When it is your job to manage over 400 yearly events at Petco Park since its inception in 2004, you are bound to get to know many of the San Diego Padres — and have favorites.
For Coronado resident Rob Arnold, who worked various managerial positions for 17 years within the ballpark, he said he loved getting to know Hall of Fame reliever Trevor Hoffman, who spent time with his family at Petco.
Arnold said he was impressed that Hoffman would play catch with his three sons before the game and then was “ready to go give it his all on the mound.”
Now the managing director of the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, Arnold has stuck to a similar family-centric mentality through a change of careers.
Originally from McPherson, a small town in Kansas, Arnold appreciated the community-centered feel of Coronado when he moved to San Diego in 2000.
He loved it so much that he enrolled his kids in Graham Memorial Preschool in 2010, and the family officially moved to the island in 2020.
“I just fell in love with the community and the small slice of paradise when you drive over that bridge.”-Rob Arnold, Managing Director at the Rady Shell.
“One of my first jobs moving out here was at the Hotel del,” Arnold said. “I just fell in love with the community and the small slice of paradise when you drive over that bridge.”
Sports radio and TV stint
Before launching his career on the west coast, Arnold was in the sports radio and TV industry in Kansas.
But when he came to town, he took a job on the pool and beach staff at the Hotel del in 2000.
Still wanting to get into the sports industry, he got a job as the manager of the team store of Qualcomm Stadium in 2001, home to the Padres before Petco Park was built three years later.
“That got me in a sports venue on game days, and I was just able to learn the basics in the trenches of what it takes to run a stadium and a venue,” Arnold said.
He was hired as an event coordinator at Petco Park when the stadium opened.
Behind the scenes of Petco Park
Arnold said he was a part of every small, intricate detail of building the stadium.
For instance, he remembers setting up the sound system for the press conference to announce the first seat being screwed into the stadium, and he said he was there when home plate was first installed.
Arnold said he worked for three different ownership groups during his 17 years at Petco Park, and he said his fondest memories were always opening day, the 2016 All Star game and handing out shirts and hats to the team when the Padres won the NL West Division in 2006.
And, he had one of those jobs where “take your child to work day” was a regular occurrence.
Arnold said that his son Trey, who is one of the quarterbacks for the Coronado High football team, frequented Padres games often as a child and his other kids, Savvy, Hudson and Summer, also grew up as ballpark kids.
Arnold added that he wanted to lead by example and show his staff that every job is important.
“If I’m there in a suit and if I’m there setting up tables and chairs, great. That shows that you’re in the trenches with your employees and there’s no job too small that you have to delegate to somebody else.”-Rob Arnold, Managing Director at the Rady Shell.
“If I’m there in a suit and if I’m there setting up tables and chairs, great. That shows that you’re in the trenches with your employees and there’s no job too small that you have to delegate to somebody else,” he said.
‘The coolest venue in America’
Arnold is now the managing director of the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, the beautiful, white oval concert venue visible from the Coronado Bridge across San Diego Bay.
His foundation in large-scale events at Petco, such as major concerts with artists like Taylor Swift, the Rolling Stones and Metallica, set him up for success to manage a venue like the Rady Shell, he said.
The Rady Shell is a 6,000- seat, open-air music venue operated by the San Diego Symphony that opened in August 2021 and holds 10,000 people.
The location has featured concerts such as Olivia Rodrigo, Nora Jones, the Beach Boys and Leon Bridges in addition to the symphony’s practices and performances.
It was recently named the coolest venue in America by Forbes Magazine for its stunning features.
Living right across the bay, Arnold watched the waterfront structure being built and made some inquiries.
He said he was hired to manage venue operations thanks to his past experience.
The Shell’s trajectory to host large scale events happened much faster than anticipated.
While the venue started during the pandemic, the Shell’s outdoor seating allowed for continued concerts while other venues had restrictions.
A unique concert experience
Plus, once people visited the venue on the water with table options, chair options, lawn seating and a gourmet food experience, the secret of the Shell’s intrigue was out, he said.
“Building that culture that we did at Petco has really been a roadmap for me.”-Rob Arnold, Managing Director at the Rady Shell.
“Building that culture that we did at Petco has really been a roadmap for me,” Arnold said. “Taking those best practices here to the Rady Shell and recreating [them] and creating a culture where people have fun at what they do.”
Roberto Castro, director of guest experience at the Rady Shell, worked with Arnold at Petco Park in the operations department before he was recruited to create the guest experience program at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
He was recruited by Arnold to work at the Shell in 2022.
Together, Arnold and Castro say they have worked to create a venue that reflects the best qualities of their past experiences from working at Petco and SoFi.
Castro said one of the details that they took with them into the culture they created at the Shell was to have a great employee experience.
“We created lifelong family and friends among our employees,” Castro said.