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Padres poised to begin renovation plan at Petco

SAN DIEGO -- Starting next week, you'll need a different kind of helmet if you're wandering the field at Petco Park -- a construction helmet.

Wrecking ball, meet left-field bleachers. The Padres are embarking on a left-field renovation plan that will include the addition of the third-largest video board in baseball, improvements to the seating bowl, the addition of congregated areas with bar-stool seating and a small modification to the fences.

The "eight-figure" investment, according to team president and CEO Mike Dee, will essentially be the second step in the team's entertainment overhaul, which started a year ago. Many of those changes were subtle to the eye (and ear).

These ones won't be, beginning with the video board, which will measure 61 1/2 feet high by approximately 124 feet long, dwarfed only by the high-definition display screens at Kauffman Stadium (105 feet by 84 feet) and Safeco Field, the granddaddy of them all at 201 1/2 feet by 56 feet and seven inches.

The video space, the result of a partnership between Sony and Daktronics, will be more than four times the size of the current screen.

Construction is set to be completed in time for the home opener on April 9, against the World Series champion Giants.

"We think the impact is going to be profound. When you put a board in of this nature anywhere it would have a huge impact on the fan experience," Dee said. "Most San Diegans, unless they travel to games outside San Diego, haven't seen anything of this magnitude.

"For us, this was the piece that impacted the fans the most. I think it was important we started here. We wanted to make sure this got done."

Other changes to left field will include the removal of the last nine rows of seats in the second deck (610 seats), directly under the scoreboard. That will now be an open space for groups with tables, plus room for fans to roam while watching the game, a trend that's taking off in big league ballparks. That area will accommodate 270 people.

The lower bowl of seats won't be as tucked under the upper deck as it was before, as 110 seats will be removed. In Dee's words, the seats will be more "open to the sky." There will be a standing-room only area in the back with bar stools that will offer better access to concession areas as well.

In order to create better view clearance for the lower seating area, the upper box area will be recessed four feet and raised. That will result in the conversion of 192 existing seats to 111 bar-stool seats along two drink rails.

At the fence itself will be the addition of two rows of seats, which leads to the slight change in the fence in left field, the first modification in that area since the ballpark opened in 2004.

How slight? The fence will come in only 34 inches.

"This is going to be a very modest change to the dimensions of Petco, and it's going to have a modest impact, in our estimation," said assistant general manager Josh Stein, who played a significant role in the studies and recommendations that went into the 2013 fence modifications.

Previously, there were two fence modifications elsewhere in the ballpark -- in 2005, when the fence in right-center was brought in from 411 feet to 402 feet. Then, before the 2013 season, the fence in right-center came in from 402 feet to 391 feet and the fence in left-center came in from 402 to 390 feet.

Dee convinced baseball operations to lower the fence from eight feet to seven feet, bringing into play the possibility of more grabs by defenders at or over the fence, stealing home runs.

"We're calling 2015 the year of left field," he said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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