The Los Angeles Dodgers kicked off their 2013 season in grand fashion on Monday, when the Boys in Blue shutout the World Champion San Francisco Giants in front of a packed house at the newly-renovated Dodger Stadium.
While the season is underway, the stadium upgrades continue. Last Friday, prior to an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, club officials outlined the $100 million renovations and the work that remained.
“We are actually going to be able to play a baseball game here tonight, and it was no small feat,” team president Stan Kasten said.
He said the plan, which was “very ambitious,” was to bring the stadium into the 21st Century. During the offseason, thousands of architects, designers, construction workers and contractors converged upon Chavez Ravine, Kasten said.
“All of them did a magnificent job,” he added. “We are here and ready to go.”
Among the improvements were new scoreboards, new restrooms, more merchandise options, additional food options, a new sound system, Wi-Fi, cell service and life-size bobbleheads.
“We still do have tweaks in the ballpark,” Kasten said. “We’ll be tweaking all weekend. But as you can see and as you will experience, we have, I think, enhanced the experience for fans on every level of this park. We have made it more fun for kids, we have brought some history into the ballpark.”
The new high-resolution and high-definition scoreboards were rolled out on Opening Day, but the new sound system, Wi-Fi and cell service are works in progress. As of Wednesday, contractors continue to install those elements of the project.
“They’re not here for Opening Day, but we think all those things put together will bring you to a Dodger Stadium that is going to be as familiar as it’s ever been to anyone who has come here in the last fifty years,” Kasten said. “It’s only going to be a lot more comfortable, a lot more entertaining and a lot more fun way to experience Dodger baseball.”
Janet Marie Smith, senior vice president of planning and development, said it was a “Herculean task” to get the upgrades completed by the beginning of the season. She said the renovations must be seen to be believed.
“They’re subtle. They’re respectful of Dodger Stadium and its rich history and its unique setting here,” Smith said, adding that officials altered some aspects of the stadium that were vintage 1962, but not vintage “in a good way.”
She said Dodgers chairman Mark Walters and his partners wanted the executives to focus on fans first.
“As Mark often said, ‘They don’t come here to stand in line. They don’t come to stand in line for the restrooms, for hotdogs or for lemonade, so do better than that,’” Smith said.
She said workers renovated every single restroom in the pavilion, loge, reserve and top deck levels. The architects — Levin & Associates — did “a beautiful job of taking the vocabulary of Dodger Stadium and respectfully interpreting that in a way that adds fan amenities,” Smith said.
Workers dug underneath some field box seats to create tunnels for batting cages, workout rooms and training rooms, and they did similar work to the visiting team’s side “so we get the visiting team out of our clubhouse,” she said.
“It should have been a two-year project, and we managed to get it done in just five months,” Smith said. “But it’s a really impressive endeavor.”
She said planners took into account the history of the Dodgers and the stadium. Whereas many major league parks have one grand entrance, Dodger Stadium was designed with several entrances, which gives fans the impression that their respective area is their space.
“We wanted to respect that,” Smith said. “So at every entrance, there’s something special.”
These amenities include the team’s retired numbers being on display, life-size Bobbleheads, play areas for children, large concrete baseballs signed by Cy Young winners, 10-foot high “LA” logos and displays that celebrate individual awards, such as the Rookie of the Year, Gold Gloves and MVP awards.
“There’s really, truly something for everyone,” Smith said. “This building is like no other. If you think you’re going to come to Dodger Stadium and find a park that looks like the other twenty-nine in Major League Baseball, you’re wrong, you missed it and you haven’t understood this place.”
She said team executives also sought to improve safety at Dodger Stadium.
“We’ve tried to do that in a variety of ways, adding lights in the parking lot, restriping some of our lots, taking advantage of the space that’s been created up here [and] having a safe pedestrian zone that takes you from level to level,” Smith added.
While the Dodgers shutout the Giants on Monday, San Francisco returned the favor in blanking L.A. on Tuesday, 3-0. Los Angeles played the Giants again on Wednesday, and will finish out the first homestand of the season with games against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The team’s next homestand will begin on April 15 — Jackie Robinson Day — against the San Diego Padres.