New atmosphere to welcome back fans
Renovations at Dodger Stadium include two new restaurants
LOS ANGELES -- Literally minutes after the final out of the Dodgers' last game of the season with the Giants on Sept. 30, to moments before the gates open on Friday for the first exhibition game with the Boston Red Sox, construction workers have been moving a lot of earth to create a whole new experience for fans on the field level of Dodger Stadium.
As has happened each offseason since it purchased the team, the McCourt family has continued to renovate the 46-year old stadium. This year the Dodgers widened the walk area on the field level by 15 feet and added two special restaurants for the base-line box seat holders and a host of new food vendors to add to the dining fare for the fans.
"[The team added] Canter's Delicatessen, Mrs. Beasley, Ruby's and Camacho's," said Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt at a news conference on Thursday. "We also still have Gordon Biersch, Panda Express and some of our other traditional clients back as well as the Dodgers Dogs that are even fresher now and grilled.
"Take a look at our concourse, the stands are bigger, the concourse is wider -- everything is new and fresh and that gives us the ability to provide better quality food and greater variety to our fans. I think at the end of the day that's what they should have. None of us want to see a fan wasting time in a line -- they're here to watch their team play. We've also added new televisions and new speakers throughout the concourse so, for the few minutes they are able to stay in touch with what's going on with the ballgame as well."
Canter's Deli has been an institution in Los Angeles for 77 years, mainly on Fairfax Avenue. The new Canter's concession located down the left-field line is sure to be a popular attraction.
"This is a dream come true for us and we are honored to be here," said Gary Canter, whose family started advertising in the Dodgers programs when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. "We have great corned beef and hot pastrami sandwiches, our Fairfax sandwich, turkey French dip, coleslaw, potato salad and matzo ball soup. We're so excited, it's like being on a team and we want to hit a home run for 81 straight games."
As part of the expansion, the field-level concourses will also include two new base-line box clubs -- The First Base Line Box Club and the Third Base Line Box Club -- for the exclusive use of base-line box season-ticket holders. The base-line box clubs are located on the first- and third-base sides at the end of the concourse and offer all-inclusive chef's table selections, carryout options, and a full-service bar.
"These clubs support the base-line box seats," said McCourt. "Season-ticket holders who purchase those seats will have included this private club, and like the Dugout Club, the price of the ticket includes your food and your beverage, not alcoholic beverages, but you come in before the game with your family and enjoy your meal in a lovely setting."
On Wednesday night Dodgers employees and staff members were invited down to see the finished product and try the new selection of food as well as the old standards.
"I think this is absolutely beautiful," said Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda. "I think it's great that fans who sit down here won't have to walk too far to get something that they want to eat. The McCourt family is really taking care of the fans and that's the way it naturally should be. The McCourts are doing everything they can to take care of the fans and keep this a great environment to bring your family to a game."
"It's amazing to think we already have one of the best ballparks in the Major Leagues at the end of last season," said general manager Ned Colletti, looking around the concourse. "To look at it now and it's so much different on this level -- it's crisper, classier. So much wider, more manageable -- it's remarkable what they've done over the course of the winter. I'll be interested in the fans reaction. I think they'll like what they see."
The field-level expansion was completed by the McCourt Company in partnership with HKS Architects. The improved concourse now allows for all concession stands to be served by the kitchen space behind them, which are now large enough to produce enough food to serve fans on separate levels of the stadium. Concession areas also now include new state-of-the-art equipment, including grills and refrigerators.
McCourt also highlighted that fans will be more involved in the game with greater views of the field, especially from the bullpen areas, where the walls have been taken down, allowing fans to watch the pitchers warm up from the field level and more fan interaction with the players in the outfield area before the games.
"We're actually going to open up the outfield wall in straight-away center field," said McCourt. "That way kids and families can come to the field early and get right out into the center-field area -- right out onto the warning track and be able to watch batting practice right from the field surface, so they can interact with the players who are shagging balls -- maybe even catch a few balls that are hit in that direction and maybe get some autographs as well.
"We think that by opening up the bullpen areas and particularly the center-field area, we are trying to make Dodger Stadium as accessible and as friendly to families as possible."
McCourt says that Dodger Stadium is in the running as the stadium to be used for the finals of the 2009 World Baseball Classic in March and that renovations will continue each offseason until 2012, which will be the stadium's golden anniversary.
"Our hope is by the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium we will have completed the full renovation of the stadium," said McCourt. "At that point in time, it will be good for another 50 years, so our little working title for this is 50-50. We're thinking a lot about the past 50 years, but we're also thinking a lot about the next 50 years."
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.