Assessing Petco

Petco Park opened five years ago, and today the Union-Tribune takes stock:

Five years after the first Padres curveball was thrown at Petco Park, San Diego’s investment in the $474 million ballpark has delivered mixed results.

On a recent afternoon, the good and the marginal returns were on display.

Along J Street, where the ballpark meets the neighborhood, residents from still-new condominium towers walked their dogs. A construction crew installed couches for El Vitral, a bistro opening soon in one of the ballpark’s last available commercial slots.

But the neighborhood still shows signs of the downbeat warehouse district it used to be. There’s a buckled, broken sidewalk in front of a stylish J Street restaurant. Homeless people gather in alcoves, and there still are empty storefronts. It’s just that the alcoves and storefronts are in new buildings.

To be honest, I think that the information presented in the article paints a portrait that leans towards success rather than simply being mixed. More subjectively speaking, I have a brother who has lived in San Diego for about 12 years, and his impression is that, on balance, Petco has been a positive for both the city and the Padres. It’s very nice and the area in which it sits has been transformed.

Which isn’t to say that Petco’s example has caused me to rethink my strong opposition to public stadium projects. It may be among the best of these sorts of projects, but (a) I’ve seen no evidence that Moores and the Padres wouldn’t have or couldn’t have done this without so much public money if the city said no (and given the dearth of other viable locations for the team, exactly what kind of leverage did they have to begin with?); and (b) I’ve seen no evidence that, even if a large public component was inevitable, San Diego got the best deal it could. As one critic of Petco in the article says after noting that the city pays part of the park’s operating expenses, “what possible rationale is there for ballpark’s operating costs to be paid by the city? The Padres are a business, and a business pays for its operating costs.”

Which is another way of saying that, no matter how nice these parks are from a baseball and aesthetic and municipal development point of view, it doesn’t mean that they represent anything close to good government, and that’s my ultimate problem with them.

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  1. Marshall said...

    People should try walking south from the ballpark.
    Very little has changed in that direction.

    Walk along Main or Newton (for example).

  2. YankeesfanLen said...

    Not to get too far off topic, but I stayed for serveral months in Houston in 1993 and worked for a start-up manufacturer (long since gone) about 4 blocks north of the present Minute Maid park.  It was another oil bust and the re-vitalized downtown could be seen 10 blocks to the rest with nothing in between except unused parking lots and flophouses, pawnshops, and heavily gated convenience stores.
      I wonder what that area looks like now, I had an ex-brother-in-law who bought a “townhoue” in South Philly on Carpenter waiting for Society Hill to move 25 blocks south-never happened.

  3. dlf said...

    Townhoue? That sounds like a cross between an inner city ‘ho and an upscale out-call courtesean.  If that is the case, your brother’s purchase is clearly a depreciating asset.

  4. Ken said...

    I wonder what that area looks like now, I had an ex-brother-in-law who bought a “townhoue” in South Philly on Carpenter waiting for Society Hill to move 25 blocks south-never happened.

    Carpenter is in South Philly but nowhere near the stadia.  Though it has gentrified appreciably in the last 10 years.

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