Football is no longer prohibited at Petco Park – The San Diego Union-Tribune

After more than four decades in Mission Valley, college football’s Holiday Bowl is officially relocating downtown to Petco Park, the city-owned and San Diego Padres-operated stadium where football has been prohibited for the entirety of its existence.

Tuesday, San Diego’s City Council unanimously voted to remove the no-football restriction from the city’s stadium contract with the baseball club, meaning the ballpark that voters OK’d in 1998 can be converted into a multi-use facility.

The action, framed by the city and the team as the only way to keep the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, clears the way for an estimated $2.2 million in modifications that will increase the stadium’s football-game capacity from 44,500 people to 50,000 people, when including standing-room only sections.

“City Council approval is an exciting step that allows the Holiday Bowl to remain in San Diego and continue to provide economic, tourism and cultural benefits to our region,” Padres CEO Erik Greupner said in a statement. “Petco Park is San Diego’s iconic sports and entertainment venue, and it will elevate the Holiday Bowl experience in the heart of downtown San Diego.”

With the action, San Diego is on the hook for 30 percent of the stadium modifications expenses, or $650,000, as required by the pre-existing terms of the stadium’s joint-use agreement. The city is also guaranteed 30 percent of event proceeds. The Padres will pick up the construction tab initially and bill the city in the form of revenue credits, with costs spread equally over a five-year period.

Even after deducting the credits, the city expects to pocket a total of $994,825 from Holiday Bowl proceeds over the five-year term, according to a financial model prepared by the Padres.

In November 1998, city of San Diego voters approved Proposition C, which included a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between city agencies and the Padres outlining the terms, usage rights and costs associated with what was labelled a “baseball park.” The contractual language OK’d by voters included a clause that, “no amateur or professional football games shall be played at the Ballpark.”

Tuesday’s council vote allows the mayor to amend the MOU and remove the prohibition. In doing so, council members also made required determinations that the amendment is, among other things, in the best interests of the city, and does not decrease the rights or increase the obligations of the city.

Council members spoke in favor of the football amendment, applauding the baseball club’s ability to accommodate the Holiday Bowl, which is said to have generated $977 million in economic benefit to the San Diego region since 1978.

“Moving the Holiday Bowl to downtown San Diego is something to celebrate. It keeps this nationally televised bowl game and the famous Holiday Bowl balloon parade in San Diego, and it will showcase our beautiful downtown to college football fans across the country,” said Councilman Stephen Whitburn, who represents the downtown district. “Beyond the revenue share to the city, football fans from the competing schools will spend millions of dollars while they’re here and that will generate (transient occupancy tax) and sales tax revenue.”

Public speakers, most of whom were affiliated with local business associations and the not-for-profit San Diego Bowl Game association, also praised the prospects of hosting the college bowl game at Petco Park. One speaker, however, objected to the city’s determination that an environmental review was not necessary.

“Under (California Environmental Quality Act) it’s very clear, if you’re going to hold an event of this magnitude, to quote one of the supporters, if you’re going to grow the game, to quote another supporter, that is significant and that is cumulative,” said Lori Saldaña, a former assemblywoman. “And so what are you about to approve is a violation of the CEQA exemption.”

The make room for a football field, the Padres will demolish around 200 field-level seats adjacent to the team’s dugout and replace them with 11 movable pieces, Greupner previously told the Union-Tribune. A 37-foot portion of the outfield wall in left-center field will need to be modified, he said.

The Holiday Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 28 and will be televised on FOX.