We've talked a lot on Gaslamp Ball about all the ballpark upgrades and changes that Mike Dee and co. implemented this offseason. We've seen a lot of renderings and photos taken from far away of the new signs, ads, and other visual elements that were added or altered in preparation for the 2016 season. But yesterday at the Padres' SD Social Summit, some of us got our very first looks at those changes up close, and learned about even more new additions to the ballpark that came as a surprise to us.
Wayne Partello led us Social Summit-goers on a little ballpark tour specifically to see these changes, and gave us some background on the decision-making behind them. Partello expressed the Padres' overall desire to shine a light on the history of the franchise, which is often overlooked.
If you've been to Petco Park before, you'll be taken aback (in a good way) by what you see when the next time you walk around stadium. Murals upon murals now adorn the once-blank walls on every level of the ballpark. In the main (field level) concourse, there are murals at the entrances to the restrooms dedicated to the different neighborhoods of San Diego.
You'll also see giant murals in the standing room areas behind the entrances to the field level seating. Not only are these beautiful to look at, but they all provide great photo ops for people visiting the ballpark.
My favorite of these murals was this San Diego one with parts of the city's skyline and the Coronado Bridge silhouetted against a blue and yellow sunset-looking background. Wayne told us that someone alerted him to a typo on this particular mural, but there really isn't a typo at all. The missing "I" in San Diego is meant to be filled in by a person. I love the idea and think it'll be a big hit.
Also on this level of the stadium are decals of the Padres players whose numbers have been retired by the team. As someone told us recently, these decals have been in the works for several months. And I have to say, they look fantastic. It really does add something positive to the experience of walking around the ballpark. I loved walking around and seeing the images of all these Padres legends looking back at me.
Next, Wayne led us down the stairs at the Home Plate gate and down to the new home of the retired numbers that once adorned the top of the batter's eye. They are meant to allow fans to "interact" with them, take pictures, and appreciate them up close and personal. I do like being able to see them and take pictures with them, but I still think they belong on top of the batter's eye and look infinitely better there than an ugly Sycuan sign. As jbox told us, the Padres are looking to replace these numbers with "better" ones, so they could have easily just left these where they were and added an additional set of retired numbers to the park entrance.
The placement of the numbers was also weird because they weren't exactly in a straight line. Each number was angled slightly, so they were all facing slightly different directions. The 6 was at an extreme angle, almost perpendicular to the rest. This was meant to make it more visible to people entering the park, as its placement is so far to the left that it's hard for people to see it if they aren't looking for it. Someone also asked about the order of the numbers, because it was different than the order they were in when they were on the batter's eye. Wayne told us that they wanted the 19 and 51 (Tony Gwynn's and Trevor Hoffman's numbers, respectively) to be in the center, suggesting that they were more important than the rest of the numbers. I don't think anyone would argue against that, but it was still peculiar.
While we were down by the Home Plate gate I also noticed something missing. A photo I had seen the previous day showed an All Star Game logo wrap on the stairs leading up to the main concourse, but that wrap was no longer there during our visit. I later asked about it and Wayne answered.
After hanging out with the retired numbers for a while, we walked back up the stairs and then made our way up to the Toyota Terrace level. There we saw even more new murals at the entrances of each Toyota Terrace suite. These murals paid homage to the history of baseball in San Diego, even back before the Padres existed. Wayne told us his staff worked tirelessly to track down these photos so they could blow them up and install them as murals in the ballpark. They are awesome, an each picture even includes a little caption to give visitors some background information.
From the Toyota Terrace, we made our way up another level to the upper deck, where - you guessed it - even more murals were revealed to us. At each bathroom was a mural with the new Padres wordmark and one of the different colorways the team will be sporting this season. My favorite was the brown and yellow of course.
While we were up here we also got to take a look at the ballpark from high up. The first thing I looked at was the new Sycuan sign (which I still hate) and the new, much LESS prominent retired numbers. This was the first of only two times I was able to see them the entire time I was in the ballpark because they're in an area that isn't visible unless you're in a few small areas of the stadium. Not only is their placement awful, their size makes them seem like almost an afterthought. They barely stand out from the rest of the signage banners, advertisements, and LED ribbons that surround them and you almost have to squint just to see them.
In my next post, I'll talk about everything that happened after our ballpark tour.