- User Rating: Excellent
Pros:Friendly atmosphere in old fashioned park, beautiful weather, reasonably priced.
Cons:Exiting parking lot requires patience. Fans do the Wave too often.
The Bottom Line: Qualcomm makes for a pleasant friendly outing in a low key atmosphere. The fans welcome visitors and the Padres are often accomodating to visiting teams as well.
If youíre looking for a friendly low-key atmosphere for baseballówith affordable prices, itís hard to beat Qualcomm stadium. Heck, itís hard to beat the whole city of San Diego, for that matter. Is there another metropolitan area in the United States with a more perfect climate?
Actually, it was a bit chilly for me the first night of a weekend series, but Iím coming from Phoenix and forgot to bring a windbreaker. I solved that problem by buying a jacket in town on Saturday, so I could survive the 65-degree breezy weather the following night. But thatís probably about as cold as it gets for the stadium.
The first thing I noticed when heading into the parking lot two hours before game time were a large number of people having tail-gate parties, complete with grilled brats, dogs, burgers, steaks, etc. This happened before each of the three games I attended, and I noticed that the Padres had a special tail-gate promotion going for a future date, so Iím sure this is a long standing tradition around Qualcomm.
For recreation before the game, some families were tossing frisbees while others engaged in simple games of catch. The music around the park would vary from group to groupóeverything from classic rock to Mexican pop.
The food selections inside the park are fairly standard baseball fare, and the concession stands are much in synch with Wrigley Field as far as being old-fashioned. There are two unique food stands that I havenít seen in other ballparks, however.
One is sponsored by Rubioísóa Baja style fast food chain that specializes in fish tacos (donít knock them if youíve never tried them!) The other is a BBQ place that has the kind of food that the tail-gaters might cook up on the grill. The chicken and ribs are smothered in BBQ sauce, and the Ruthian hot dog is unbelievably hugeóten inches long and twice the thickness of normal dogs!
Qualcomm is a large stadium and you should have no problem getting tickets. Getting good seats in the lower levels will take advance planning, however. Thatís where I sat, but I bought the tickets in February when single games first went on sale online.
Saturday night I sat right next to the visiting dugout. These type of tickets would cost me $70 apiece at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, but only cost me $26 at Qualcomm. In fact, $26 is the highest priced seats they have in the park!
Prices range from $26 down to $5, depending on how high you are and how close to home plate you sit. Those cheap seats will be way up in the nosebleed sections of the outfield, but will be the last to go. Another possibility (though I didnít check it out at that level) is that people could probably buy those cheap $5 seats but sit a little closer to home, as the ushers generally seem low key and donít check closely to make sure you are in the correct seat.
Since Qualcomm serves as home park for the San Diego Chargers, those upper level $5 seats are much better for football than they are for baseball. They mostly go empty. The Saturday game I attended had an announced crowd of over 49,300 but hardly anyone was sitting in the thousands of upper level seats.
Qualcomm remains a charming old style ballpark without a lot of modern glitz. The Padres are hoping to move into a baseball-only venue in the near future, but legal challenges and politics are plaguing them. Meanwhile, the present stadium is a nice temporary venue until the state-of-the art facility is ready.
Like most parks thereís a Jumbo-tron to entertain the fans, but they donít overdo it. They mostly use it to give game information and provide replays, and often show fans in the stands between innings. One neat thing that San Diego does instead of the usual Jumbo-tron computer generated hot dog races that Arizona seems to love, is have ďFriar racesĒ using actual people. They have their Swinging Friar compete in a between inning race with two other similarly dressed mascots from right field down to first base. Sometimes real life fun beats the heck out of ďvirtualĒ fun.
This may seem a bit funny, but one of my worries at the park was for the dozens of swallows that dart about the park all through the game. I kept worrying that these birds would bother the hitters or fielders or get clobbered by the ball. I didnít notice any seagulls though. They may be boycotting Qualcomm since long ago when Dave Winfield killed one of their members on a throw from the outfield.
Like San Diego itself, the fans are friendly and laid-back. I donít question their loyalty because they do cheer for the locals, and I even witnessed some fans voting for Tony Gwynn for the All Star team even though the legendary Padre has hardly played all season!
If youíre a visiting fan sporting the cap of the enemy team, you need not fear for your safety at Qualcomm, like you will at Shea Stadium or another hard core stadium. My Diamondback cap only served to identify me as a fan who could fill in the locals about the Arizona teamóthere were friendly fans to talk to during each of the three games I attended, and I never received any booís or catcalls when cheering for my team. (and we had plenty to cheer for with the Diamondbacks taking all three games, including Schillingís magnificent 7 1/3 perfecto before the Ben Davis bunt and the incredible ninth inning rally in the finale to sweep the series)
While I know there are some good knowledgeable fans in San Diego, overall the fans wonít get great marks for sophistication. Not when they begin the Wave (sometimes when their own team is at bat), expend nightly energy on bouncing beach balls in the stands (cheering when it reaches an upper level and booing when an usher confiscates the ball), or leave the park early only to get stuck in the early parking lot rush.
Also, I discovered that many of the fans calling in to the radio station on the post-game show have very little actual baseball knowledge. Loyalty they have, but their opinions about the game contain a great amount of local prejudices.
And youíll have plenty of time to listen to the post-game show. Getting out of the parking lot will take a good long time. You may want to delay your tail-gate party until the end to wait out the traffic.
Overall, Qualcomm remains one of my favorite ballparks to visit. Just buy an early ticket for a good seat and be prepared to bear with the heavy traffic in and out of the parking lot.
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Parking Availability: Busy But Manageable
Seat Location: Lower Level