Ballpark Roadtrip: Dodger Stadium

The ballpark’s rich history began with Dodger President Walter O’Malley’s foresight six decades ago. In 1957, O’Malley lobbied for a new stadium to be built for his Brooklyn club, but when a deal could not be reached, the Dodgers made the unprecedented move to California. In September of that year, the city of Los Angeles agreed to give 300 acres of land to the Dodgers in exchange for the deed to Wrigley Field in Los Angeles and their commitment to construct a 50,000-seat stadium. While Dodger Stadium was being built, the Dodgers played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum through 1961, before the true Opening Day- April 10, 1962 – when the Dodgers finally played in their new home before 52,564 fans.

The 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium, the first privately financed ballpark since Yankee Stadium in 1923, is a reflection of the careful study Walter O’Malley put into this seminal project. Dodger Stadium was designed by O’Malley and New York based architect and civil engineer, Emil Praeger with support from Los Angeles based Edward Fickett, FAIA, a fourth generation California native and prolific architect who brought a regional flare to the engineering feat that is Dodger Stadium. Praeger designed the stadium so that each entry is at grade — from the Top Deck to the Field level seats.

The 21 terraced entrances on the six different seating levels presents a unique vertical circulation along the landscaped plazas around the stadium perimeter and each section of seating has parking immediately adjacent the entrance. There is parking for 16,000 cars on site, carved as the stadium is, into the hillside of Chavez Ravine. Fickett’s contribution of style and color gives the building a uniquely Southern California 1960’s “modern” style.

The stadium was originally designed to be expandable to 85,000 seats by expanding the upper decks over the outfield pavilions; the Dodgers have never pursued such a project.

Dodger Stadium was also the home of the Los Angeles Angels (now Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) from 1962 through 1965. To avoid constantly referring to their landlords, the Angels called the park Chavez Ravine Stadium (or just “Chavez Ravine”), after the geographic feature in which the stadium sits.

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Ballpark: B – In great shape despite being fourth oldest stadium in Major League behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and RFK Stadium (which is being replaced next year). Pulled up and was told where to park, walked for five minutes to stadium and had to take the elevator down to the field level. The stadium was renovated back to original look, the new seats are in the original (more muted) 1962 color scheme consisting of yellow, light orange, turquoise, and sky blue. Gorgeous from upper level behind home plate. The baseline seating sections have been converted into retro-style “box” seating, adding leg room and a table to place food and beverages on. Could hear Mets 3B Ricky Henderson coach talk about himself from seats.

Fans & Atmosphere: A – Dodger Blue everywhere! Great crowds by third inning and everyone listens to game on the radio heading home. Everyone loves Nomar Garciaparra, too bad he is done at 33 years old. Fans still wearing Eric Gagne jerseys. Was told to go back to New York a dozen times. Fans love the team. Met one guy who rooted for both the Angels and Dodgers, huh? His buddy originally from Long Island asked me to explain why you cannot do that. Lost cause.

Food: B – Had a Dodger dog. It’s just a hot dog! But why did I eat four of them? They were good. All-you-can-eat buffet in the right-field pavilion, seats are awful there.

Mascot: NA – No mascot for the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles. Maybe Tommy Lasorda in a strange kind of way or Vin Scully?

Staff: B – Friendly security and vendors. One idiot trying to take my photo for Dodgers website who did understand that I had a better camera than him and was there taking photos. Ballpark tour was very good, better than most teams attempt and took you on field and dugouts.

Team Tradition: A – Honors the long history of the Dodgers going back to the early Brooklyn days. No players number is retired unless they are inducted in the Hall of Fame. Great stuff all around the stadium to check out. Many photos from Brooklyn days I never seen before. Jerseys of Hall of Famers hung outside Dodger locker room.

Location: B – Chavez Ravine in Solano Canyon, the stadium overlooks downtown Los Angeles and provides views of the city to the south, the green tree-lined hills of Elysian Park to the north and east, and the San Gabriel Mountains beyond the outfield pavilions. I stayed in Little Tokyo near downtown, ten minute drive to park.

Photos taken July 20-21, 2007, using a Canon EOS 30D Digital SLR with a EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard Zoom Lens.

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