I had the distinct pleasure of attending games at L.A.’s Dodger Stadium and San Diego’s Petco Park over the last couple weeks, and I must say they both rank toward the top of my almighty stadiums list. I’ve been to over half the parks in MLB, somewhat amazingly, and some modern parks trend toward being forgettable even though they’re brilliant in their own ways. Over the last year I’ve journeyed to Nationals Park in D.C., Citi Field in Queens and Great American Ballpark in Cincy as well, and those are all fantastic parks. The great thing about the renaissance of ballpark design in the 1990’s and into this decade is that the parks all have unique identifying factors: signifiers, if you will. They’re not cookie-cutter stadiums and although many are urban parks with wide concourses that circle the diamond, they have special characteristics that often reflect the city in which they’ve been built. Nationals Park has its views of the U.S. Capitol and ferries in the Navy Yard area, Citi Field has its Ebbets Field remembrances and bridge motifs (did you ever notice how the Mets’ orange and blue is a collection of the colors from the old NL New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers?), while Great American Ballpark has its riverboat and riverfront design.
Maybe it was due to the fact that they were the first ballparks I’ve visited on the West Coast, but Dodger Stadium and Petco really blew me away. Dodger Stadium is built in the hills with gorgeous mountain views and a panoramic view of downtown Los Angeles behind the park. There are parking lots surrounding it and quite the car culture, which reminded me of Milwaukee’s setup. The views from the ballpark are just spectacular. It was neat seeing in person those jaggedly wavy outfield coverings and beyond the majestic San Gabriel mountains. But the entire area is filled with palm trees and beautiful green hills and is a sight to behold. Another cool thing is that the Dodgers serve Golden Road Brewing’s Point The Way IPA, which is a nice hoppy alternative to 24 oz. cans of Miller Lite. Plus, Dodger Stadium is not only one of the oldest ballparks in MLB but is also one of the largest in terms of capacity. I was there on a weeknight and the place was absolutely rocking, beach balls flying everywhere, people making all kinds of noise and no reservations. I loved it.
On the flip side, San Diego’s Petco Park is all about pedestrian access. Built in the East Village area of downtown, it’s very easy to reach via a number of public transit options, including light rail. The San Diego harbor is very close by as well, and all of downtown San Diego is very pedestrian friendly. The ballpark, or course, incorporated the famous Western Metal Supply Co. building into its left field area, and there are even rooftop seats on that building. There is also the large open area in center field through which it’s easy to see the city outside. Petco almost feels like a small city unto itself because of the ‘park in the park’, a green space beyond the right-center field wall where there is also a small baseball diamond for kids. Apparently many of Petco’s administrative spaces were built away from the field in separate areas, unlike a lot of stadiums. The open spaces of the ballpark provide amazing views and places to let the outside in, and the area around the ballpark is also extremely built up, with hotels and condos and other uses. There are also about a million bars and restaurants around the park and in the historic Gaslamp Quarter district. What I also discovered is that San Diego is a leader in the craft brewing industry; since I’m normally disconnected from the West Coast by a couple thousand miles, I don’t hear about these breweries often but I was struck at just how prevalent and of great quality they are out there (Stone Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, Ballast Point Brewing and Coronado Brewing to name a few). San Diego is an incredibly beautiful and fun city to visit.
Dodger Stadium and Petco Park are far away for most Brewers fans, but that hopefully won’t prevent a visit somewhere down the line, because these parks are very special places to take in a game. If the Brewers are there and win a couple games, even better!