Baseball & Softball
The San Diego Padres of the National League play April through September at downtown's $474-million PETCO Park, 100 Park Blvd. Mired in litigation and controversy, the 42,000-seat ballpark finally opened in 2004 to enthusiastic acclaim from baseball fans and civic boosters. Other San Diegans are still wondering when their promised new downtown library will be built.
A total of seven historic buildings were incorporated into the stadium, most prominently the Western Metal Supply building, a four-story brick structure dating to 1909 that now sprouts left field bleachers. The restaurant and bar here are hot spots during the game. Another unique feature is the Park at the Park, a grassy area beyond center field where kids can romp and watch the game at the same time; the area has its own playground and concession stands, as well as a bronze statue of Padre Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
This ballpark isn't the first to offer sushi alongside the usual franks and fries, but you'll find plenty of dining options. La Cocina, a Mexican food court, serves up grilled ahi sandwiches and Rubio's fish tacos; at Pacific Wok you can munch on spring rolls and Asian salads, while the barbecue stand is run by former Padres pitcher Randy Jones. PETCO parking is limited and can be costly; expect to pay anywhere from $8 to $20, depending on how close to the stadium you get. Less expensive lots are found around Santa Fe depot at Kettner Boulevard and Broadway -- a 15- to 20-minute walk from the ballpark. Better yet, take the San Diego Trolley, which has three stops near the park. For Padres information and tickets (ranging in price from $5-$71), call tel. 877/374-2784 or 619/795-5000, or visit www.padres.com.
The highlight of many San Diegans' summer is the racy softball event known as the World Championship Over-the-Line Tournament, held on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay on the second and third weekends of July.
Nearly two-dozen tall ships from around the world make for San Diego during the 5-day Festival of Sail, held over the Labor Day weekend (Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 2012). Canons roar, sea chanteys are sung, racing yachts offer bay cruises, and arts and crafts vendors ply their wares along the Embarcadero. Your ticket ($15 adults, $10 seniors and children 12 and under) allows you to tour the ships, including the collection at the Maritime Museum, which hosts the event. The annual San Diego Crew Classic, held on Mission Bay the first weekend in April (tel. 619/225-0300; www.crewclassic.org), is one of the country's premier regattas, drawing rowing teams from throughout the United States. The Wooden Boat Festival is held on Shelter Island every June over Father's Day weekend (tel. 619/222-9051; www.koehlerkraft.com). More than 80 boats -- from rowboats to schooners -- participate in the festival, which features nautical displays, seminars, food, music, and crafts. Admission is $5 adults, $3 children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under.
San Diego's National Football League team, the Chargers, has been shopping for another city (including others within the county) since failing to generate interest -- and lots of public funding -- for an audacious plan to create a huge urban village around a new stadium in Mission Valley. For now, the Chargers (tel. 800/745-3000 for single tickets, 877/242-7437, or 619/280-2121; www.chargers.com) play at Qualcomm Stadium ("the Q"), 9449 Friars Rd., Mission Valley. The season runs from August to December; single tickets are $54 to $98. The Sports Fan Shuttle (tel. 866/766-4937; www.sportsfanexpress.com) costs $20 round-trip and picks up passengers at six different locations throughout the city; the stadium is also easily reached via the San Diego Trolley. General parking is $25; the tailgate zone is $75. The parking hot line is tel. 619/281-7275.
Exploitation or empowerment? You can be the judge when the San Diego Seduction of the Lingerie Football League takes the field at the Valley View Casino Center, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd, September through January. The ladies play full-contact, arena-style football in uniforms barely large enough to put a number on. For tickets call tel. 800/745-3000 ($23-$54), or go to http://lflus.com/sandiegoseduction.
