With the 20th anniversary of Petco Park’s inaugural season on the horizon, the San Diego Padres are working on a $20 million redo of the community park, game-day destination and concert venue known as Gallagher Square just beyond the ballpark’s outfield walls.

The plan, unveiled Sunday, calls for a complete overhaul to the 2.7-acre recreation area that today includes a large grassy hill, a ball field for kids and a playground.

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The Gallagher Square remodel, which is slated to get underway following the 2023 season, will relocate an upgraded kid’s ball field to the northwest corner of the site. The change allows for an enlarged — and potentially more comfortable — concrete gathering area and sloped turf seating section that will face an all-new video board on the back of the batter’s eye. An elevated platform, showcasing more prominently the Tony Gwynn statue, will be installed on top of the hill and include a viewing deck, tables and a concession stand.

Also planned are a decked-out playground and open play area, an off-leash dog park, bathrooms, temporary pickleball courts, native plants and an expanded entry gate at Ninth and J Street.

If all goes according to the plan, the area formerly known as the Park at the Park, will reopen in time for the 2024 baseball season, Erik Greupner, who is the Padres CEO, told the Union-Tribune in an exclusive interview.

“Our plan is to bring new and improved community amenities to Gallagher Square to help commemorate the 20-year milestone. And in addition to expanding the amenities, we’re also incorporating a more sustainable design,” Greupner said. “And all of it is built upon our continued promise to deliver more than a ballpark, which was the original campaign promise for Petco Park, by continuing to invest into East Village through economic development and job creation.”

Opened in 2004 and the result of the 1998 voter-approved Ballpark District ordinance, Petco Park is the product of a partnership between the city of San Diego and the Padres organization. The city owns the land and the stadium, and the Padres manage the ballpark property. The parties share non-baseball revenue in a 70-30 split, with the city pocketing the lesser share of revenue from events and concerts. For the fiscal year 2023, which ends in June, San Diego’s share of non-baseball event revenue is $3.8 million, according to financial information shared by the city.

A rendering of the remodeled Gallagher Square shows an aerial view of the 2.7-acre park space. The Padres will relocate an upgraded kid’s ball field to the back left corner. The change allows for an enlarged — and potentially more comfortable — hardscaped viewing and sloped turf seating area that will face an all-new video board on the back of the batter’s eye.

(Courtesy, Larimer Design Architecture and GroundLevel Landscape Architecture)

The ballpark’s upcoming birthday presented the Padres with an opportunity to reimagine a space that has remained largely unchanged for 19 years, save for the addition of a Sycuan-branded concert stage in 2019.

Baseball fans and parkgoers will either embrace or balk at the most noticeable shift, which is to the hilly area opposite the outfield. The grass hill, often a popular destination for families or general-admission ticket buyers, is being replaced with artificial turf, in part to save water but also to cut costs associated with constantly replacing the sod. The slope is also being refashioned into more of an amphitheater-style seating area, providing better viewing of the Sycuan stage or video board.

Atop the hill, people can perch on a deck, being called the Tony Gwynn Terrace, that looks out to the field, as well as to the kids’ play areas. The terrace, Greupner said, introduces a new viewing platform for fans who purchase the lower-cost Gallagher Square tickets, which are priced dynamically and considered standing-room-only tickets. The deck doubles as a comfortable picnic area for community members outside of game days, he said.

Here parkgoers will also find the Tony Gwynn statue, which will intentionally face the Trevor Hoffman statue and create the effect of the famous closer pitching to the batting-title legend. The two statues are also visually connected with an extended walkway that the Padres are tentatively calling “The Stitch.”

“It’s kind of an iconic feature of this renovation,” Greupner said. “So you can now see along that stitch, and you have the direct alignment where Trevor will actually be pitching to Tony, which engendered a lively debate within our front office as to whether Trevor could strike Tony out with his changeup or (whether) Tony would get a hit.”

A rendering of the new kid’s playground at Gallagher Square. The baseball-themed playground features a 35-foot bat at the center of a diamond-shaped structure, several slides, various climbing apparatuses and a bat forest.

(Courtesy, Larimer Design Architecture and GroundLevel Landscape Architecture)

The Padres have also engineered more diversions for its youngest fans. Today’s dated playground will be replaced by a baseball-themed playground with a 35-foot baseball bat at the core of a diamond-shaped attraction. The playground will also include spiral slides at different heights, dangling rings, a bat forest and a tunnel where kids can crawl below a raised mound.

A fenced-in community dog park is directly opposite the playground, and a more open play area with slides and large baseballs leads from the playground to the kids’ ball field.

Gallagher Square’s redo represents a marked change from today’s park setting and seems to be geared around not only improving the fan experience but also building on the success of the park’s part-time role as a concert venue that can host up to 10,000 people. Since the introduction of the Sycuan stage, the Padres have booked musical acts big and small, including Jimmy Eat World, Wu-Tang Clan and The Dream Eaters. Darius Rucker and Weezer are scheduled to play the Gallagher Square venue in the summer.

A rendering of the open play area at Gallagher Square shows a turf area where kids can roll down a sloped hill, two slides and supersized baseballs. The play area is meant to connect the playground to the relocated kid’s ball field.

(Courtesy, Larimer Design Architecture and GroundLevel Landscape Architecture)

Total revenue for Gallagher Square events and concerts was nearly $3 million in calendar year 2022, according to information provided by the Padres.

Greupner said the organization will be employing state-of-the-art technology to improve the sound experience and lessen the impact of noise emanating from the stage and into the neighborhood.

“The plan will be to put up some delay towers on the back side of the park that will have directional speakers,” he said. “So instead of what is currently all the sound being pushed out from the front of the stage — there will still be sound from the front of the stage but there will be sound coming from the back of the park for a true surround sound experience.”

The Padres are funding the entirety of the Gallagher Square improvements.

The Padres are moving an improved version of the kid’s play ball field to the northwest corner of Gallagher Square at Petco Park.

(Courtesy, Larimer Design Architecture and GroundLevel Landscape Architecture)

“That’s really a continuation of over $100 million that we’ve put in in (capital expenditure) improvements and maintenance of the ballpark over the first 20 years of the ballpark,” Greupner said. “We think that continued investment into the ballpark, in this case focused on Gallagher Square, will benefit the community, bring more visitors downtown, particularly during the offseason, attract more residents to the area and ultimately create additional jobs.”

Greupner said the organization is currently going through the permitting process with the city, and that additional approvals are not required.

“We are incredibly thankful to the San Diego Padres for their ongoing investment in San Diego, and their dedication to both their fans and the community at large,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in a statement. “The Gallagher Square renovation will further activate and invigorate the East Village, and I will be working closely with the Padres to help ensure these exciting new amenities are ready for the community to enjoy in time for the 20th Anniversary of Petco Park.”

Known as Outfield Park in contracts, Gallagher Square is part of the ballpark property managed by the Padres. The organization is also bound by the terms of a Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions agreement, or CC&Rs, with adjacent parcel owners, which share common area maintenance costs. The Padres, however, aren’t required to get the approval of the owners association for park improvements, the contract states. The Padres also believe that the Gallagher Square project falls within the scope of what was analyzed in the original 1999 ballpark environmental impact report, and thus not subject to additional environmental review.

Landscape Architecture 


Jenn Van Grove