The Padres invested $700,000 for a permanent stage in the Park at the Park, shown in a rendering, and signed Sycuan Casino Resort as presenting sponsor. (Courtesy San Diego Padres)

Three-year deal puts eight shows annually in green space

Petco Park has become a stronger concert venue. Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres have signed a three-year deal with Live Nation to book eight concerts annually at the Park at the Park, the 3-acre green space behind center field.

As part of the agreement, which will be announced today, the Padres invested $700,000 to build a permanent stage behind the batter’s eye and signed a three-year deal with Sycuan Casino Resort as its presenting sponsor. The casino was already a team partner and is sponsoring the Padres’ 50thanniversary season in 2019.

The concert deal is a revenue share between the Padres and Live Nation, said Erik Greupner, the team’s president of business operations. Live Nation takes the financial risk to buy the acts and promote the shows. The Padres have the ability to offer presale tickets to season-ticket holders and sponsors, Greupner said.

The first event under Live Nation’s exclusive agreement to program the Sycuan stage is a Coheed and Cambria concert June 26.

The Padres can work with other promoters to book full ballpark concerts, which can draws crowds of more than 40,000. For example, Paul McCartney, promoted by AEG Live, performs June 22 at Petco Park in a full stadium setting.

For the Padres, the deal is the next step in transforming a portion of the 16-year-old ballpark into a high-end outdoor concert venue with first-class amenities. Over the past few years, the team has booked smaller shows and festivals with a temporary stage at Park at the Park. In addition, eight years ago, the Western Metal Concert Series converted a few thousand seats down the left-field line for smaller shows. Now, with the permanent setup at Park at the Park, Live Nation can consistently book national acts to perform in a 6,000-capacity general admission layout.

The partnership has the flexibility to expand the venue to 10,000 capacity in a festival setting by opening up J Street, which runs behind the Park at the Park. The Padres have done that in past years, working with the city of San Diego to secure the required permits, said Jaclyn Lash, the team’s senior director of special events.

Local engineering firm Kimley-Horn designed the stage. The customized roof system cantilevers off the back of the batter’s eye and the structure has the same white steel look as the ballpark. The rigging system can handle 90,000 pounds of equipment, enough to accommodate most touring productions, according to Lash.

“We’ll have the same high level of guest service,” Greupner said. “We continue to push to come up with new ways to make it a better concert facility than in the past. We fill a big gap in this market with a full venue and can scale down to several thousand.”

The performers get access to the Padres’ clubhouse and ballpark suites for their dressing rooms and green rooms.

“We’ve heard great feedback from artists and management that they love playing this venue because they get treated like a major league player,” Lash said. “Now, we can bring anyone in with the permanent stage, which is very helpful for promoters. We really are a true concert venue now.”

Overall, the Padres rank among the most creative MLB teams for transforming their ballpark for special events. In 2015, Petco Park became the first big league stadium to convert its seating bowl into a golf course, creating the nine-hole Links at Petco in partnership with Callaway Golf.

Separately in 2015, Petco Park’s playing surface was used for a Davis Cup tennis tournament and a college basketball game between San Diego State and the University of San Diego. The stadium is also a regular stop in the offseason for Monster Jam and Supercross, two dirt events produced by Feld Entertainment.

During Comic-Con International, the annual comic book convention in town, Petco Park’s concourses come alive as an extension of the event with pop-ups such as the zombie apocalypse obstacle course, modeled after “The Walking Dead” TV show on AMC.

A similar event turns the ballpark’s team store into “Purge City,” themed after “The Purge” on the USA Network. Shoppers stock up on emergency candles and energy drinks, among other survival items.

“It’s kind of like a darker version of ‘The Hunger Games’ with a whimsical store that makes light of life and death,” Greupner said. “It’s not something we typically associate the Padres’ brand with, but Comic-Con takes over the city and we become part of that event.”