Dodger Stadium set for facelift
An estimated $500 million in upgrades expected by 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Bowing to the past and looking to the future, the Dodgers unveiled their next round of plans Thursday to renovate their venerable ballpark.
The club is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Los Angeles this season and with that as a point to pivot and anticipate the road ahead, the Dodgers announced an ambitious facelift to the entire Dodger Stadium property in Chavez Ravine.
"We think we've found a way to preserve our past and protect our future, and do so in a way that gives Dodger Stadium perhaps some day the opportunity to celebrate its 100th anniversary," Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said.
The design incorporates walkways, concourses, restaurants, shops and landscaping along with a Dodgers museum, team offices and new parking structures with a targeted completion date of 2012, and an estimated cost of $500 million.
With a 21st century perspective, the McCourts have also promised the project will be environmentally responsible and will work with local and state government to bring public transportation not only to the stadium, but also to the surrounding area.
"Our mission and our commitment is to enhance this community treasure so that we can all have more quality time together and share more memorable moments with our families and our friends," Dodgers president Jamie McCourt said.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully emceed the morning press conference held in center field at Dodger Stadium that included remarks from both McCourts, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, city council member Ed Reyes, city council president Eric Garcetti and project architect Scott Johnson.
Former Dodgers greats Maury Wills, Tommy Davis and Rick Monday were seated in the audience, as was former manager and current special advisor to the chairman Tommy Lasorda.
"As a kid, I always dreamed of being introduced by Vin Scully," Garcetti said. "But I didn't know I'd be in a suit as the council president. I was hoping, Rick, that I would be the center fielder."
Individual seating inside the ballpark will remain unchanged. Each seat in the 56,000-seating capacity stadium was swapped out for new and the entire concrete bowl was renovated this past offseason.
What will change is the exterior, with the aim to elevate the fans' experience as they enter the ballpark and allow them to engage in a variety of activities that the contemporary baseball fan has come to expect in the newer parks.
Central to the plan is a three-prong design that will feature a tree-lined entrance beyond the center-field wall that connects to a promenade with shops and restaurants called Dodger Way. A new Top of the Park outdoor plaza on the opposite end will be designed to take advantage of views of downtown and the San Gabriel Mountains.
Pulling those elements together will be a series of smaller concourses and walkways that will surround the ballpark.
Enhanced by the planting of an estimated 2,000 trees, club officials are referring to this as the Green Necklace that will enable fans to stay outside the walls but inside the turnstiles and move freely between all levels, which is not possible under the current design.
"Our commitment to the fans and to the entire community is to make this a place where there is something for everyone," Frank McCourt said.
Taking ownership of the club in 2004, the McCourts have already begun the initial phases of renovating the ballpark by reconfiguring the parking, planting a new field and upgrading the warning track.
In addition to replacing the seats this offseason, two restaurants were added to the field level, where concessions were also renovated. Following the 2008 season, the team is hoping to upgrade the loge level while also renovating both players' clubhouses.
Another target this offseason is to update the scoreboards to high definition technology and have both video boards match the original chevron design. The rest of the project is set to follow, pending the permitting process.
With the closure of Yankee Stadium next season, Dodger Stadium will be the third-oldest stadium in the Major Leagues behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. McCourt said he gave brief thought to building a new stadium, but opted instead to continue the tradition and remain where they are.
But Dodger Stadium was built with the automobile in mind and is surrounded by a vast parking layout. An estimated 2,000 parking spaces will give way to the new concourses, but will be replaced by a similar number in four new parking structures.
A key hope for Dodgers ownership, though, is to get fans out of their cars and onto public transportation. McCourt said he is ready to work with local officials to make that a reality.
"We've made enormous progress with the parking here. We've developed a constructive working relationship [with the city], and I'd like to see if we could get some bus access in here, sooner rather than later. And then I think we'll have to roll up our sleeves and go to work to see if we can have real public transit here at Dodger Stadium, benefiting not just Dodger Stadium, but the whole community.
"This is an underserved community from a public transit point of view and I think there are ways for us to be creative to make adjustments to [rail] lines that are already on the drawing board," McCourt said.
Villaraigosa picked up the political gantlet.
"That clarion call, that challenge -- I like that," Villaraigosa said. "Isn't it amazing that we built a public transportation system and it never connected to Dodger Stadium? Wouldn't it be great if we said this city is also going to rectify the errors of the past and do something to change that? I like that idea. Let's get working on it."
Having played longer at Dodger Stadium than Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, the club has firmly planted its West Coast roots and looks to remain and sustain well into the future.
"The Dodgers are going all out to build a true field of dreams that will be a showpiece in the Major Leagues, but will also preserve one of the beautiful venues to see a game of baseball," Villaraigosa said.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.