Opening Day of the baseball season is finally here, and the Dodgers have been extremely busy this off-season: in addition to a complete overhaul of the team's roster from this time a year ago, the organization worked frantically all winter to add improvements from the ground all the way up to the top levels of Dodger Stadium. Within days of the end of the 2012 season, construction crews were ripping out the lower level of seats to prepare a massive excavation on the ground under the stadium. Before the first Spring Training game at the stadium, the team had to build and finish a new clubhouse, reinstall the lower level of seating, and complete an entire program of new construction at the top of the stadium. Curbed visited the stadium just hours before that first game of the year, and many of the clubhouse details were still being installed. All told, the team spent $100 million constructing seven new buildings and three entrance plazas around the stadium, reconfiguring the loge and bleacher areas, pulling out rows of seats to widen the walkway in front of concessionaires, and building an entirely new clubhouse for the players. Throughout the winter, crews totaling 700 workers were working 24 hours a day to complete the construction. The team exceeded the industry standard of $1 million a day on construction on more than one occasion.
Janet Marie Smith, Dodgers senior director of planning and development (who was brought in after last year's ownership change to guide the renovations of the ballpark after a similar stint in Baltimore and with our very own Pershing Square) stresses how the Dodgers's new owners are devoted to "Joe Fan," making improvements to facilities at the top deck and reserve levels, rather than making the luxury box overhauls so common at other stadiums around the country. Smith claims that the team's number one priority was making sure that fans spend less time waiting in lines for restrooms and concessions. "Every entrance is appropriate to the history of the Dodgers and the scale of the stadium," says Smith.
Dodger Stadium regulars will notice the changes before they enter the stadium. Local landscape architect Mia Lehrer designed the plazas that will welcome the three million or so fans who come to Dodger Stadium every season. Lehrer says the job was an act of "reconquering asphalt"--she wanted to extend the stadium experience further into the massive, glove-shaped parking lot that surrounds the stadium. Wayfinding signs outside the stadium were based on uninstalled signage found in the archives of Walter O'Malley, who owned the Dodgers when the team came west from Brooklyn.
Los Angeles-based architecture firm Levin and Associates was hired to blend the ballpark's history with the new construction. That historic consideration is most evident in the use of the colors, patterns, and materials from when the stadium was originally constructed in 1962 (i.e., corrugated aluminum, patterned concrete blocks, and the "stadium blue"). That means that the famous color scheme for each of the seating levels adheres to the original, 1962 look. "Everything internal to the stadium is true to the original stadium," says firm principal Brenda Levin.
Once inside the gates of the stadium, visitors will find new buildings for restrooms, concessions, and team gear flanking the ball park at the upper levels. A new baseball-diamond-shaped playground can also be found at each of the upper Reserve entrances. Once inside the walls of the stadium, there are two massive new high-definition video boards in a chevron shape (it's a re-creation of the shape of the stadium's original video boards). The new video boards are 20 percent larger than the previous screens. For a more old school touch, there are now hand painted murals all over the halls directing fans to facilities.
Some of the more contemporary, urban investments that Angelenos might be hoping for are still forthcoming. Bus access and bike parking are on the list of improvements yet to be completed, but Janet Marie Smith says that the team will soon add two bike parking facilities at the entrance to the loge level. Once a wasteland for cell phone service, the stadium upgrade includes WiFi, which will come online sometime early in the new season.
Lest we forget them, the ballplayers also made out pretty well in the deal. The team's clubhouse was expanded underneath the stadium (hence the around the clock digging) to include an entirely remade locker room, training facilities like hot tubs, batting cage, and a mysterious "Quiet Room" (we bet you won't find Larry Bowa in there very often), and all the amenities that rich, spoiled athletes want. The second highest payroll in Major League Baseball expects the best.
· Big New Dodgers Clubhouse Won't Host Visiting Team Anymore [Curbed LA]
· Dodger Stadium Getting Life-Sized Bobbleheads, More Toilets, Better WiFi, and More [Curbed LA]