Monday, May 5, 2008

Dodger Stadium: The Next 50 Years

A little more than a week ago, the Dodgers unveiled a plan for “The next 50 years” of Dodger Stadium. I’ve taken that much time to process my thoughts on the changes and “improvements” proposed over the next handful of years.

I consider myself a purist when it comes to ballparks. A ballpark needs to have an atmosphere, a history, a beautiful simplicity that invites people to sit down with friends and family on a Sunday afternoon and watch a game. No frills are necessary, nor should they be required. All you need is your seat, the field in front of you and possibly a hot dog.

Artist rendering of the "new and improved" Dodger Stadium

I don’t need a cascading fountain in centerfield with flumes of water that shoot up when someone hits a home run. I don’t need a giant slide in left center that the mascot uses as part of his shtick. I don’t need a friggin’ pool in right center that people can rent out and watch the game from. In fact, add-ons like that only detract from the baseball experience. Things like that are unnecessary and silly and, in my opinion, suck the soul out of a stadium. For that reason, I dislike most of the newer ballparks. Give me the simple majesty of a Fenway Park or Dodger Stadium or even (god forbid) Yankee Stadium any day. Walking into one of those stadiums just has an inexplicably different feel – it’s just amazing.

That said, imagine my trepidation to learn that the Dodgers were planning tons of “upgrades” and “improvements” to my favorite place in the world. After looking over the plans put forth by owner Frank McCourt…I’m pretty worried. I’m afraid that these changes will alter the soul of the stadium in a way it can never recover from.

Pulled directly from the Dodgers website, here are three main changes that McCourt and company plan to implement:

Dodger Way - A dramatic, new tree-lined entrance will lead to a beautifully landscaped grand plaza where fans can gather beyond center field. The plaza will connect to a modern, bustling promenade that features restaurants, shops and the Dodger Experience museum showcasing the history of the Dodgers in an interactive setting.

The new main entrance - can you even SEE the stadium?

Green Necklace - The vibrant street setting of Dodger Way links to a beautiful perimeter around Dodger Stadium, enabling fans to walk around the park, outdoors yet inside the stadium gates. This Green Necklace will transform acres of parking lots into a landscaped outdoor walkway connecting the plaza and promenade to the rest of the ballpark.

Top of the Park - The Green Necklace connects to a large scale outdoor plaza featuring breathtaking 360 degree views spanning the downtown skyline and Santa Monica Bay, the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains, and the Dodger Stadium diamond.

The way the website describes the changes, it seems like they’re trying to turn it into a vacation destination or a shopping mall that just happens to have a baseball stadium in the middle of it. It seems less about baseball and more about how much money they can squeeze out of the internationally-recognized organization (that “LA” logo has long since ceased to just stand for a baseball team). I fear that by building out and up, they’ll suffocate the life out of one of the most beautiful parks in all of baseball. I think it would kill my soul to see the Dodger Stadium I know now disappear under glitz and shops and stores and frankly, corporate bullshit.

Buy, buy, buy. Oh, and there's also a game happening somewhere.

I’m all for making a stadium more eco-friendly and improving things like restrooms, food facilities, the parking situation and improved office space for employees and media (all also part of the future plans). But when baseball stadiums become more about what you can DO as opposed to what you’re going to SEE and experience…there’s a problem. I’ve watched it happen to other teams with a wrinkled nose and sense of disdain.

Call me a snob, paranoid or archaic…I don’t care. I go to a baseball game for the baseball and the atmosphere, period. I love that stadium more than words can express, and if it turned into something unrecognizable and corporate and fake…I think it would kill my soul a little. Just play baseball, guys. That’s all we need. I fear for the next 50 years of Dodger baseball, frankly.

1 comment:

Gino said...

some of my happiest memories as a kid come from that stadium.
i've long since lost my love for the dodgers, and MLB generally, but it doesnt seem that long ago that a me and a buddy (or two) could go the game, sit in the general section for $4, and eat dogs and drink beer for a few hours while enjoying the game,the view, the summer eve, some conversation,(and the occasional attractive girl) while just having a decent evening...
without it costing a week's paycheck.

yeah, so maybe it was over 20yrs ago, but still...

"take me out to the ballgame" has lost its meaning.
but folks are still paying (more and more).
i dont get it.

have you ever been to The Diamond to watch the Storm?
nice, low key, but still very sweet, stadium. i think it only holds 6,000.