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Dodger Renovations Don't Quite Add Up

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Computer rendering of a renovated Dodger Stadium (LA Dodgers/used with permission)
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The Dodgers unveiled their upgrades to Dodger Stadium to us unsavory media types today. Something about the renovations left me scratching my head.

To summarize the upgrades overseen by Janet Marie Smith, Senior VP of Planning and Development, according to the press release:

  • New High Definition video boards in left field and right field. Existing message boards, including ribbon boards at the Loge level and outfield wall, will be replaced with the new technology as well. The unique hexagon shape of both scoreboards will be restored.
  • A new sound system directed to minimize echoes and sound migration outside the stadium.
  • A state-of-the-art Wi-Fi network and cellular antenna system to support cell-phone and internet connectivity from mobile devices.
  • Wider concourses and additional locations for wheelchair bound fans and their companions on all levels.
  • Expanded and renovated restrooms with substantially more fixtures.
  • Food service enhancements to loge, reserve and upper reserve levels including new stands, cooking facilities and menus. Details will be announced prior to the start of the season.
  • New Field Level entry plazas and bullpen overlooks to create standing room areas with a view of the game.
  • A new home team clubhouse, expanded and enhanced training/conditioning areas, and new batting cages for both teams.

While the exact cost of the upgrades haven't been released, Dodgers President and CEO Stan Kasten told reporters that the figure $100 million was a good estimate to use. Among the challenges was widening the concourses and adding all of these amenities without increasing the stadium's footprint.
"It's a challenge for sure," Kasten said. "Any builder will tell you renovations are harder than building from scratch. This is harder yet. For sure it's a challenge."

Now I'm not one of those petit bourgeois who long to wallow in nostalgia while ignoring the progress of the present. So why not rip down the stadium and start from scratch?

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"That's not an offseason project," Kasten replied. "When we got here last May, what we turned our attention is what can we do now? What can we do in the first block of time that we'll get to improve this? We thought of everything we could that would possibly fit into our time frame. And that's what we chose to do."

"When we get to April and May, we'll then sit down and think about what's left or what are the alternatives or what else can we do. But for now we just want to do everything inside the stadium that we could and that we could reasonably get done in this offseason."

So there's that.

Another part that bothered me was in order to expand concourses and add seating for wheelchair-bound fans, they are ripping out the last two to four rows of seats in each section. Since they want to keep the seating capacity at 56,000 where will they place the seats?

"There's pushing and pulling in some areas," Kasten started his non-answer. "We can't go through every section with you right now. But over the years there have been seats taken out, there have been seats added. The one constant has been the capacity of 56,000."

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In the past when seats have been taken out, additional seats were placed in the premium areas. Since the field level seats including the baseline box seats Frank McCourt added have been ripped out, I fully expect the remaining thousand seats to be in the premium sections.

Kasten did invite me to count all of the seats when they get done, so I might just take him up on that.

Not everything is bad. The renovations will not adjust the outfield dimensions which have remained constant since the Dodgers moved home plate 10 feet closer to center field back in 1969, but one change should make pitchers happy.

"There's going to be a bit more foul territory adjacent to the dugouts," Smith said as a result of moving the baseline box seats back. "About six feet," Kasten added.

Kasten would not give any details about the concessions that will be offered although he did mention that the staff had a hot dog tasting on Monday. He was adamant that the Dodger Dog will remain but want to check out other options. LA Times beat writer Dylan Hernandez was disappointed that he was not invited.

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Of course, being a self-serving "media guy," I asked Kasten if he was going to follow the Angels lead and kick the media out of the press box and into the parking lot.

"We wouldn't want to affect the quality of the coverage," Kasten joked. Although he did answer the question ominously.

"We don't have any plans now." Now. Hm.

Despite the much improved clubhouses, the new video boards and all of the bells and whistles, it still bugs me that potentially some of the fans who can't afford the rich seats will be left behind. Before I started covering the team, I had a mini-plan with several friends with seats at the top deck right behind home plate. They were great seats with a great view with a great crowd despite how cheap the tickets were.

To know that these diehard fans could be casualties in these new renovations is sickening. But it's not the first and it probably won't be the last time the poor and the middle class will be screwed at Dodger Stadium. On we go.