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Time to Tear Down and Replace Dodger Stadium?

May 18th, 2017 · 1 Comment · Angels, Baseball, Dodgers, Lakers, Olympics, World Cup

A few days ago, I watched Tottenham Hotspur’s final match at their ancient stadium at White Hart Lane, where the London club had played its home matches since 1899.

Fans were a bit melancholy but the celebrations before and after the match, won 2-1 by Spurs over Manchester United, seemed to mollify them. Actually, they seemed happy to be in attendance at the final match.

Fans also knew that a new White Hart Lane is going up next to the old Lane, where demolition of the old stadium began the next day.

Which led me to start thinking about some old stadiums I have known, back in the states.

And, in particular, Dodger Stadium.

And how it is time to think seriously about replacing it.

Yes, I know. This is sacrilege, to many.

Dodger Stadium seems to be loved by the masses of Los Angeles fans, the people who have been trekking to Chavez Ravine since the baseball stadium was opened, in 1962.

Much has happened there. The 1963 World Series sweep of the New York Yankees , “Fernando mania” in 1981, Kirk Gibson’s dramatic home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, the 2017 final of the World Baseball Classic, won by the U.S.

Concerts, movie shoots, soccer matches, an NHL game.

And 55 seasons of Vin Scully’s voice echoing in the concourse.

But buildings, like people, get old. Eventually, they need to be replaced.

I have seen at least 200 games at Dodger Stadium, most of them from the press box, but dozens from the stands, too.

Anyone who has been to Dodger Stadium in the past decade knows that, despite peripheral improvements made in recent years, the bones of the stadium are old.

Aside from a few seats behind home plate and up in the club level, it is not a comfortable stadium. Never was. But fans didn’t expect comfort, in 1962.

Dodger Stadium was made for people who were fine with sitting in narrow seats and negotiating narrow aisles, people who had narrower backsides than many modern fans.

The seats at the top level may come with a long climb to the top of the park, where the aisles are so steep they should require Sherpa guides.

Some of the basics are beginning to crumble. Look under your seat, next time you are there, and see if the bolts holding it to the concrete are rusting. Check out the edges of the steps for 55 years of weathering as well as the passing feet of 55 seasons’ worth of fans over about 4,500 games.

Getting in and out of the parking lots is not as difficult as it used to be, but a commute to Dodger Stadium is taxing. Leaving the stadium in the seventh inning to beat traffic, much mocked by “true” fans, made more than a little sense.

And those who talk about the stadium’s “beauty” nearly always make mention of the hills behind the pavilions. The palm trees in particular — which have nothing to do with the decidedly utilitarian stadium.

The Dodgers were purchased, in 2012, by the Guggenheim group, which paid $2 billion — a record spend, still, in sports history — for the franchise and the stadium.

Ownership since then has been happy to spend lavishly on players.

It is time to spend on the stadium.

Let’s review the stadium’s status.

–It is in that gray area where it certainly is not new … but is not so old as to preserve as a historical monument. You want baseball played in museums? The game already has two of those — Boston’s Fenway Park, opened in 1912, and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, opened in 1914.

–Let’s be honest. Dodger Stadium is a dull piece of architectural symmetry with thousands of bad seats at the ends of what has usually been known as the “reserve” level and tens of thousands of seats at a significant remove from the action.

–Two old venues are worth keeping open, in greater Los Angeles, but neither is Dodger Stadium. One is the Memorial Coliseum, home to big events (including two Olympics) for nearly a century. The other is the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena. Both could have renewed relevance soon: If L.A. is chosen to host the 2024 Olympics, the Coliseum will undergo a massive makeover for its third Summer Games; if the U.S. is chosen co-host the 2026 World Cup, the little-used Rose Bowl could be the site of the biggest match in world soccer for a second time.

–The Los Angeles market seems to prefer “new” to “used”. Lakers fans were happy when the club left the Sports Arena for the Forum in Inglewood. They were happier when the Lakers left the Forum forĀ  Staples Center for the 1999-2000 season. The NFL Rams and Chargers are pegging their future success on a $2.6 billion stadium complex in Inglewood — which could make Dodger stadium seem like an oversized minor-league ballpark.

I recommend the following.

Guggenheim people: Commission a new ballpark, and build it on the site of the current one.

Except make this one plush. A comfortable stadium, probably one with fewer seats, but closer to the action, and all the amenities we expect from a 21st century baseball palace.

Also, work on getting a Metro Rail spur that runs up to the front door of the stadium to relieve the dependence on car parking.

Construction should begin hours after the Dodgers’ final home game of a season, which will be an enormous income opportunity for the club as fans scramble to buy a piece of the old stadium.

Play in Angels Stadium for a year or two, then come back and move in to a baseball Taj Mahal, right there on the same spot as the original.

If the Yankees could knock down The House That Ruth Built, which had scads more history than Dodger Stadium, and they did, the Dodgers and their billionaire owners could afford a fine new stadium on the site of the original … and fans would be happy to go see games there.

It’s time to get busy.

People think they would miss the current Dodger Stadium. I am pretty sure they would not, once they see a new one.

And maybe the team, in its new environment, would be able to win a championship. The Dodgers are pushing 30 years without playing in a World Series. (Not much memorable has happened since Kirk Gibson, actually.)

Maybe “new and shiny” would inspire them to end that streak of futility.

 

 

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Paul // Jun 7, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Oakland A’s management promises an announcement of a new ballpark this year. We’ve heard this for twenty years. I’ll believe it when the dozers show up.

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