Fans heading to Dodger Stadium on Friday for the team's home opener against the San Francisco Giants can expect a number of changes in areas such as traffic management, amenities and security measures.
The team’s new ownership, which includes former Laker Magic Johnson, has also invested more than $150 million in the ballpark the last two seasons, upgrading the infrastructure and adding some fan-friendly features.
There are now expansive plazas beyond right and left field with a team store, bar and a variety of concessions. A new walkway allows fans to circle the field inside the stadium for the first time, with potential stops at lounge areas overlooking both bullpens.
There are also large children's play areas.
The stadium's approach to security will also be different, an issue that came to the fore after Giants fan Bryan Stow was badly beaten in the parking lot.
The home opener comes just days after an assessment by Major League Baseball found there was a "culture of apathy and indifference" among stadium staffers prior to the attack. The findings were revealed in court documents in a lawsuit against the Dodgers that accuses the team's previous management under Frank McCourt of not adequately protecting fans.
The plaintiffs' attorney in that case, Tom Girardi, told The Times that the team had made “huge” safety improvements and addressed concerns raised in the MLB report since coming under new ownership.
Weeks before Friday’s home opener, Giants third base coach Tim Flannery also reflected on the Bryan Stow incident in a video posted to YouTube.
But for the residents who live around the stadium in Chavez Ravine, traffic and gridlock will be the foremost concern ahead of the sold-out 1 p.m. game.
For the first time in almost 20 years, a gate on Scott Avenue will be unlocked and used as a fifth permanent entrance and exit for the stadium, raising traffic fears among residents.
The gate had been closed since 1996, when Echo Park residents successfully lobbied then-owner Peter O'Malley to leave it shut to quell game-day traffic.
Renata Simril, the Dodgers' senior vice president of external affairs, said the decision to use the fifth gate was part of an effort to alleviate traffic that backs up on Sunset Boulevard on game days. About 15,000 to 20,000 cars show up at the stadium for any given game.
"Our goal is to get them off the public streets and into the stadium as quickly as possible," Simril said, calling the change part of a multipronged effort to deal with what's anticipated to be record attendance.
Two of the lanes that funnel up Elysian Park Avenue from Sunset will turn left on Stadium Way and then take a right on Scott Avenue, she said, providing new space for cars to queue up. Simril emphasized, however, that Department of Transportation officials will man Scott where it intersects with Stadium Way and with Echo Park Avenue to deter game traffic from lining up along residential streets for stadium access.
Janet Marie Smith, the Dodgers' executive supervising the renovations, said the team was also encouraging fans to use the Dodger Stadium Express, a complimentary shuttle service between the stadium and the Patsaouras Transit Plaza near the east portal of Union Station. The shuttle is free with a Dodgers game ticket, $1.50 without a ticket. The service starts 90 minutes before game time and ends 45 minutes after the final out. Parking at Union Station is $6.