Ballpark Quirks: Petco Park's historic Western Metal Supply Co. building
Ninety-five years separate the majority of Petco Park’s construction from the piece around which the entire ballpark is oriented.
Built in 1909, the historic Western Metal Supply Company building in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter turned into a signature element of the Padres’ home park, opened in 2004, with the corner of the brick building — adorned with a yellow stripe — serving as the foul pole for leftfield, 336 feet from home plate. And that corner? It dictated everything about Petco.
“That is how we sighted the ballpark,” Joe Spear, Populous architect, told SI.com. “We built from the corner of that building. We worked backwards. The tip of home plate created that ‘X’ dimension, and the field and grandstand went around that.”
The layout changed the orientation of the 42,000-seat park, with the batter now facing due north instead of northeast, as is common in MLB.
But the park did more than have a beautiful brick-and-heavy-timber structure protruding out of the leftfield corner. The 51,400-square-foot Western Metal Supply Co. building took on new life as well. Crews completely renovated the building and brought it up to structural and seismic code, then filled it with suites on the second and third floor, a public restaurant on the fourth floor, seating cantilevered over the field and bleacher seating on the rooftop party deck. The ground floor, which opens to the field, houses a team store.
The four-story structure originally opened at 215 Seventh Avenue after a design by well-known architect Henry Lord Gay. Wagon makers’ materials and blacksmith’s supplies filled the structure early on, but as time went on, supplies for plumbing, automobiles, engines and roofing played a key role until the business went bankrupt in the 1970s. Vacant by the end of that decade, the building was placed on the San Diego Historical Resources Board registry, and the Padres eventually gave it fresh life.
But the Western Metal Supply Co. building isn’t the only historic structure that has a new life because of Petco. The ballpark’s famed park-within-a-park grassy area beyond the outfield walls was made possible by the moving of The Showley Brothers Candy Factory, a three-story building constructed in 1924. The three-million-pound unreinforced masonry building, which ran a candy operation through the 1950s, was moved one block east of its original site, where it underwent preservation and restoration, completed in 2008, according to San Diego’s Heritage Architecture & Planning.
One building moved and another was embraced. Modern-day Petco puts history in play.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.