December 1, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Padres to Dodgers fans: No Petco Park tickets for you (yet)

It’s the first installment of baseball’s hottest rivalry: the Dodgers facing the San Diego Padres, live at Petco Park, the third weekend of April.

And how many tickets are the Padres making available for Dodgers fans?

Zero.

Nothing personal, the Padres say.

The Padres have sold close to 14,000 season tickets, Chief Executive Erik Greupner said Tuesday. They expect to open the season at 20% capacity — close to 10,000 seats — under state coronavirus guidelines, so they do not even have enough tickets for all their season-ticket holders for now.

“I can’t tell you yet whether we’re going to have any single-game tickets available,” Greupner said. “It’s looking likely, for the first two months of the season, we will not.”

Petco Park often has been overrun with Dodgers fans in recent years. San Diego is an easy drive or train ride from Los Angeles, and the Dodgers have won the National League West for eight consecutive seasons.

In 2020, as the Padres posted a winning record for the first time in 10 years and reached the postseason for the first time in 14 years, their fans were locked out of the ballpark.

The Padres have built upon the momentum from last season’s exciting “Slam Diego” team, acquiring Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to head the starting rotation, then signing shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year contract, the longest in major league history.

The Dodgers are the defending World Series champions, the Padres the confident challengers.

“We’re going to get 19 World Series games this year,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said as spring training opened last month.

The Dodgers’ other visits to Petco Park this season are scheduled for June and August. Greupner said the Padres hope to play to expanded capacity by then. State guidelines call for stadiums to move from 20% capacity to 33% and 67% as the virus metrics improve, and Greupner said he believes the state would consider relaxing even those standards as vaccinations accelerate.

As a rivalry heated in recent years between the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, the Brewers have limited ticket sales to locals, a measure intended to keep the Brewers’ ballpark from turning into Wrigley Field North, much as Petco Park has turned into Dodger Stadium South.

Even as the Padres soar in popularity, Greupner said he has not considered how to manipulate public ticket sales to keep Dodgers fans away.

“If we got to a point where we felt there wasn’t enough opportunity for San Diegans and Padres fans to come to the ballpark, we would always consider how we prioritize their ability to come to their ballpark and see their team,” he said. “But we’ve never really thought about it from the perspective of how to deny entry to a Dodgers fan.

“I think people in L.A. love to come down to San Diego. It’s a beautiful place, right? They like to come down here and enjoy our ballpark. We would like, as the team gets better and we become more competitive — including against the Dodgers — that we see more and more Padres fans, for the positive reason: that Padres fans want to see more of us, not that we’re excluding other people.”

For now, the only way for a Dodgers fan to see the team in San Diego is to buy tickets from the resale market. The Padres can only hope their victory-starved fans favor the chance to see Tatis in person over the chance to make a quick buck.

“They’re going to be really well-positioned to benefit from the scarcity principle we’re seeing the first part of the season,” Greupner said. “Our hope is that this fan base … is going to want to be at the game themselves, cheering for the team.”

And where would that leave Dodgers fans accustomed to a weekend at Petco?

“It’s a tough ticket to get,” he said. “For them to try to get a ticket, it’s probably going to be a pretty significant premium. Maybe they stay in L.A. and enjoy watching the Dodgers play there.”