Let’s face it, going to a Padres game isn’t going to get any cheaper. As the team gets better and demand increases for tickets, ticket prices are only going up. Take one look at the supposedly fan friendly dynamic pricing on padres.com and you’ll see weekend games going for 2x-3x times the base price for tickets. I’ll be the first to tell you that the concessions at Petco Park are second to none. I’ve been to a lot of MLB ballparks, including Safeco and AT&T last season, both of which are considered the top of the heap for food/drinks, and I firmly believe Petco Park is beating them out. Whether it’s the Cardiff Crack Tri-tip sandwich from Seaside Market, the Surfing California Burrito from Lucha Libre, or the outstanding craft beer selection, you will have an outstanding meal while watching the ballgame. Unfortunately, those prices have gone up this season too. The a la carte Tri-tip sandwich was $9 last season, it’s $12 this season. Beer is always going up, and this year is no different. So, as enticing as all of the food options are, it really adds up in cost when you go with a family or you go to a lot of games. Luckily, after years of research by the Padres Jagoff Labs crack team of scientists, we’ve found this key list of ways to save money at Petco Park.
1. Bring in Your Own Food I’m not a picnic type guy. I don’t want to pack sandwiches and bring them in. For those that do, go ahead and do it. There are no restrictions on bringing food into the park. I’ve seen people bring in a Manhattan Giant Pizza. Go ahead and do it. My usual plan is to watch a few innings in my seats, head out to get some food, bring it back to the park, and watch the rest of the game. For the average fan, they’ll head to the Phil’s BBQ stand or Seaside Market in the park, wait in line, then head back to eat. I think outside the park. With the rules allowing outside food to be brought in, I’ll call an order in to a nearby restaurant or head across the street to get Mexican. These are the best options I’ve found:
Lolita’s: The quintessential ballpark taco shop is located at 10th and Park. It’s just across the street from the gate. If you go pregame, you’ll find that Lolita’s is overrun by people, lines are long, and it will take forever. If you go in the 4th inning, you’ll find Lolita’s empty, and you’ll have your food in hand within 5 minutes. They have all of the expected taco shop fare, but for cost frugality, I’m a big fan of the Mixed burrito for about $5. If you want to spend a little more time (don’t worry they have TVs showing the game), the beer is cheap here and they generally have some decent beers on tap and some good beer specials. One other plus, they’re on MOGL, so you get 5% instantly back once you register with MOGL. It adds up during the course of the season.
Dragon’s Den: Dragon’s Den is a personal favorite. They are located just across the street from the Park at the Park gate by Tilted Kilt. They take phone orders, so you can call in your order, watch a half inning, walk across the street to pick up your food and get back to the game in a snap. I’m a sucker for Singapore Noodles (chow mei-fun), and the portion is big enough my wife and I can split it. All for $10. As good as the Tri-tip sandwich is for $12, I’d rather feed two with one of their excellent noodle dishes for ten bucks.
Kebab Shop: I have a feeling Kebab Shop is going to become one of my go-to’s this season. Kebab Shop goes beyond just another Mediterranean joint. They’ve got doner kebabs perfected. They are essentially kebab burritos, you can even add fries to make it California. The lamb doner with fries, spicy, is the best. THE BEST. All for $8. In a lot of ways, I prefer the hot sauce at Kebab Shop to a lot of salsas from taco shops. You can’t bring it back to the park, but if you need a thirst quencher, check-in to Kebab Shop on Yelp and you get a free soda. There are other options nearby to try. I’ve heard good things about Lucky’s Lunch Counter, which is very close to the Gaslamp Gate. Sandwiches run about $10 there, but they are gigantic. I’ve yet to try it, so I’m not officially putting the Padres Jagoff Jizz of Approval on it, but will update once I do try it.
2. Don’t Pay to Park Making the decision to not pay to park is also agreeing to walk a little bit to Petco Park. Knowing that up front, if you don’t want to walk like a gargantuan sloth, go ahead and pay the newly raised prices for parking at the Tailgate Lot. If you’re like me and want to actually enjoy the fantastic San Diego weather, just park a little further away. Most people get frustrated trying to find meter parking nearby the Gaslamp, and with good reason. There aren’t enough spots, and turnover is a little slow. To make it worse, the city created a “Hospitality Zone” making it so meters run until 8 PM, even on weekdays. This makes it difficult on weeknights to park there and then feed the meter while the game is going on. But, if you’re willing to walk 10-15 minutes from the Marina District nearby Seaport Village, or the dead spot between the Santa Fe Station and Little Italy, parking becomes much easier to find. Also, meters stop running at 6, making them perfect for weeknight games. I’ve had nearly 100% luck at finding parking in these areas. Weekends are tougher, and honestly, I don’t have much good advice. If you’re going to circle looking for a meter spot, I’d be circling around the two aforementioned areas before I circled down 5th. I will be doing some Padres Jagoff research this season to see how parking availability deep in the East Village is this season, for two reasons. It’s outside the Hospitality Zone (which is not hospitable at all) so meters stop running at 6 (there are a lot of 12 hr meters too, which are what you need for weekend games), and it makes going to Stella Public House or Monkey Paw a distinct pre-game possibility.
3. Become a Member or Use a Member The Padres have slashed many of the important and useful benefits of being a member/season ticketholder this season. One of the last bastion of deals for members is the ability to buy additional tickets at a fixed member price. For background, note that the team uses dynamic pricing to price its tickets. For instance, for the first Saturday game of the season, tickets in Section 115 are going for $99. These tickets’ base price is $34.50, but the Padres have jacked up the prices because it’s a Saturday night game vs. the Giants, a prime opponent. Note that these are not resale prices, these are the prices straight from padres.com. Meanwhile, my season ticketholder price is $40 for those $99 tickets, a discount of $59. That’s because the season ticketholder price is based off a much lower composite fixed price, meaning no matter how dynamic pricing raises the price, my season ticketholder is fixed. With tickets in demand this season (so far), this may be the best method to getting cheaper seats. So make pals with season ticketholders, or buy some season tickets. As I’ve pointed out before, for deals that are several standard deviations better than the average, don’t expect them to stick around forever. Take advantage of them to their fullest while you can. Otherwise, they will eventually disappear once those front office suits decide they don’t need to entice customers with perks, respect or favors.
As always, the Padres Jagoff Labs research team is looking for more ways to save money going to games. Whether it’s through discount hunting or pure economic arbitrage opportunities, we have our noses to the ground. I’ve pointed out in the past the great benefits of the MLB At The Ballpark app ticket upgrades, but am not prepared to recommend it for 2015 until I can check how many upgrades the team releases from inventory. My fear is that increased ticket demand, coupled with lack of respect for the customer base, may lead to very limited inventories being released. Time will tell, and I’ll need a few weekday series’ to compile data.