Petco Park was one of the most challenging and demanding projects we have worked on. The size and logistics of this job were enormous, and when combined with the structural uniqueness of a new ballpark, it took a huge effort on behalf of our project team to bring this job home. We take enormous pride in building this stadium,” Robert E. Meadows, executive vice president, Morrow-Meadows Corp., said of the new home of the San Diego Padres. It replaces Qualcomm Stadium, the team’s home for 35 years and the site of two World Series (1984, 1998).
Petco Park is a ballpark built for the fan. All 42,000 seats feature cup holders and extra legroom. A fully distributed, balanced sound system provides a localized audio feed to each area instead of broadcasting sound from a single source. Seats are also divided into “neighborhoods,” such as special seating in the front rows surrounding the dugouts, which features a fine-dining restaurant, lounge and private bar. There’s also a neighborhood of field-level club suites that offer close-up views of the game and another elegant restaurant, and terrace-level seats just 34 feet above the field that provide access to four specialty lounges. A mammoth LED video display located beyond the outfield wall enhances the fan experience by broadcasting replays. Most fans watch replays and action on two LED displays that are 250 feet long and are mounted on upper concourses along the first and third base lines, or on one of 800 Sony TVs distributed throughout the ballpark. Sony Electronics, the Padre’s new corporate partner, recently moved its corporate headquarters to San Diego.
“I’m proud of the whole thing. The outcome is marvelous,” said Tom Taylor, project manager for Morrow-Meadows, which was hired by San Diego Ballpark Builders, a group composed of Clark Construction Group Inc., Douglas E. Barnhart Inc. and Roel Construction Co. The contractor’s responsibilities included doing the electrical infrastructure, the ballpark lighting, plus wiring the offices and the support for the concessions, groundskeepers, lounges and suites. “It was a challenge having to work in so many places at the same time,” said Taylor, whose crew numbered up to 144. “That’s why we had so many people on the job.” The job took almost two years and earned $20 million for the San Diego office of the West Coast-based company. The overall project cost $456.8 million—$285 million for ballpark construction and $171.8 million for land acquisition and infrastructure.
The new ballpark celebrates the culture of San Diego, which has a metro population of 2.8 million. The use of natural stone and the courtyards dotted with jacaranda tree recall the ambiance of Southern California’s Spanish missions. It is also the cornerstone of the Ballpark District, a 26-block redevelopment area reviving a section of downtown with construction offices, retail stores, hotels and residential units in addition to the ballpark. San Diego voters approved funding for Petco Park on Nov. 3, 1998, with the passage of Proposition C, but a lack of money prompted a suspension of construction for a 16-month period, pushing the ballpark’s opening from 2002 to 2004. Once the project resumed, it was fast-tracked due to an announced opening day, so construction began before the design was finished. “Some phases overlapped. The structural engineer had to be way out ahead of all of us,“ said Bradd Crowley, project manager, HOK Sport Venue + Event, executive architects.
“All ballparks are one of kind,” he continued. “We’ve worked on many of them. Coors Field in Denver was a traditional ballpark design. Petco is very different from other ballparks we worked on.”
Many of Petco Park’s design features are unique, like the use of one of the corners of the renovated Western Metal Supply Company building as the left-field foul pole and use of its interior for stores, party suites, restaurants and balconies. Another unusual feature was the construction of distinctive towers overlooking first and third base that house luxury lofts and outdoor seating areas while also providing support for lights for the playing field.
“It’s exciting to be part of a one-of-a-kind project, yet technology has changed since the ’60s when Qualcomm was built,” Taylor said. “The way ballparks are constructed now, everything was new and we had to figure out new ways to do things. Just the angles were a challenge. We had a full-time CAD operator to do the detailing for us and that helped. But when you get out in the field and start looking for things to lay out off of, it was a challenge. The ballpark goes in a circle so we had to put in a lot more bends. It’s harder to lay off a curved line, so it was time-consuming.”
Put the challenges of circular lines together with a fast-track schedule and it adds up to ongoing changes during construction. “We had an extreme number of change orders,” said Taylor. “Sixty-nine bulletins, major changes by the architect and 790 RFIs, clarifications that resulted in 400 changes.” Add to that the “regular” tasks. Morrow-Meadows provided the electrical for the speakers and signs. It was a challenge, Taylor said, to install the systems on the face of the “bowl,” the 250-foot video board. The board, designed by Lighthouse Technologies Limited of San Jose, Calif., incorporates LEDs and fiber optics that use 80 individual LVP25 video panels that illuminate at a brightness level of 5,000 NIT. The board’s LED lamps are spaced 25mm apart so viewers can see the screen, one that is not affected by sunlight or viewing angle. “In order to do the work, we used offset scaffolding with different-size legs while working on steps before the seats were installed. Some of it was on wheels, so we pushed it just so far and then we had to break it down and build it up again where the ballpark had an open spot or railing.”
Morrow-Meadows also built the seven sports lighting towers on the ground. After they were raised to 200 feet, the crew did the final hookups on catwalks.
Since it was a structural-steel ballpark, supporting the conduits and lights was another consideration. To do that, Morrow-Meadows used a Nelson Series 4000 stud welder with a standard-duty gun. “Everything is exposed in the ballpark,” said Taylor. “We welded on supports with the Nelson stud gun, which saved us a lot of time. We used it for conduit supports, light supports. It was kind of cool. We used them also to attach brackets for all the TV sets rather than drilling and tapping, which is expensive.”
Nelson Stud Welding Inc. usually sends a representative along with their product. “Anytime you have a job-site application, we need to get involved to some extent,” said Dennis Zigmunt of Nelson Stud Welding Inc. “The problem at Petco was finding adequate power. We furnished them with a single-phase machine because they only had single-phase power. When you start with that, you don’t have a lot of power on the job, but we were able to squeeze every bit of juice out of what they had. We wanted to be able to move around the job to just use the spider boxes available to various trades on site. The 30 to 40A of power was enough.”
Chris Rooney, site representative for HOK Sport Venue + Event, said of Morrow-Meadows, “We worked closely with them, creating mock-ups of the lighting installations. Achieving the proper lighting effect was critical, so we had to get Morrow-Meadows out there to put things up for us in advance of the final installation to kind of take a look. They were very accommodating.”
Any project of this originality and complexity requires quick thinking and creativity. Electrical consultants ME Engineers had field personnel to address some of the problems. One engineer, Lloyd Jensen, commented, “Morrow-Meadows was good about taking proactive positions and suggesting things to make sure we reached the best solutions.”
Now, on game days, fans stream into the facility to enjoy the state-of-the-art amenities. They can visit the Padres Hall of Fame and they can also see the “Contractors Wall of Fame,” where more than 10,000 engraved bricks have been installed along the perimeter of Palm Court Plaza. Bricks celebrate donors but many include icons of hard hats along with the names of those who worked on the construction. One hundred of those bricks include the names of those from Morrow-Meadows. “I think it’s great,” said Taylor. EC
CASEY, author of "Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors" and "Women Invent! Two Centuries of Discoveries that have Changed Our World," can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.susancaseybooks.com.