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Ballpark Shines as a ‘Utility Player’

Petco Park remains one of the best baseball venues in the country, but it is also one of San Diego’s most unique places for meetings and parties, both on game days as well as the off season.

“It’s one of our goals to become more than a baseball stadium, and to utilize the facilities on a year-round basis,” said Brent Stehlik, senior vice president of ballpark operations for the Padres.

The gatherings range from a modest “happy hour,” gathering for 40 to thousands who jam the field for concerts, film previews and other activities.

Smaller events range from science fairs to music festivals.

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San Jose-based technology giant Cisco Systems Inc. held its annual Cisco Live! event at the stadium last summer, which attracted 8,000 to10,000 IT engineers and executives, who took over the site for various activities over three days.

Stehlik notes that the stadium works closely with the San Diego Convention Center to provide off-site gathering points for those attending conventions and tradeshows, and those organizations that seek some time away from the crowds at the convention center.

Building Is Best Feature

The historic Western Metal Supply Co., a four-story red brick structure anchors the left field of the 42,500-capacity stadium and serves as a central focal point for the 75 meetings and events annually under the auspices of Petco Park Events, a unit of the San Diego Padres.

“If you walk through the Western Metal Concourse on game day, you’d never expect that we could dress it up, and convert it into a really nice meeting space,” he said. “But we have been able to do that, and more.”

“The building is one of the best features of our ballpark,” said Stehlik, who noted that the edifice features the open-air rooftop, with sweeping views of not only the playing field and stadium seating, but the towering skyline of downtown San Diego.

The interior top floor includes the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill, which has been transformed into a place for parties, as well as more formal meetings, including sit-down dinners.

The lower floors include suites with retractable walls, seven on one floor and five on another floor. He said retracting the interior walls can transform the floors into one open suite, with nice views out the window of the building.

“We converted the concourse on the ground floor into a space where we had our holiday party this past year,” he said. “We dressed it really nice, brought in some heaters, and we transformed it into a beautiful space.”

Five Clubs and Restaurants

“You would have never known it was a concourse for a baseball stadium,” he said.

Stehlik said the park has five clubs and restaurants, some facing the field, which allows visitors to catch a game while holding a meeting or party.

But the spaces are often utilized on nongame days, as well as in the off season.

For example, the Omni Premier Club faces the field on the main concourse level, which is one of the more popular spaces for meetings.

Hodad’s, another restaurant within the park that serves up burgers and trimmings, is also used frequently for gatherings.

“Out-of-town visitors like the San Diego motif,” said Stehlik. The PCL Club right below Hodad’s is also used frequently, along with the Sony Home Plate Club.

He said another eatery, The Pier, located next to the Western Metal Supply Co. building, is popular with groups who want to come to Petco Park because it has a direct view of the outfield.

Petco also has an auditorium, which Stehlik says can serve up to 200 people with food service, including sit-down dinners.

That the stadium is across the street from the convention center “has a substantial impact.”

“There are a number of conventions where they want to have an offsite event,” said Stehlik. “They might have three nights planned at the convention center, so they want a fourth night off site and turn to us.”

Stehlik’s department can serve up plated meals on the field, or general meetings, complete with temporary stage and other structures, including sound and video.

“Meetings can also be held in the dugouts, if that’s what visitors want,” he said.

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