LOS ANGELES — When Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game returns to Los Angeles for the first time in 40 years next summer, it will return to a Dodger Stadium that is still very much the same – but different.
The Dodgers announced plans Tuesday for a $100 million renovation that will add a “two-acre entertainment plaza” in center field that will serve as a “front door” for fans entering the stadium.
The ambitious changes will take place during this offseason with a target of being completed for Opening Day. The project will raise the amount invested in updating the third-oldest stadium in MLB (behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field) since the Guggenheim ownership group took over in 2012 to more than $300 million.
“As a design, it was a work of genius when it was created and it remains that way today,” Dodgers team president and CEO Stan Kasten said of 57-year-old Dodger Stadium, which welcomes more fans per year than any single sports venue in the world, according to the Dodgers. “There has never been a place like this. It is the most beautiful place ever built to play or watch the game of baseball. And when we got here in 2012 and during the winter leading into 2013 we spent a lot of time, money and effort led by the leadership of (senior vice president for planning and development) Janet Marie Smith to upgrade what was then a 50-year-old stadium.”
The Jackie Robinson statue unveiled in April 2017 will be moved from the left field reserve plaza to the new center field entry. And it will be joined by a second statue of Sandy Koufax. An artist has not been selected for the project yet and, unlike the rest of the project, it will not be ready for Opening Day 2020. A dedication ceremony will be held at some point during the 2020 season.
“In 1955, I joined the Brooklyn Dodgers,” Koufax said in the news release. “It was my honor to be with Jackie Robinson in life. Now in Los Angeles, it is again my honor to be with him in bronze and to thank the Los Angeles fans for treating me so well on this journey.”
Smith has been responsible for spearheading the design and construction of Camden Yards as well as renovations at Fenway Park. This wave of work on Dodger Stadium is all part of a vision that began with the addition of plazas behind the right and left field pavilions, she said.
Those pavilions will now be connected through the center field plaza. Elevators and escalators are already under construction down the right- and left-field lines and fans will be able to enter through any of the stadium’s nine entries and walk anywhere in the stadium, creating a more modern flow.
“One of the things we found through our fan surveys and data that we did was that our fans have an average of 20 minutes to get in the gate because many of them park in a location that is not convenient to their current entry,” Smith said. “So the elevators and escalators and the whole notion of a front door where everybody can enter really should solve that.”
The entertainment plaza will include new food options as well as a beer garden and two sports bars located under the right and left field pavilions with views of the bullpens (but not the field).
“Two acres of activities that weren’t here before,” Kasten said of the plaza. “That’s a lot of stuff that will encourage people to come early, to leave late if they wish. We’ll give them a lot of alternatives. There will be bands playing in there like you see in a lot of places.
“This stadium is the most beautiful ever built. But it still doesn’t have some of the modern amenities that a lot of stadiums have. And now we will. That’s an exciting prospect.”
A new sound system is also part of the project, as are a kids’ play area and a midway of “games and interactive exhibits.”
The plaques from the recently-created “Legends of Dodgers Baseball” will also move to the center field plaza.
“‘Home run seats’ – bar stool-style seating – will be added in the area between the pavilions and the outfield walls and the new center field plaza will include a “boardwalk” area where fans can stand and watch the game from a railed area.
None of this will change the seating capacity (56,000), Kasten said, or the outfield dimensions.
“I think there were kind of two phases of things that needed to be done,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said of the renovations made since 2012. “I think there was a lot of infrastructure work that they took care of when they first bought the club – things that were not necessarily so visible. But at the same time that they did that – the widening of the concourse, the improvement of the concession stands, the fan-friendly things are really important.
“I think of this next phase as responsive to changing patterns of consumption. The way people like to see games, it puts them in a position where an iconic ballpark has all of those new amenities that fans seem to want.”
It’s an ambitious project but Kasten joked that Smith has “assured” him it will be ready for Opening Day.
“Janet and I have been through this,” he said. “We’re usually screwing in bolts the morning of the first game. That is literally not an exaggeration and I expect the same.
“Some of these things have been on our minds since we walked in,” Kasten said. “Even in 2014, those improvements were done with a plan to stitch this all together into a complete plan.”
A collection of past and present Dodgers greats gathered in center field for the early afternoon announcements (the team also unveiled the logo for the 2020 All-Star Game) at a news conference led by Vin Scully, the team’s 91-year-old retired broadcaster. Tommy Lasorda, the 91-year-old former Dodgers manager, also braved the 92-degree heat in his jersey.
Kasten promised recently that the Dodgers will be expanding the netting in foul territory to protect fans from foul balls. A number of teams led by the Chicago White Sox have announced plans to do the same.
He was not prepared to be any more specific during Tuesday’s press conference announcing the renovation project.
“We’re going to have something to say about that in the next few weeks,” he said. “The plan is not finalized.”
The Dodgers outrighted catcher Rocky Gale off their 40-man roster Tuesday. With eight days remaining before the trade deadline, the Dodgers have two open spots on their 40-man roster.
Gale, 31, went 2 for 15 with seven strikeouts in two separate stints for the Dodgers this season. He was batting .250 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 30 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Dodgers recently promoted Keibert Ruiz, who joined fellow prospect Will Smith on the Oklahoma City team’s depth chart at catcher.
The Dodgers plan to honor former Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who passed away July 1 at age 27, before Tuesday’s game and during the game with a raffle benefiting the Tyler Skaggs Baseball Foundation.
Angels (RHP Jaime Barria, 3-3, 7.36 ERA) at Dodgers (RHP Ross Stripling, 4-3, 3.64 ERA), Wednesday, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet LA (where available), 570 AM
Here is the 2020 #MLB All-Star Game logo.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will host the game at Dodger Stadium.
— Inside SoCal Sports (@InsideSoCalSpts) July 23, 2019
“It’s going to be something special next year.” @Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts joined #MLBTonight to talk about the planned renovations to Dodger Stadium ahead of the 2020 @AllStarGame! pic.twitter.com/bZ14PXwQSf
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) July 23, 2019
What changes are coming to Dodger Stadium for the 2020 All-Star Game? Tell ’em, Vin. pic.twitter.com/CnPHqmH21N
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 23, 2019
Watch the Dodgers unveil the 2020 All-Star Game logo and plans for new renovations around the stadium. https://t.co/My00dYA1xA
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 23, 2019