Bring San Diego Craft Beer Back to Peoria
Guest Post from Congregation member: Vince Vasquez
For most Padres fans, spring training trips are relatively easy to make; the Peoria Sports Complex is only a five hour drive from downtown San Diego. In fact, the Padres are geographically the closest out-of-state team to a Cactus League stadium. With this in mind, it is difficult to understand why attendance at Padres spring training games was down 8.4% last season.
Was it a result of the team wrapping up 2012 with a 76-86 record? The Seattle Mariners, who had a near-identical win-loss record in 2012, were able to increase their game attendance at Peoria last spring.
To be sure, Padres fans aren’t all that different than any other baseball fans. We enjoy seeing our home team up close before baseball season starts. The Peoria Sports Complex has a great reputation here in San Diego, and fans speak highly of the friendly staff members and well-kept facilities. But perhaps when we’re out of town, we seek more of the creature comforts that we’ve come to enjoy at home.
In my visit to Peoria in 2009, I was ecstatic that I could purchase Coronado Brewery beer on draught. It was a welcome surprise in the Arizona heat, and I felt right at home in the stands. Last March however, I was disappointed to return and find that all of the San Diego taps had been taken out of the Complex. Worse, I learned that the craft beer section has been without a local beer for more than a year.
Padres fans have come to expect our local craft beer available at games. More than thirty-six San Diego craft beers can be found for sale at PETCO Park, and our options are expanding. There are now more than eighty breweries in San Diego County, many of which are found in brewpubs and bars within easy walking distance of the ballpark. According to a 2013 study by the National University System Institute for Policy Research, San Diego craft breweries generated $680.9 million in sales in 2011. Craft beer is one of our proudest products and most popular exports, and when we see it for purchase, it’s an easy sell.
I may be just one fan, but I know my sentiment is shared by others. At Scottsdale Stadium, San Francisco Giants fans can purchase garlic fries and a glass of Anchor craft beer. These unique San Francisco tastes are popular at AT&T Park, and are equally in demand in Scottsdale; Anchor Brewing Company in fact opened a new “Anchor Corral” beer garden last year to expand their offerings to visitors. It’s not that Giants fans aren’t open-minded – they simply associate certain experiences with attending a baseball game.
Whether Padres fans will see local craft beer in Peoria this spring is still an unknown. Last month, I reached out to Chris Eassom, the Sports Complex Manager at Peoria, and shared my thoughts on local craft beer. Eassom informed me that the Complex had just completed a contract with a new concessionaire, and that they are re-evaluating all of the menu options at the ballpark. The management also began work this fall on emphasizing products that are hometown favorites, and “craft beer options is high on that list.” Eassom was ultimately non-committal, but that’s OK. It’s up to us, the fans, to demand the experience we desire at our ballparks. If local craft beer is important to us, we should let it be known to those in charge.
Bringing San Diego craft beer back to the Peoria Sports Complex would be a great way to increase attendance and invite Padres fans out to spring training this year. Why not make it a selling point in future tourism promotions? Holding joint events between craft brewers from Maricopa and San Diego would be fun and interesting for craft beer fans from both areas. Maybe a leading San Diego brewer creates a special edition beer, only available on draught at Peoria?
The possibilities are endless, and San Diego craft beer will only become a bigger phenomenon. More than half of the brewery licenses in San Diego were issued in the last two years. If Peoria wanted to rejoin San Diego’s craft beer community, we would welcome them with open arms.
Vince Vasquez is a San Diego resident and a Padres fan. He is also the Senior Policy Analyst at the National University System Institute for Policy Research, an economic think-tank based in San Diego.