Yesterday I went to the Padres' Fan Fest down at Petco Park. While getting ready to go, I got struck with a stark realization: What if I bumped into Tom Garfinkel? For those who don't know, Tom is COO of the Padres (read: the most important guy that isn't an owner) and an all-around great guy. If I saw him, I'd feel obligated to say hi. But what then?
The last time (and first time) I met Tom was a few weeks ago and he filled the awkward air with a monologue from Austin Powers. What would we do this time besides shift our weight back and forth and discuss the wonderful weather? I needed something that would get him talking, and suddenly it hit me. The Chargers are convinced that fans would love a downtown stadium? They should play a game downtown, at Petco, and let fans get excited and ready to Vote Yes on Prop Whatever.
First, let's be realistic about this. Petco seats about 25,000 less than Qualcomm. As if it wouldn't have been complicated enough, the reduced number of seating means it positively cannot be a regular-season (or playoff) game. Preseason only, going off the assumption that only about 50,000 fans show up for the preseason games at the Q.
Secondly, there would have to be plenty of time for the grounds crew to get in and fix things after the football players screw it all up. There was a ruckus raised about the soccer game that was played mid-season at Petco last year before it happened, but afterwards the consensus seemed to be that everything remained the same quality. In terms of time, and it would have to be in the month of August, there are two extension road trips for the Padres where it could be done. The Pads are out of town from 8/4-8/15 and also from 8/22-9/2.
Third, the biggest benefit from this isn't even winning fan support after 40,000 or so great experiences. I mean, that's huge, but this being the preseason the Chargers can schedule this game to be any day of the week. Imagine if the Bolts brought 45,000 people to the Gaslamp District on a mid-week night, and they're all showing up at 5pm (after work) for a game that starts at 8pm. Do you think local business might see the impact of a downtown stadium then? The Chargers could lose money on the deal, but gain a ton of support by spreading that money around.
Fourth, the PR benefit here would be through the roof. I'm not sure San Diegans are really buying the "We're trying hard to stay in San Diego", and it seems like they're running out of patience with "We're doing everything in our power to keep the Chargers in San Diego" from local officials as well. Doing something like this would not only be unprecedented for the Chargers (a team that has a bad rep for not caring about their fans), but it would take a partnership between the city, the Padres and the Bolts.
According to Wonko, somewhere in the bill to get Petco Park built was a rule stating that football can not be played in the stadium (although apparently fútbol is okay). Somebody would need to agree to waive that for a day. Agreements would need to be made on things like "Who's paying the electricity bill?", who is running concessions, etc. However, this is an easy way for all parties to have a platform to shake some hands and kiss some babies. The Padres get 40,000 football fans into their stadium to try and sell on baseball, the city of San Diego gets a big neon sign that says "Look! We're actually talking and working together like we said we are!", and the Chargers immediately get their fans and local business searching for ways to get them the stadium they want downtown.