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.