Ahead of MLB All-Star Game, Dodger Stadium has never looked better

The tour begins in Section 1. Upstairs at Dodger Stadium. Where the mountain backdrop, picturesque playing surface and 56,000 seats come into focus.

Before thousands of fans flock to the ballpark each evening, groups of about a dozen at a time take guided tours of the grounds each afternoon.

They go from the upper deck to the field level seats. From the historic hallway leading to the clubhouse, where a century of World Series trophies and awards adorn the walls, to the baseball diamond that the Dodgers have called home for 60 years.

You don’t come for modern conveniences. You don’t see many innovative features. Don’t be dazzled by architectural advances.

This place offers something different. A portal to the past. A connection to the present.

And even after all this time, a sporting and cultural touchstone for the future.

“It’s like baseball’s cathedral,” said Dodgers longtime third baseman Justin Turner.

While many venues could be described as one of baseball’s spiritual homes, Dodger Stadium tops the list.

And this week it will once again be in the sport’s biggest spotlight.

For the first time since 1980, Dodger Stadium will host Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. And while big names like Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout could grab the headlines, the 60-year-old stadium will be the main focus.

“If you’re going to dig deep as a player,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said, “I don’t think there’s anything better.”

Fans celebrate the Dodgers' 3-1 win over the Astros in Game 6 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, October 31, 2017.

Dodgers fans celebrate during Game 6 of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s long overdue,” Turner added. “That energy and that excitement and that vibe that’s being created here, which has a lot to do with our fanbase, makes it an exciting place to play.”

It’s not just that Dodger Stadium has the largest seating capacity in baseball.

Or that it’s the third oldest active majors venue after Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.

Or that of the 30 current MLB stadiums, few emulate its style, live up to its history, or offer an equally distinctive feel.

“Dodger Stadium, standing up there alone – sort of literally and figuratively – in this cavernous parkland surrounded by Chavez Ravine is just so unique and special,” said Janet Marie Smith, a longtime stadium architect who serves as an executive Acts as vice president of planning for the Dodgers and development.

“I’m sorry for continuing to use the word ‘unique,'” she added in a recent interview. “But I have a hard time finding a better word.”

More than a decade ago, Peter O’Malley found the sketch folded up in his father’s old files.

Now it hangs framed on a wall in his high-rise office in downtown LA, a hand-drawn vision of Dodger Stadium that overtakes the stadium itself.

The story of Walter O’Malley’s decision to move the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles is nothing new.

A native New Yorker, Walter spent the better part of a decade building a new home for the franchise in Brooklyn. Unable to secure a land deal with the city, he considered moving.

Los Angeles officials courted him to move west. Then, during a helicopter flight in 1957, Walter flew over the Chavez Gorge. Dreams of a big new stadium began to dance in his head.

About two years before Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, Walter and a team of stadium architects completed the now framed sketch, detailing everything from the placement of the concrete supports, to the placement of each tier of seating, to the palm trees and the plant world extent.

In the corner, Walter’s handwriting lists the approximate capacity for each of the stadium’s four decks.

“My father never had any doubts about what it would look like,” said Peter, who was 24 when the stadium opened and still vividly recalls the years of process that took it to come to fruition. “Yes, he had people helping him. Great staff. But they knew what he wanted and what he didn’t want. It was a proud moment when it opened.”

Dodgers President Walter F. O'Malley points out features of a Dodger Stadium under construction to Curly Grieve.

Dodgers President Walter F. O’Malley, left, points out the features of a Dodger Stadium under construction to San Francisco Examiner sports editor Curly Grieve on February 22, 1962.

(Dick Strobel/Associated Press)

It also came to a landmark point in baseball history.

From the mid-1950s through the early 1970s, new stadiums began to appear in the United States, first in new major league markets like Milwaukee and Minnesota, then as more long-standing franchises moved to new, modern venues in their hometowns.

Most shared similar characteristics: colossal concrete structures, often designed to house an NFL roommate, and usually lacking in scenery or architectural charm.

