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Petco Park's first decade marked by flat economic growth

A decade after Petco Park opened its doors, with the idea that it would create more jobs in downtown San Diego, local economists have added up the numbers and found that employment has indeed grown, by the magic number of 29.

Not 29 percent, but 29 jobs, according to a report released on Tuesday by National University's Institute for Policy Research, marking the run-up to Petco Park's 10th anniversary.

"While there are developments moving forward that offer the chance to add to downtown’s employment base, the region still has been unable to accelerate job growth downtown or to diversify the economy…," said Erik Bruvold, who drafted the report based on data collected from the Census Bureau and other sources. "The ballpark’s promise has yet to be fulfilled."

Since then-Mayor Dick Murphy threw out the first pitch April 8, 2004, proclaiming that the ballpark would be a "win-win" for both the Padres and the city, employment in the 92101 ZIP code has grown from 64,689 to 64,718, the study said.

“The fact that employment growth has been somewhat flat should come as no surprise considering that we are just now emerging from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," said Kris Michell, head of the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

But despite the recession, San Diego County had much faster growth, adding 69,000 jobs during the same period.

In hopes that the ballpark would spur job creation, the city used $206 million to help build the park, with $95 million coming from state redevelopment funds administered by the city. Less than a third of the money — about $135 million — came from the Padres.

One reason for the flat job growth is that the creation of restaurant and hotel jobs around the stadium has been offset by an exodus of lawyers, accountants, consultants and other professionals for the suburbs, such as University Towne Centre.

So far, most of the job growth associated with the ballpark has been concentrated in the bars, restaurants and hotels surrounding the ballpark in the once-blighted East Village neighborhood.

"For at least 81 days a year, [the ballpark has] helped energize areas of East Village that previously saw very little street-level activity," Bruvold said.

Outside of East Village, the benefits are hard to quantify. The study notes that over the past dozen years, the downtown district has added more than 15,000 residents and 14,700 new housing units. But he concedes that many of those units would have been built otherwise, using funds from the now-defunct California Redevelopment Agency. And after the recession, roughly 4,000 downtown housing units are now vacant.

Michel said the increase in residential growth should fuel more commercial growth downtown "as more and more people choose an urban live-work lifestyle. We are seeing more businesses looking to locate downtown because that is where their employees want to be, in vibrant urban neighborhoods like East Village.”

Bruvold added that the ballpark brings money downtown in other ways. Using data from the Tourism Marketing District, he estimates that out-of-state baseball fans generated nearly $68 million in sales last year, spending their money on dinners, entertainment, transportation and overnight lodging, but Qualcomm Stadium also generated that type of spending before the Padres moved to Petco.

In the meantime, attendance at the ballpark, which briefly touched 3 million baseball fans during the first year it opened, has now fallen back to closer to 2 million — roughly the same level of sales at Qualcomm during the early 2000s.

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Petco Park

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100 Park Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101

Petco Park Executive(s):

Jeremy Horowitz

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