San Diego has sold almost 19,000 season tickets before Opening Day, a club high.getty images
For years, the only thing as consistent as the mediocre product the San Diego Padres put on the field was their mediocre ticket sales. In the 16 seasons from 2004–19, San Diego had an average attendance ranking of 16th, finishing in MLB’s top 10 only twice: in 2004 and 2005, the first two seasons that Petco Park was open, and its only two postseason appearances came in 2005 and 2006.
But there has been a shift in recent years as the front office has assembled one of the most exciting rosters in baseball, one that ended the team’s postseason drought in 2020. When fans were allowed back in ballparks in 2021, attendance spiked: The Padres ranked third last year with 2,191,950 paid attendees, or 27,061 per game. Only the Braves and Dodgers ranked higher in both categories, though there were capacity restrictions across the league due to the pandemic,
San Diego is carrying its encouraging trend into the 2022 season. The Padres are closing in on 19,000 season tickets sold, setting a new record for Petco Park. The previous high came the year the venue opened, when they had 18,808 full-season equivalents (two half-season plans equal one full-season equivalent).
“It really reflects the fan base’s belief that ownership is committed to fielding a consistently winning team, which is something that traditionally this franchise has struggled to do,” said Padres CEO Erik Greupner.
Greupner also points to the team’s marketing approach, its commitment to having Petco Park reflect San Diego’s best local cuisine, and its ballpark upgrades as other crucial factors that have led to an increase in attendance. Over this past offseason, for example, all 71 of the ballpark’s premium suites have been fully renovated.
“We’re really proud of the fact that over the last decade, we’ve created one of the best ballpark experiences in Major League Baseball,” Greupner said.
The broken wrist suffered by superstar Fernando Tatís Jr. put a damper on the start of the season, but interest in tickets has held strong for the Padres, who have been San Diego’s only major pro sports team since the Chargers left for Los Angeles in 2017. From March 10, when MLB’s lockout ended, through March 15, searches for “Padres tickets” were up 125.7% over that same period in 2021, and up 297.3% over 2019, according to Google Trends data compiled by Gabe Gershenfeld of Demand Analytics, a platform for enabling demand-based decision- making in live event organizations.
Sales have increased accordingly. Padres single-game ticket sales in the two weeks before the end of the lockout were down 85% compared to recent historical measures, Greupner said. But after a new CBA was reached, San Diego is up 45%, according to Greupner.
With one Petco Park record already broken in 2022, the Padres are eyeing another milestone: three million fans. Greupner said the Padres, whose high for attendance in a single season at Petco Park was 3,016,752 in 2004, are internally projecting to draw 2.9 million in 2022.
“And I think we’ve got upside to that, especially if the team plays well,” he said. “So I think we could reach three million this year. That would be a significant accomplishment.”