When General Motors collapsed in 2009, one of the country's biggest golf tournaments was left with an identity crisis and no sponsor. The former Buick Invitational, which takes place in late January at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, was hastily rechristened as the San Diego Open; then just days before the event, it got another name: the Farmers Insurance Open. The insurance giant has now signed on to the tournament until 2014; in 2012 play takes place from January 23 to 29 (tel. 858/535-4500 or 858/886-4653; www.farmersinsuranceopen.com). The weeklong tourney draws the PGA Tour's top golfers and features a number of special events, including clinics and pro-ams. Single-day tickets are $21 to $32, and $21 for seniors; tournament passes are $120. Monday, when the PGA players do their practice rounds, is free. General parking is offered at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley and the Del Mar Show Park, located off I-5 at Via de la Valle; the cost is $20 including round-trip shuttle service.
Horse Racing & Equestrian Events
Live thoroughbred racing takes place at the Del Mar Race Track (tel. 858/755-1141 for information and racing schedules; www.dmtc.com) from mid-July to early September. Post time for the 8- to 10-race program is 2pm (except for Fri, when it's 4pm; 3:30pm on the final three Fri); there's no racing on Monday (except Labor Day) or Tuesday. Admission to the clubhouse is $10, including program. Stretch-run admission is $6 with program and infield access; reserved seats are $5 to $15. Free for children 17 and under. Tables for four with food service run $60 to $125 (excluding admission). The infield area has a jungle gym where kids can play or watch shows put on by BMX riders and skateboarders; there's also a day camp offered for kids ages 5 to 12 ($24 per child). Party crowds are lured by post-race concerts by major artists and other special events. General parking is $8; valet parking is $20. Double-decker buses also transport race goers for free from the Solana Beach train station. Year-round, satellite wagering is available at the fairgrounds' race book, Surfside Race Place (tel. 858/755-1167; www.surfsideraceplace.com). It's open Wednesday through Sunday, 9am to 10:45pm (midnight Fri and Sat); $5 admission.
Since 1946, the Del Mar National Horse Show has taken place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. From mid-April to early May, Olympic-caliber and national championship riders participate in Western, hunter/jumper, and dressage competitions; the "Night of the Horse" is a popular evening event that changes themes annually. Tickets are $10 to $18; for information, call tel. 858/792-4252 or 858/792-4288, or check www.delmarnational.com.
The San Diego Polo Club in Del Mar, 14555 El Camino Real (tel. 858/481-9217; www.sandiegopolo.com), has Sunday matches from June to October (with a summer break mid-July to mid-Aug), beginning at 1pm. The scene is casual and convivial, with a touch of class; and even if you don't know a chukker from a ride-off, watching these skilled horsemen is plenty exciting. Tickets are $10 (free for children 12 and under), or $25 for preferred seating ($15 children). Parking is $5, or you can tailgate alongside the field for $25. And FYI: A chukker is a period of play, and a ride-off is the polo equivalent of a hockey body-check.
Revived locally in recent years by the San Diego Derby Dolls, the spectacle of roller derby has deep roots in California, dating back to the mid-1950s. Racing around banked and flat-track ovals on roller skates -- elbowing their way past blockers, scoring points by lapping their opponents -- the Derby Dolls sport names like Bo Toxic, Heidi Evidence, and Slamurai. Scheduled year-round, there's plenty of fast, family-friendly action (and a full bar). The "Dollhouse" is located at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.; tickets are $15 to $20, $13 for seniors and children 6 to 12, free for kids 5 and under. For information call tel. 619/228-6060 or go to www.sd.derbydolls.com.
San Diego's most successful sports franchise, the Sockers, won 10 indoor soccer championships -- and still managed to fold twice in less than 10 years. In 2009, the Sockers were resurrected for a third time, this time as part of the Professional Arena Soccer League, playing in the Del Mar Arena at the fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd. Sure enough, the team picked up right where it left off, defeating Guadalajara in 2010 for its 11th title. The season runs from November to February and tickets are $10 to $20; for information call tel. 866/799-4625 or go to www.sdsockers.com.