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Multiple Petco Park events keep crews busy

Basketball Festival, Holiday Wonderland share field this week

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

As everyone knows, the Padres play 81 homes games each season at Petco Park.

But not as readily known is the fact that the Padres' downtown home hosts more than twice as many non-baseball events each season -- the variety ranging from Comic-Con forums to corporate programs to concerts to the Rock & Roll Marathon to Supercross and Monster Truck shows.

And more. So much more.

This week, Petco Park will host two events simultaneously -- the Bill Walton Basketball Festival and the Holiday Wonderland.

The basketball festival opened Monday and will conclude Sunday with the rescheduled basketball game between San Diego State and the University of San Diego. The second annual Holiday Wonderland opens Friday.

"It's been busy around here," said Nick Capo, who, as Petco Park's senior director of ballpark operations and events, is responsible for the logistics surrounding the construction of various events at Petco Park.

And before the construction began for the Basketball Festival/Holiday Wonderland, Petco Park had been transformed into a nine-hole golf course -- The Links at Petco Park.

"Petco Park is an entertainment hub for San Diego," said Capo, a member of the ballpark management team. "We're like an outdoor convention center. It's challenging at times, but fun. Baseball is the only constant."

Part of the fun is wondering what Petco Park leaders will come up with next. A championship boxing match? A WWE wrestling event? The next great concert? Or something truly different? After all, who would have thought about putting a golf course inside Petco Park.

"The sky is the limit," said Capo. "We've pretty much done it all … maybe a haunted house for future Halloweens. Part of the fun is guessing what they can do next. It helps to be close to the Convention Center.

"We're perfectly positioned when a large group needs a hospitality site."

Petco Park's location in the heart of San Diego's action district is not the only thing going for special events in the Padres' home.

"Part of it is where we are located," said Capo. "Some ballparks are dealing with snow over the winter. But part of it is our leadership and relationships. We do a lot of things the public never sees."

Everyone knows that Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Taylor Swift all played Petco Park in the past 15 months. But did you know Aerosmith was at Petco Park recently playing for a private corporate event?

The ballpark management team is led by Mark Guglielmo, the general manager of Petco Park and the Padres' vice president of ballpark operations.

In addition to Capo, other key members of the team include director of event operations Ken Kawachi, director of field operations and head groundskeeper Matt Balough and senior manager of special events Jaclyn Lash.

"The planning phase brings the event and experience to life," said Capo. "The logistics and execution puts the planning into motion."

The logistics, however, are complicated in that all the materials used in the construction and staging of special events on the field of Petco Park -- including cranes -- have to pass through one tunnel at the corner of the Western Metal Supply Co. building.

Seldom has that tunnel witnessed more action than in the past couple weeks as crews built the outdoor basketball court and the grandstands at the same time other workers were starting construction of the Holiday Wonderland.

It all started with the conclusion of the golf event on Nov. 5.

First, Balough had to get the playing field back in shape for a two-day baseball event Nov. 11-12, followed by a special event the following day.

Capo's team immediately started bringing in the basketball court and grandstands.

Construction of the bleachers started on Nov. 15 and was completed a week later -- the same day construction started on both the basketball court and Holiday Wonderland.

"We have a lot of vendors working on different things at the same time," Capo said. "There's a lot of teamwork and cooperation involved starting at the line to move equipment and parts through the tunnel."

More than 4,500 temporary seats were built for the San Diego State-USD basketball game in two areas.

While Seating Solutions was constructing the grandstands and the court was going down, Capo was coordinating the construction of Holiday Wonderland starting with the snow hill. Then he'd go back to the basketball site to coordinate the construction of camera positions. Then back to Holiday Wonderland …

"Six to seven companies are involved in these two projects, plus the labor," Capo said. "No event ever goes 100 percent to plan. You don't go in hoping it will. You go in knowing that when things don't go completely as planned, you have the plan and people to fix the problem. We learn with every event."

For example, the San Diego State-USD basketball game was pushed back from Saturday to Sunday at 2 p.m. because the Aztecs will be hosting the Mountain West Conference football championship game Saturday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.

But the Bill Walton Basketball Festival is much more than Sunday's featured attraction -- the first college basketball game ever at Petco Park. Tickets for Sunday's San Diego State-USD game are still available at

Starting Monday, there will be 26 events on the court through Sunday, including six high school games, corporate 3-on-3 games, youth games, clinics with Bill Walton and special events for wheelchair basketball teams.

Although construction activities slow during the week of the Basketball Festival -- remember, finishing touches will still being made to the Holiday Wonderland --Guglielmo's team will remain busy.

Major League Baseball officials will be visiting Petco Park this week to discuss planning for next July's All-Star Game.

And the cycle continues.

"We're already talking about how we can improve next year's golf event," Capo said. "We debrief after every event to figure out ways to make it better."

Following the closing of Holiday Wonderland on Dec. 23, the crew at Petco Park gets two days off.

Then on Dec. 26, the crew starts planning for January's motorsports events while replacing all the lights at Petco Park with Musco's SportsCluster LED lighting system.

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