On the heels of last week's HBO: Real Sports segment on soaring ticket prices for sporting events, The Bootleg Family decided to see how the other half lives at San Diego's Petco Park.
If you missed the TV piece, it was nothing that hardcore sports fans haven't heard before. Newsflash: the "little guy" is getting priced out of the best seats in the stadium, while more and more teams are using PSLs and other exclusive amenities to ensure a steady stream of revenue at the expense of the beer-swilling, hot dog-chomping working class.
Petco Park opened in 2004. It's a nice enough spot to watch a game, but the place can be eerily sterile at times. In fact, the nicest thing I can say about Petco Park is that it's still relatively new, which means clean bathrooms, uncluttered concourses and – sadly – none of the grimy charm of Qualcomm Stadium, where the Padres previously played.
Mrs. Bootleg and I went in with three other couples on a half-season ticket plan for the first two seasons of Petco Park and, since it's opened, I'd guess I've been to 40-50 games there. I've pretty much seen the Padres from every section in the place, save for one.
PETCO Park offers exclusive premium seating for those looking for something more. Cantilevered over the Field Level of PETCO Park - just 34 feet above the playing field - Toyota Terrace Level Seats put you lower and closer to the action than any club seating in Major League Baseball. This private level provides you with access to four distinct lounges. Toyota Terrace Level Seats combine exceptional location and sight lines with enhanced amenities and beautifully landscaped outdoor terraces with panoramic views of San Diego. This is the perfect setting to entertain clients, hang out with friends or be with family.
As an additional benefit, Toyota Terrace customers receive first right of refusal to purchase seats for non-baseball events at PETCO Park, such as concerts and international sporting events.
There is a one-time, up-front Founders Club membership fee ranging from $1000 to $2,500 per seat, depending on location. Your membership is transferable. - from the Padres' website.
It goes without saying that Toyota Terrace seats are the most expensive in the park, but last week saw the lunar alignment of planet "eBay" with planet "Padres suck ass this year" with my wallet. For $60, I bought four Toyota Terrace Infield seats (section 206, row 7) for last Saturday night's Padres/Rockies tilt.
Mrs. Bootleg, the boy and I reached the escalator to our section where an aged attendant meticulously scanned each of our tickets with an intense eye – his good one, I gather. Upon reaching the second level, I couldn't get over…well, everything. I attended a game at the Washington Nationals' new ballpark in its first full month of operation and Toyota Terrace was cleaner from wall-to-wall. In fact, before the game, I saw a custodian clean up a spilled soft drink from underneath someone's seat.
All along the concourse, we couldn't walk 50 feet without a
An inning later, Mrs. Bootleg took advantage of the in-seat food service and ordered an $8.00 nachos platter. It came quickly, but the wife shared my shock at the neatly segregated chips, cheese, chili, sour cream, guacamole and jalapeños encased within a plastic coffin. That she shamed me into tipping the 360 lb. sweaty load who brought them to her only made matters worse.
Strictly on principle, I went in search of my own damn food. Also, our son wanted pizza which inexplicably wasn't on the in-seat menu.
I walked up the third base side of the Toyota Terrace level and found a stand that sold swordfish, among other non-pizza eats. I doubled back and came across a kiosk specializing in decadent desserts. I passed all of the "exclusive" lounges and restaurants, each of which featured glorified guards at their glass door entrances protecting the sea of empty seats within.
Finally, at the very end of the level on the first base side, I found a teeny little pizza place.
The rest of the game was just as antiseptic. We stayed for all nine innings and not once did either of us see a traditional vendor in our area. A dozen or so rows behind us, a couple of drunken interlopers starting heckling the Rockies. All around us, affluent fans turned their heads towards the commotion and disgustedly contorted their faces.
Now, Mrs. Bootleg is something of a snob herself, but even she was turned off by the white-collar ballpark experience. Unfortunately, Jalen inherited my uncomfortable obsession with the game, so he kept us there until the bitter, spotless end. With the Yankees, Mets, Jets/Giants and others in line for new digs soon, I can safely say – without a hint of hyperbole – the apocalypse is upon us.