The Los Angeles Dodgers have begun a $100-million makeover of Dodger Stadium, with the first phase already underway and focused on improving the fan experience with new concessions, wider concourses and expanded restrooms.
The changes to the privately owned facility will be in place for the 2013 season. Dodgers officials say this is just the beginning of an overhaul of the historic facility, which opened in 1962 and the third-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
“The mission of Dodger ownership is to create ways to enhance the experience for all of our fans,” Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten said. “Dodger Stadium is a treasured piece of the Los Angeles community and we will respect that heritage while restoring and enhancing the venue for our fans in the 21st century. When the improvements are completed, the stadium will retain its classic look, but it will have a more comfortable feel.
“This is a most ambitious program for a single off-season. We are grateful to Dodger fans for their input into the improvements that will be most meaningful to their game experience.”
Among the changes:
- New high-definition video boards in left field and right field. Existing message boards, including ribbon boards at the Loge level and outfield wall, will be replaced with the new technology as well. The unique hexagon shape of both scoreboards will be restored.
- A new sound system directed to minimize echoes and sound migration outside the ballpark.
- A new play area featuring life-size bobbleheads and oversized championship rings.
- A new Wi-Fi network and cellular antenna system to support cell-phone and Internet connectivity from mobile devices.
- Wider concourses and additional locations for wheelchair bound fans and their companions on all levels.
- Two to four rows of seats will be removed from the back of the Field, Loge, Reserve and Upper Reserve levels to provide greater walking space on each concourse, as well as more wheelchair locations and “drink rails” for fans who may wish to leave their seats during games and explore the ballpark.
- New energy-efficient features will improve the ballpark’s environmental footpront. Included in the plans are new water valves, low flush fixtures, waterless urinals, hand driers to eliminate paper waste, automatic faucets to control water flow and new power and lighting energy efficient systems.
- Expanded and renovated restrooms with substantially more fixtures.
- Food service enhancements to loge, reserve and upper reserve levels including new stands, cooking facilities and menus.
- New Field Level entry plazas and bullpen overlooks to create standing room areas with a view of the game.
- A new home team clubhouse, expanded and enhanced training/conditioning areas, and new batting cages for both teams.
This is just the beginning of improvements, as overseen by Janet Marie Smith. Anyone who has followed her work throughout the years — whether it be Fenway Park or Oriole Park — knows that work is usually drawn out over several years, with teams choosing to accomplish specific tasks annually and saving more for the following year. These changes are extensive, but not especially complicated: a more complicated improvement could come next year in the form of a new restaurant/retail complex beyond center field.
We’re not so sure the takeaway from the ballpark improvements is that despite spending $100 million on a facility, the Dodgers front office refused to commit to playing there until the end of time, as Bill Shaikin argues. Spending $100 million is a pretty good indication the team plans on staying in Dodger Stadium for more than just the short term, and given the unsettled situation of the sports-business economy in Los Angeles, any demurral to saying the Dodgers would be at the existing Dodger Stadium for the next 50 years is intellectually honest. In October Kasten refused to say the team would stay in Dodger Stadium forever and ever; that things are the same in January isn’t a surprise.
Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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