What do baseball, hotdogs, and urban planning have in common? Well, these three words essentially summarize my experience last Wednesday when I attended Urban Land Institute Los Angeles (ULI-LA)’s Membership Social at Dodger Stadium. Although I have been to the stadium before, this was my first time inside the Stadium Club. Like a kid in a candy store, I was so excited to be there and promptly went to the viewing area to take photos of the empty, yet majestic stadium. Even though it was not a game night (the team was facing the Giants in San Francisco), it still felt special to be there, most likely because of the stadium’s rich history. Financed by private sources and completed in 1962, Dodger Stadium is currently the third oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, behind Fenway Park in Boston (opened in 1912) and Wrigley Field in Chicago (1916). It is the largest baseball-specific stadium in the United States by seating capacity. Dodger Stadium is sometimes referred to as Chavez Ravine which is actually the area on which the ballpark was built.
- The biggest video screens in sports on the scoreboards over the left and right fields;
- The scoreboards returned to their original, hexagonal shape;
- Better, echo-minimizing sound system;
- New WiFi and cell antenna system;
- Wider concourses created by removing two to four rows of seats from the back of the Field, Loge, Reserve and Upper Reserve levels;
- Additional locations for wheelchairs–each with a companion seat–on all levels;
- More and improved bathrooms, with 62% more fixtures for women and 32 percent more for men;
- New children’s playgrounds with life-sized bobbleheads;
- New bullpen overlooks which also give a good view of the field;
- New home team clubhouse and new batting cages for both teams;
- About six feet of additional foul territory; and
- New food stands.
These improvements cost over $100 million and were completed just before the 2013 season began. With a background in urban planning and substantial experience in stadium development, Ms. Smith also talked about the challenges she had to overcome to renovate the stadium within a very tight time frame. I did a little research online and came across an informative article in The Planning Report in which Stan Kasten (President and part-owner of the Dodgers), Janet Marie Smith, and two of the three design professionals Brenda Levin and Mia Lehrer discussed the stadium’s improvements. I also recommend checking out the stadium photos on Curbed LA and the wonderful interactive graphic on L.A. Times which captures visually the various components of the off-season renovation.
Not only did we get to hear about these improvements, we were also given an exclusive stadium tour, which as a sports fan, was easily the highlight of my week! There is nothing quite like seeing all the accolades and memorabilia in the clubhouse, getting a glimpse of the players’ locker room, walking through the bullpen, and then actually stepping onto the field. It was almost like a Field of Dreams moment for me, for those of you who are familiar with the 1989 film. While on the tour, I was fascinated (but not too surprised) to find out that Dodger Stadium is one of the most photographed places in the world according to Instagram. The ballpark is certainly photogenic and shows up in my newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram whenever a friend is there. (If you are interested, check out my article Images, Instagram, and City Planning.)
This visit to Dodger Stadium was quite different from my previous two for the year. Earlier in the season, I attended a “regular” Dodger game. My second trip was a bit more special as I was there for a historic moment. On August 3, 2013, the stadium hosted a soccer game for the first time as part of the inaugural Guinness International Champions Cup. As a soccer fan, it was a bit strange, but certainly a treat to watch prominent teams like Real Madrid, Everton, Juventus, and L.A. Galaxy, compete in a baseball stadium.
Dodger Stadium is a special place indeed. And it is even more so in a year in which the Dodgers are competing in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Go Dodgers!
Note: All photos by author.