LOS ANGELES — Watching a baseball game at Dodger Stadium this coming season will clearly be a much more enjoyable experience for fans of the Blue Crew.
Not only will the team be better with the debuts of Zack Greinke and Carl Crawford, and a return to a healthy Matt Kemp, the Stadium experience will be a new one for the fans. The Guggenheim Baseball Group has committed more than $100 million to refurbish and modernize the 51-year old stadium, third oldest in baseball behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
One of the refreshing things about the improvements is that the ballpark will still be very recognizable to anyone who was able to attend the first Opening Day vs. the Cincinnati Reds on April 10, 1962.
“We … made a commitment to make the fan experience the best it can be,” Dodger president Stan Kasten said at a Tuesday news conference. “(It) included taking the things we loved about this magnificent facility and enhancing them.
“(We’re) bringing the experience into the 21st century in a way that lets us enjoy Dodger Stadium, but makes the experience more comfortable and more entertaining.”
When the Dodgers open the 2013 season — on March 29 with an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels and then with the regular-season opener on April 1 against the World Champion San Francisco Giants — fans will see state-of-the-art video boards in right and left field. They will broadcast in 1080i, making the videos, messages, scores and lineups as clear as possible, but the shape of the boards will maintain the famous hexagon shape, something unique to Dodger Stadium since its inception.
There will also be a new sound system and state-of-the-art Wi-Fi network and cellular antenna system.
The once-narrow concourses on the loge, reserve and upper reserve levels will be widened to accommodate fans and provide easier access to new food stands that will be available throughout the stadium. The restrooms will also be remodeled, making them bigger with more modern fixtures.
The fans aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the Guggenheim generosity, as the players will finally get a new clubhouse to replace the antiquated one that has been the game-day home to Dodgers of the past. In an era that has seen home clubhouses go from tiny to hangar-sized, the Dodgers have basically prepared and dressed in the same room since 1962.
There will be new weight and workout rooms, along with batting cages for both teams. Prior to these renovations, the visitors had to walk through the Dodger clubhouse to use the batting practice facility.
“The craziest thing I ever heard of,” Kasten said when Guggenheim took over, promising to make it a priority to change the situation. Behind the work of Kasten and project manager Janet Marie Smith, the Dodgers VP of planning and development, it will be done. Smith has overseen projects in Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Park.
“There are some things about its vintage state that aren’t too good,” Smith said of Dodger Stadium, “and we needed to do something about that, especially the scoreboards.”
She said that’s actually a huge part of the construction going on right now, but plans to be able to put them online by mid-March and promises to have them ready when the Dodgers host the Angels on the March 29.
“There will also be a new sound system that will be spread around the park,” Smith continued. “We’ll try to keep the fan in the game no matter where they are at the time. … We have a lot of work to do before now and our first exhibition game, but we’re moving it along and are focused in on getting it done.”
Kasten said the renovation will continue for a few more years, and that Dodgers fans will be pleased with the final results.
“We’re creating a more comfortable feel while retaining the classic look,” Kasten said. “You’ll feel like you’re at Dodger Stadium, only better.”