STAYING CLASSY: The San Diego Padres are investing $20 million in their Gallagher Square outdoor plaza at Petco Park. (Rendering courtesy GroundLevel Landscape Architecture)

As Petco Park Turns 20, the stadium’s Gallagher Square event space gets a $20 million makeover

The San Diego Padres have broken ground on a Gallagher Square remodel as the centerpiece  of their $20 million, off-season renovation project in celebration of the stadium’s 20th anniversary  in 2024.

Renovations include an expanded playground and play area for a wider range of ages and abilities; a fenced, off-leash dog park; an improved Play Ball Field; the addition of the Tony Gwynn Terrace viewing deck and picnic space; and state-of-the art sound mitigation. The square will be reconfigured to allow parts of the park to remain open to the public more frequently.

Minor construction projects will continue after opening day, through June 2024.

Gallagher Square has already become a major part of the special event mix at Petco, which is positioned well as the only big three major league sports venue in town.

SQUARING UP: Gallagher Square has already become a major part of the special event mix at Petco Park. (Rendering courtesy GroundLevel Landscape Architecture)

“This year actually has turned out pretty tremendous. We had quite a few shows in our Gallagher Square space,” said Jaclyn Lash, the Padres senior vice president, special events. “We were really thrilled with how many shows and the variety of shows that we had in Gallagher Square. This past year, whether it was the Pixies and Modest Mouse, Weezer, we’ve had a lot of pretty tremendous shows out there. Then, we had the back-to-back Morgan Wallens, which were just unbelievable. What a superstar. And then we did Slightly Stoopid and Sublime on the playing field, in kind of a new configuration, where we did over 20,000 tickets, utilizing the lower bowl and the playing field, and that was just … wow.

“We still have some stuff coming up. We still have the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27). We do New Year’s Eve-New Year’s Day EDM festivals. We still have that coming up. We’re going to be doing Zach Bryan on December 30. That’s a big one.”

Lash says “2024 is turning out to be a monster year.”

“In ’22, we had seven full venue shows, which was a monster of a year; 2023 was different in that we really focused on the the Gallagher Square shows building up some different things,” Lash said, adding that 2024 could be a concert record breaker for Petco. “It’s the 20th anniversary of Petco Park and when we opened it in 2004, we made the promise to San Diego that it would be more than a ballpark. With 2024 coming up as the 20th anniversary, it looks like we’ll have a record number of shows. We already have five full venue shows booked and it’s looking like there’s a few more that are coming along the way.”

Among next year’s full stadium bookings is the only West Coast date for Billy Joel and Sting on April 13. Other bookings include Chris Stapleton on March 2, Blink-182 on June 30, Foo Fighters on August 7 and Green Day on September 28.

“We’re ecstatic,” Lash said.

The work on Gallagher Square will essentially be completed by the end of March

“We’re redoing pretty much all of it, where we took it down to dirt and now we’re building it back up,” Lash said. “It will still have the same charm that the old Gallagher Square had, a lot of what people enjoy. Artists loved playing it because from the stage, the view is the city skyline, and then, it’s a grassy knoll. We’ll maintain all of that, but what we’re doing is just adding a lot more infrastructure. We’ll have a VIP deck; the hill itself will be more of a tiered space rather than just like a steep hill. That will allow for all different kinds of configurations and different scalings, seated shows. We have always had a whiffle ball field that was sort of towards the front. We’ll be moving that towards the back so that it doesn’t conflict with any concert setups. Our secondary event space is pretty impressive.”

The Padres work with any promoter with an event that makes sense.

At the 10,000-seat Rady Shell in Jacobs Park along the bay front, the Padres do all the private events.

“We’ve had Billy Joel play over there. We recently had Ed Sheeran play over there,” Lash said. “We booked everything that’s considered a private event.”

Aramark, through its Centerplate acquisition, has the contract at the shell. Delaware North has run the food and beverage operation at Petco since the park opened and in January inked a 10-year extension.

Lash says the stadium is positioned well in a market that’s increasingly competitive, especially in light of the opening of Oak View Group-run Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley. (OVG is the parent company of VenuesNow).

“We’re situated well, in the middle of downtown, which is really fortunate because it’s just lovely,” Lash said. “There’s tons of hotels and restaurants. In terms of getting to our venue, we’re situated in the best possible way. We’re the only major-league stadium in town. We have the highest quality of all amenities and I think artists really enjoy playing us because we understand hospitality. Our load-in is pretty simple. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years and we feel really good about where we are. We obviously want San Diego to continue to grow because I think for a long time it’s been an underrated market. We proved time and time again that when an artist plays Petco Park, whether it’s the stadium or Gallagher Square, that the Padres will step in and help sell that out.”

Padres all-star pitcher Joe Musgrove, who was born in El Cajon, California, announced the Chris Stapleton show.

“He did a video to all of our fans telling them, ‘I love Chris and hope that you’ll buy a ticket to it.’ That show completely sold out,” Lash said.

It’s the sort of support and the kind of show that continues to put San Diego and Petco Park on the live entertainment map, she said.

“We’re in the middle of everything,” Lash said, noting the stadium’s proximity to the San Diego Convention Center. “People love coming down here and the energy is incredible. If you want to make a weekend out of it, or just spend the night, there are hundreds of hotels in the area. We have public transportation, trolley lines. Uber drop-off is so easy because we’re just right in the center. The city did an incredible job with the location of this stadium. Our ownership continues to invest in the ballpark, as you see with what we’re doing — $20 million just in Gallagher Square, but every detail, whether it’s painting the steel around the ballpark and little things that you don’t notice, to make sure that it always looks like it’s no older than five years — we take a lot of pride in that.”


BREAK IT DOWN: Pictured at the Oct. 9 Gallagher Square remodel groundbreaking ceremony at Petco Park are GroundLevel Lanscape Architecture’s Brad Lenahan, left, Tom Larimer (Larimer Design Architecture), Wendy Bohn (Clark Construction), Alicia Gwynn, Tony Gwynn Jr., Padres CEO Erik Greupner, Penny Maus (city of San Diego), Ross Afasahi (Gallagher), Elyse Lowe (city), Erin Krehbiel (Gallagher), Kohta Zaiser from the office of Mayor Todd Gloria, and Brian Schoenfisch,  from the city. (Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.