SBJ/August 18 - 24, 2003/Facilities

Padres pack in premium-seat revenue

The Padres’ new Petco Park will open next year but is already yielding seat-sales dividends.

For the first time in their 35-year history, the San Diego Padres are cashing in on all of their ballpark's premium-seat potential as they prepare to open new Petco Park in 2004.

In the process, team officials expect a substantial increase in season-ticket sales, said Steve Violetta, executive vice president of business affairs.

The Padres, who will leave Qualcomm Stadium after this season, are reaping the benefits in controlling their own premium-seat inventory at $450 million, 42,000-seat Petco Park.

Violetta said the NFL's San Diego Chargers are in charge of selling club seats and luxury suites at Qualcomm. The Padres book single-game rentals, but revenue is "not much," he added.

The Padres also are taking advantage of what could become an MLB trend of charging additional fees for premium-seat amenities that include private access to ballpark clubs, lounges and restaurants.

"There are different ways to skin a cat," said Bill Dorsey, executive director of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors. "Some private clubs include food and beverage, others don't. But in general, this is going to be a big trend."

All premium seating at Petco Park carries what the Padres describe as one-time "membership fees," ranging from $750 for a club seat to $90,000 for a suite. There are no extra fees for regular seating.

The add-ons are not the norm in baseball yet, although the San Francisco Giants sold personal seat licenses to help privately finance construction of Pacific Bell Park. The Padres are pitching in $146.1 million of the total cost for Petco Park.

Membership fees haven't hurt marketing efforts. In the past year, the Padres have sold out their highest-priced seating section, the 181-seat "Dugout" portion of Petco Park, among existing season-ticket holders. Those tickets are $275 a game.

The next level closest to the field, the Premier Club, is about 94 percent sold from an initial inventory of 1,400 seats, Violetta said. Those tickets are $46 a game.

The Terrace Club, encompassing the stadium's entire second level, has almost 4,800 seats, priced at $46 between the bases and $36 outside the bases. "I doubt we'll sell all of them as season tickets," he said. What's left over will be sold at a higher price at the gate.

The team began selling season tickets to the general public in early August.

"Right now, sales for club seats puts us in the top five in MLB at about 3,500 sold," said Violetta, a figure he provided based on team research.

"Our season-ticket base now is about 11,500, and we're hoping to get close to 19,000 for next year."

Violetta said 38 of 50 available suites have been sold or committed to with lease terms of three, five and seven years.

Padres employees permanently move into their new digs next Feb. 15, said Richard Andersen, executive vice president/managing director for ballpark operations.

HOK Sport designed Petco Park with Antoine Predock, an Albuquerque, N.M.-based architect known for his work native to the Southwest and West Coast.

"This is not another reiteration of the new ballparks with red brick and green steel that started with Camden Yards," Judson said. "We think this will break the mold of the retro parks."

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