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City council clears way for Holiday Bowl to be played at Petco Park

holiday bowl 2019.jpeg
Posted at 2:31 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 17:31:17-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego City Council Tuesday unanimously approved an amendment in a joint agreement with the San Diego Padres to allow football to be played in Petco Park, clearing the way for the downtown ballpark to host the Holiday Bowl in December.

A previous joint use and management agreement between the city and team explicitly prohibited football at Petco Park. But when the city sold SDCCU Stadium -- the longtime home of the Holiday Bowl -- to San Diego State University last year, and SDSU subsequently demolished it to make way for a west campus and Aztec Stadium, it left the 43-year-old bowl game without a home.

Earlier this month, the Padres announced a partnership with the San Diego Bowl Game Association that will allow the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl to be played at Petco Park for a minimum of the next five years, beginning this year.

The partnership was dependent on Tuesday's action to amend the joint use and management agreement, which appears to have saved the contest for the region, following a year in which no postseason game between the Pac-12 and ACC conferences was played due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is a win for San Diego before the game is even played," said Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn, who represents downtown.

Removing the language prohibiting football will allow for games of all levels to be played at Petco Park, and the revenue split between the Padres and city will be handled like every other special event that takes place in the ballpark. The Padres get 70% of revenue and the city 30%, with the city's initial financial obligations fronted by the baseball organization.

The Padres are the sole and exclusive on-site managers of the property each year, according to the joint agreement.

"This is going to allow us to keep the Holiday Bowl in San Diego; an important San Diego tradition which will provide benefits for years to come," said Erik Greupner, CEO of the Padres organization.

Since the bowl game was founded in 1978, it has brought in more than $977 million in economic impact, including more than 819,000 nights at local hotels, the San Diego Bowl Game Association claims.

"The game takes place during the slowest season in San Diego," said Mark Neville, executive director of the association. "This will ensure we can continue to bring the benefits to San Diego."

The game is scheduled for Dec. 28 at 5 p.m. and will be shown on Fox stations.

The proposed alignment for the field is one endzone along the current first base line and the other in left field, near the Western Metal Supply Co. building. According to Greupner, while Petco Park's full attendance is 44,500, with additional bleachers in right field, the total capacity -- including a filled Gallagher Square, the grassy area outside the ballpark itself -- will be closer to 50,000 people.

That is considerably fewer than the 70,651 SDCCU Stadium was able to fit at its peak for San Diego Chargers games, but Petco Park is also well located to take advantage of public transit. The Holiday Bowl's highest recorded attendance was in 2005, with 65,416 fans in attendance to watch the Oklahoma Sooners beat the No. 6 Oregon Ducks, 17-14.

Council members were effusive in their praise for the amendment, even leading to a joking exchange between Padres fan Council President Jennifer Campbell and Dodgers fan Councilman Sean Elo-Rivera.

"Despite my best efforts, I have nothing bad to say," Elo-Rivera joked.

The most recent iteration of the Holiday Bowl, played in 2019, was a 49-24 blowout of USC by Iowa. Brigham Young University has the most appearances in the game with 11, followed by Texas with five bids and Iowa, Washington, Nebraska, Washington State and Arizona State with four apiece.

San Diego State University has appeared once in the game, a 39-38 loss to Iowa in 1986.

Campbell diverged from the subject slightly when she reminded those listening to the council meeting that the game was unlikely to happen if COVID- 19 continued to surge at its current pace. She asked San Diegans to get vaccinated to prevent any more loss of life and disruption of economic activity.