With the sun blazing down on the manicured grass of Dodger Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and warming seats that later would be filled by 53,725 people, it was easy to feel the timeless beauty of the place. The third-oldest stadium in the major leagues will be prettied up by the $100-million renovations the Dodgers announced at a news conference Tuesday in advance of playing host to next year’s All-Star game, but the work will go beyond aesthetic to accomplish the essential, extending the stadium’s usefulness and its life.
The first major renovations to Dodger Stadium were done in 2013, with the knowledge they wouldn’t be the last. Janet Marie Smith, the Dodgers’ senior vice president of planning and development, designed innovative Camden Yards in Baltimore and is credited with sustaining Boston’s 107-year-old Fenway Park, the older brother by two years of Chicago’s Wrigley Field. She reveres what she’s working with but also brings a practical and forward-looking eye.
“Even when we did the bullpen overlooks and the field-level plazas in 2014, it was with an idea of stitching this together,” she said, “so all of these improvements really do form a tapestry that we think will support Dodger Stadium going forward another 50 years.”
Think of that: Dodger Stadium still here in 50 years, with a gorgeous vista beyond its outfield fences — providing the Dodgers don’t sell out the scenery for sponsorship dollars — and still the one destination common to so many people in this sprawling and diverse part of the world.
“I think if the people who follow us take care of it, there’s no reason this can’t be up there for 50 years or more,” said Stan Kasten, the Dodgers’ president and chief executive officer. “No structural reason that it can’t.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred, who spoke at a news conference that was sometimes a pep rally and sometimes a history lesson taught by the eminent professor Vin Scully, also sees Dodger Stadium thriving for decades.
“Our iconic stadiums, the Fenways and the Wrigleys, with appropriate care and renovation have shown tremendous durability, and it’s hard to beat a setting like this,” Manfred said. “I think that the renovations they describe here today are responsive to the changes that have taken place in terms of the way fans want to watch games, and there’s no reason why you can’t make those changes and still maintain the character of the facility.”
If 50 years is too far away to grasp, think ahead 30 years. What would a visitor think of Dodger Stadium in 2049?
“I hope they love it as much as we do,” Smith said.
Steve Garvey had no trouble envisioning a vibrant and vital Dodger Stadium 30 years in the future.
“I’ll be 100. I’ll still be coming out,” said Garvey, one of many former players who attended the news conference that also unveiled the 2020 All-Star logo. “Dodger Stadium is a cathedral of baseball. I was just in Fenway and Wrigley in the last week and then you come home to Dodger Stadium and the expanse and the views and the vistas. You see why this is so iconic.”
The improvements, scheduled to be finished by next April, are designed to keep the stadium as current as possible while allowing room for technology that hasn’t been invented. The outfield dimensions won’t change. Nor will the roof line of the pavilions, which seemed so exotic from afar but is so familiar to anyone who has enjoyed an afternoon or evening there.
Connecting the outfield pavilions with each other and the rest of the stadium and installing new elevators and escalators will be welcome conveniences. The addition of a plaza in center field — with a loss of few parking spaces, if any — and a main entrance will make each game more of a shared experience. Smith said surveys and other data showed that it took fans 20 minutes to get from their cars and into the stadium, but the new entrance should speed that up. Moving the Jackie Robinson statue there and adding one of Sandy Koufax during next season will strike the right note. Adding restaurants, restrooms, social spaces and a kids’ play area makes sense too.
There will be a place for families to get out of the sun and find shade, and there already is a small quiet room for those who are sensitive to noise. Seismic updates will also be done. Making the pavilion seats compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which didn’t exist when the stadium opened in 1962, is simply the right thing to do.
The changes, Smith said, aren’t being made in response to places such as Ballpark Village in St. Louis or other entertainment areas associated with stadiums.
“I would say ours was inspired by Dodger Stadium and trying to think of what was right for Dodger Stadium, not looking at anybody else’s ballpark and trying to mimic that, because this is so unique,” she said.
Also planned are sports bars that might be within drink-tossing distance of the bullpen. Kasten said some of the features in the plans made public Tuesday might change, and this might be one to reconsider. Or maybe not.
“I think one of the coolest things I saw is right now there’s just that big gap between the stands and the fence and it seems like they’re going to put in home run seating in that gap. That will be a cool experience for fans to be able to sit right on the wall,” third baseman Justin Turner said. “I’m sure it will make the heckling go to a higher level.”
For most fans, adding a World Series banner would be the best renovation of all. The Dodgers surely will leave space for it in the house they plan to occupy for decades to come.