Dodgers Stadium revamp lends zing factor

Video: John Kay (YouTube)

A $100 million redecoration of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, US, that was first announced in 2019 and was scheduled to be wrapped up in March this year but got delayed due to the coronavirus bane which has thrown United States into total chaos, has finally been completed.

The stadium not only got delayed due to the pandemic but inclement weather is also to attribute for it.

Dodger Stadium is a baseball park in the Elysian Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. It is the home stadium of Major League Baseball’s (MLB’s) Los Angeles Dodgers. Opened 58 years back on April 10, 1962, it was constructed in less than three years time at a cost of US$23 million.

But even as they faced the likelihood of having to play at an empty Dodger Stadium this season, this did not stop them from completing the stadium refurbishment work. The latest drone flyover provided a look at essentially all major facets being in place.

“I think the most exciting thing for us this year is that this project has given us the opportunity to renovate the pavilions. And not only to give our fans new amenities — restrooms, concessions and entertainment — but also to really rethink the pavilions themselves,” Dodgers Senior Vice-President of Planning and Development Janet Marie Smith recently said.

“In between the first row of benches and the wall, we’re creating a new seating section, the Home Run Seats. They have drink rails like at the Top of the Park and barstool seating. We’re really pitching that for groups. It’s got a nice, wonderful environment,” she added.

“What could be better than sitting right there at the top of the outfield wall? At the top of the pavilion we created a deck that will not only accommodate ADA seating but importantly standing room and lots of milling around space. And for the first time ever, a physical connection from the pavilions back to Dodger Stadium,” the top shot further maintained.

While actual fans were not able to appreciate the stadium revamp at this past week’s season opener against the American professional baseball team San Francisco Giants and get a first-hand experience, a few thousand cutouts — including those of dogs, celebrities, and at least one dearly departed superfan — were brought in to fill the stands.

The literal centerpiece of the expansive and luxurious refresh is the nearly two-acre Centerfield Plaza, a new “front door” area that, in normal times, will be a bustling haunt of fan activity and home to a bevy of new (beer-heavy) concession options, a live music venue, retails, a permanent ‘Legends of Dodger Baseball’ exhibit, a new batter’s eye wall, and a play area for restless children who need a break from the stands.

Other reforms include a new sound system, updated accessibility features, and modernized left and right field pavilions that are connected to the rest of the facility by pedestrian bridges and elevators. The repurposing of the 56,000-seat hilltop stadium (no additional seats were added due to a conditional use permit) also included several cosmetic fixes that has lent a new luster to the beloved 1962 ballpark— the third oldest in MLB after Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago, both of which are significantly older — while retaining its LA-appropriate mid-century pristine charm.

Initially, work was supposed to finish ahead of the regular season’s opening day and, beyond that, the 2020 MLB All-Star Game, which has been rescheduled for 2022 with the Dodgers still playing host. Designed by Emil Praeger, a New York-based architect best known for his original design of the Hudson River-spanning Tappan Zee Bridge and Shea Stadium in Queens (both in New York City in US), Dodger Stadium has undergone various overhauling work over the years. Most recently, from the 2012 through 2014 seasons, the iconic arena received new clubhouses, battling cages, weight rooms, video boards, widened concourses, improved restrooms and vendor stands, and more.

While fans may not be able to enjoy all the latest features — improved sightlines, included — for the near future, they will be able to savor classic Dodger Stadium fare like Dodger dogs and garlic fries while watching games from the comfort of their home couch thanks to a new delivery service available in select areas of Los Angeles. And just because the stadium itself remains close to fans, this didn’t stop some loyal members of Dodger Nation from flocking to Elysian Park, the undulating city park that surrounds the ballpark, to “feel the energy from a distance” on opening day.

Batter’s eye

For all the add-ons, the batter’s eye wearing a new look has caused plenty of heartache amongst players with few getting injured. The Dodgers have taken the first step toward addressing the batter’s eye by placing black tarp on sections in the left – and right-field pavilions that are closest to it.

The batter’s eye or batter’s eye screen is a solid-colored, usually dark area beyond the center field wall of a baseball stadium, which is the visual backdrop directly in the line of sight of a baseball batter, while facing the pitcher and awaiting a pitch. Its purpose is the safety and hitting success of the batter.

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