Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dodger Stadium, What New Ownership Can Do to Really Win Over the Fans

As other blogs update the world about Spring Training, I must admit that I don’t have much to add to the excellent on the spot eye witness coverage provided by so many.  I read them with interest and as many of you, I’m eager for the games to start and for the club to get through Spring Training unscathed in the injury reports.  March always brings optimism and this season that is especially true with a new ownership group on the horizon. 
Dodger Stadium at Dusk, the beautiful backdrop that must remain.
As I ponder the possibility of a Steve Cohen ownership group or a Magic Johnson ownership group, I can’t help but wonder about the future of our crown jewel, Dodger Stadium.  We have seen the 50 year old structure age and take on some improvements under the McCourt ownership, something I’m willing to give him credit for.  But in recent years, I am concerned about the field being torn up each off-season in search of new revenue streams for such spectacles as Moto-Cross and Monster Truck events.  Dodger Stadium always had too much class for something like that.  We took pride in it’s “baseball only” configuration and  the pristine field condition was always something that was expected.

The Oakland Coliseum before it was enclosed.
I look at other older facilities and see how they were ruined over the years by “upgrades."  Take Oakland, for example.  A ballpark that had a picturesque backdrop was destroyed when Oakland City officials agreed to acquiesce to the Raiders and build more seats for a football configuration  They took away the beauty of the stadium in the process, turning into a giant circle of concrete.  The A’s will be leaving, and had the stadium remained the same, I’m fairly certain they could have remained.
Oakland Coliseum today, the backdrop and view of the Oakland hills is gone.
Frank McCourt wanted to do a similar thing in Dodger Stadium, and it had me greatly concerned.  The area behind the outfield pavilions was to house gigantic parking structures that would partially obscure the current backdrop, especially for those in the lower levels of the stadium.  It was a big mistake and would have destroyed the picturesque views of the sunset designed colors beyond the outfield walls. 
Artist rendering of Dodger Stadium with the McCourt 2008 parking structure plan, beyond the pavilions.
I love Dodger Stadium.  It’s a beautiful ball park, but it’s not perfect.  When Emil Praeger designed Dodger Stadium under the concepts that Walter O’Malley envisioned, the car was king.  By the early 60’s, Los Angeles had ridded itself of most public transit.  The red car trolley line was gone and freeways were being built en masse.  The construction of the Stadium into the terraced Chavez Ravine hillside was a brilliant concept and a novel idea, it just never really worked the way it was supposed to.   Creating a ballpark where that you parked on the level you would sit at was a great idea.  Unfortunately, it never did quite work as traffic snarled in the Dodger Stadium lots that made fans find their own Chavez Ravine escape routes a game of skill.

How many of you have had discussions with other fans regarding the quickest way in and out of Dodger Stadium?  Academy Road and parking up the hill?  The Sunset Gate?  The Pasadena Fwy entrance? The 5th (Billy Preston) gate?  Everyone has their special parking spots and ideas on how to get in and out.  As a kid, we’d park in the softball field lot near the police academy (that is now gone). I know many that walk substantial lengths in order to avoid traffic exit problems and gridlock.  Most wouldn’t think of parking near their Stadium entrance for that reason alone.  
What has resulted is a Stadium with no main entrance, no central meeting place and a mass of entrances and exits that are convenient, but fail to create a feel of fan kinship.
With the absence of tail gating and a central meeting location.  Dodger fans miss out on something unique that fans if other teams experience.  Let me give you some examples.
If I’m in San Francisco and I’m meeting up with some friends before game time.  All I have to say is meet me at the Willie Mays Statue at the main concourse and I know that there will be a large number of fans enjoying the location.  It has artwork, a restaurant, a gift shop around the corner, ticket windows and team history displayed in windows that are almost a mini museum.
Where do the Dodgers have memorabilia on display?  You have to pay mega bucks to be on the club level to see it in an area that is severely restricted to ticket holders in that area.
Is there a central entry point where fans could see the statue of Sandy Koufax that Howard Cole has pushed for so many years?  Not really, but perhaps it isn’t a big deal that Dodger cultural artwork is on one key central spot.  The Giants have artwork of Mays, Marichal, and Cepeda at each corner of the of the Ballpark and of McCovey at a t-ball Field on the opposite side of the cove that carries his name.

Take a look at the Ebbets Field Rotunda and the crowd exiting.  There is no such central focal point at Dodger Stadium

Ebbets Field had that central rotunda entrance that so many New Yorkers revered.  They loved it so much that the Mets built a copy of it with their new CitiField entrance.
Does Dodger Stadium have anything similar?  No, but the top of the park with the gift shop is unique and a special place.  Go up there and enter the Stadium from the top and the view five levels up is breathtaking to me.  Too bad that it’s too high up for my taste to watch a game, but there are others that swear that those seats are the best in the house.
I always thought the Yankee Stadium’s Monument park beyond the outfield fence was a wonderful tradition.  Something that the Dodgers could possibly do, but we all know the area isn’t fan accessible.

Creation of a central gathering place isn't feasible at Dodger Stadium, but place historic statues at various entry points and the history can be brought to the fans.  Perhaps a Kirk Gibson statue near the entry to the right field Pavilion to commemorate his historic homer deposited there.  A Maury Wills statue on the third base loge level, a Garvey statue on the opposite side down the first base line.  Big "D" near the Left Field Pavilion towards the bullpen.  And most importantly a Koufax Statue at the top of the park entrance overlooking the scenic view of the Stadium from up top.  I can't think of a better and more scenic spot, especially at sundown.  If tastefully done, such a piece could be the most breathtaking spot in the Stadium.

New ownership could really gain points with the fan base by immediately getting to work on such a project.  There is too much history of this franchise that is being ignored, and Sandy is 76 years old now.  It's time to get this done.  A bobblehead doll simply isn't enough.

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