Dodger Stadium was different. It had natural baseball sight lines in an almost perfectly symmetrical design. It was an urban park but surrounded by lush rolling hills.

A view of the parking lot in front of Dodger Stadium during the first regular season game ever played at the stadium.

A view of the parking lot in front of Dodger Stadium during the first regular season game played at the stadium on April 10, 1962.

(Los Angeles Times)

And while other stadiums of its time eventually fell out of fashion, giving rise to a new generation of stadiums being built over the past quarter century, Dodger Stadium has retained its appeal.

It has become an icon.

It has become an eternal landmark in a city that is constantly changing, too popular to replace.

“This is one of the few places in baseball that’s a baseball park where there’s no weird stuff,” said Dave Roberts, who spent 2002-2004 as a player with the Dodgers before becoming manager before the 2016 season. “The bones of this ballpark are still a baseball field. And it does that in this conversation just like Wrigley or Fenway.”

Peter O’Malley, who inherited ownership of the Dodgers when his father died in 1979 before selling the club to News Corp. in 1997. recalled that during his tenure, proposals to explore building a new stadium downtown or in Century City never gained traction.

“Whatever little interest they may have had in the beginning, it just went down and down,” he said. “[Dodger Stadium] will be there for a long time.”

Not even his father, he believes, could have imagined the longevity the stadium has achieved.

“I’m not sure he thought of that,” O’Malley said. “I think what came to his mind was that he saw the environment, the possibility.”

An aerial view of Dodger Stadium with downtown Los Angeles in the background.

An aerial view of Dodger Stadium with downtown Los Angeles in the background.

(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Sixty years later, Walter O’Malley’s vision lives on.

His stadium has of course changed over the years.

The gas station in the midfield parking lot, part of a marketing deal that helped fund the project, was long ago removed. Added new sections of field-level seating in a former foul territory. The outdoor pavilions have been renovated and expanded. An entrance square in the middle field was opened last year.

But the mid-century architecture, sleek seating design, and indescribable ambiance of the place remain, even six decades later.

“It’s become more revered over time,” said Smith, who oversaw the recent renovations, which have seen her take care to emphasize and update the stadium’s traditional style rather than overloading it with too many modern additions.

“The emotion and tradition at Dodger Stadium is just palpable,” she said. “I think it’s a testament to our club and our fan base that he has such a distinctive touch that literally vibrates throughout the park every day.”

That’s especially true on Tuesday night, when the Midsummer Classic takes place at Chavez Ravine for the first time since 1980, when Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Jerry Reuss, Bob Welch, Reggie Smith and Bill Russell (the eternal leader of the Dodgers) will be there. for games in the stadium) were on the National League team.

Fans walk past a statue of Jackie Robinson as they enter Dodger Stadium.

Fans walk past a statue of Jackie Robinson as they enter Dodger Stadium prior to a game against the Philadelphia Phillies June 15, 2021.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“It’s just an incredibly historic venue,” said Matt Gangl, executive director of Fox Sports television coverage of the event, who will be tasked with capturing the atmosphere for millions of viewers.

“You have to give credit to the fact that there’s a lot of history there,” he added.

Because of this, the baseball field has grown in importance over time, which is why its importance around baseball and Southland has continued to increase over the years.

It’s not baseball’s prettiest facility. It lacks the glitz and luxury of newer venues centered around the majors.

Still, it remains sentimental for long-time viewers, leaving first-time visitors and long-time visitors alike in awe — beginning each afternoon with tour-goers viewing it from above, a panoramic view filled with six decades’ worth of memories.

“The experience of Dodger Stadium and the culture of our fans is just electrifying to me,” Smith said, before adding with a laugh, “I’d like to think it’s all about the architecture, but I know better.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-14/mlb-dodger-stadium-baseball-icon-all-star-game Ahead of MLB All-Star Game, Dodger Stadium has never looked better

Emma Bowman

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