National Hockey League Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which was a huge success.
Iconic ballparks like Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston have hosted concert events with big names like Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, drawing sellout crowds.