A little over six years ago, the renovated Stanford Stadium opened. Recall that the 50,000-seat stadium was built by area real estate magnate John Arrillaga in nine months for $100 million. It had a proper mix of seats and bleachers, a small club beneath the press box, and far better amenities than the old, dilapidated stadium had previously. While it lacks significant architectural character and can be best described as serviceable and utilitarian, no one’s going to complain about the cost (low and all paid for) or features it may lack compared to Stanford’s Pac-12 rivals. It was built efficiently and quickly, and unlike the review I wrote back in 2007, Stanford Stadium has a good team to go with the more pleasant surroundings.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game in their renovated (yet again) Dodger Stadium, yet if you went to the game, you might be hard pressed to identify what that $100 million paid for. The project, announced shortly after Guggenheim Partners assumed ownership of the team, sought to upgrade several areas that needed refreshing: scoreboards, restrooms in the upper decks, and concourses. Much of the money went towards ripping out a large amount of the lower deck so that the Dodger clubhouse could be expanded to twice its original size. Since Dodger Stadium was literally built into a hill, this meant pulling out concrete risers and excavating the dirt beneath them to increase square footage.
Under the field level is a batting cage which people in the Dugout Club will be able to view. Photos of the clubhouse look impressive, though I wasn’t able to tour the clubhouse last year even when the team was on a road trip. I suppose that if the owners are going to start supporting $200 million payrolls, they better fix up the house enough to keep all those overpaid players happy.
Other fan friendly changes include an expansion of the concourse behind the third (reserve) deck, including a play area. A few rows at the back of the club and lower levels were removed and replaced with standing areas with drink rails. Since seats were removed, the Dodgers will officially declare a sellout at 53,000 paid. Anything above that number will come from standing room admissions. By eliminating those back rows, the cramped concourses will be 8-9 feet wider, enough to accommodate groups of standing fans while freeing up some of the concourse area for concession lines or circulation. Perhaps most importantly, the troughs behind the top deck are gone, replaced with urinals. (Sorry trough lovers, your days are numbered.)
The only obvious improvement was the replacement of the scoreboards in left and right field. Now both have the signature hexagon shape, and both are versatile score/videoboards provided by ANC Sports. Both will also have a small ribbon-like strip beneath them, which should work well for showing the line score or captions.
When Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers, he envisioned a vast redevelopment of the 260-acres at Dodger Stadium to include new commercial and residential to surround the stadium. For now, Guggenheim has stayed mum on their future plans for the land, these changes portend a re-engineering of the experience at Chavez Ravine. The expansion of the upper gate area is probably a trial balloon for further expansion of the paid area into the parking lots. For most of Dodger Stadium’s life it has lacked circulation between levels, a hallmark of its exclusive, segregated design. While a set of escalators behind home plate provides one way to circulate among the levels, the only practical way to increase that movement is to create spaces behind the existing concourses. To successfully execute this, project head Janet Marie Smith (of Camden Yards and Fenway renovation fame) will have to strike a balance between utility and the impeccably manicured grounds at the complex. Take away too much greenery and it will start to look like a cookie-cutter stadium. Remove too little for preservation’s sake and the solutions may prove too time-consuming for fans to use. In the coming years, Dodger Stadium is expected to undergo numerous small renovations in conjunction with major changes to the complex. It’ll be a good test of whether the stadium can be integrated into Downtown, and perhaps the last major “redevelopment” project in LA. Hopefully they’ll do it right.