The Artful Dodger

In 50 years, more than 176 million fans have entered the turnstiles at Dodger Stadium, the mid-century modern ballpark nestled in Los Angeles’s Chavez Ravine. Taking a page from stat-happy baseball, we run the numbers on the past five decades of this architectural and sporting icon.

Sandy Koufax pitching at Dodger Stadium in 1964

Sandy Koufax, perhaps the team’s greatest pitcher, warms up in front of the park’s classic butterfly awnings in 1964. All photos courtesy L.A. Dodgers.

  • When owner Walter O’Malley moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, he envisioned the as-yet-unbuilt Dodger Stadium with water features, Disneyland-style trams, and 80,000 seats in “an outdoor cathedral of trees.” He settled for 56,000 (unobstructed) seats and scattered palms.
  • O’Malley neglected to put public drinking fountains or electrical outlets in the clubhouses, so the park opened on April 10, 1962, without either. They were added later.
  • The stadium’s terraced parking lots can accommodate 16,000 cars and, thanks to Union 76—the park’s biggest financier—originally featured a gas station onsite.
  • Walter O'Malley and Del Webb looking at a Dodgers Stadium model

    Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley shows a model of his stadium to Yankees owner Del Webb.

  • To reshape mountainous Chavez Ravine, a fleet of Euclid graders moved 8,000,000 cubic yards of earth.
  • Construction took 375,000 board-feet of lumber, 40,000 cubic yards of con- crete, and 13,000,000 pounds of steel rebar. Work crews cast and cured more than 25,000 concrete pieces onsite in special beds for the 124-foot-high grandstand.
  • Set side by side, the park’s American Seating Company chairs would stretch for 33 miles. Installation required 546 tons of cast iron and three tons of aluminum nuts and bolts.
  • The park’s architect, Emil Praeger, also designed floating concrete breakwaters for the Normandy invasion in World War II. He was a consulting engineer on a 1940s renovation of the White House and was chief engineer on the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York state.
  • Construction of the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles

    To build the stadium, the team employed a one-time-use crane that cost $150,000.

  • The stadium’s highest-tech improvements have been to the field itself: Bermuda grass, grown on sand, is tended by a computer-managed irrigation and drainage system installed after the 1995 season. In a 2003 Sports Illustrated poll, Dodger Stadium was ranked by Major Leaguers as the “best-quality playing field.”
  • Alterations in the 2000s widened concourse walkways, shrank the field’s extensive foul territory, and more than doubled the number of restrooms and concession stands. But a visitor from 1962 would still recognize the pastel palette and the iconic butterfly awnings over the right- and left-field pavilions.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers Opening Day 1989

    On Opening Day of the 1989 season, the field proudly displayed the franchise’s sixth championship banner—they beat Oakland in a five-game series the preceding fall—on the outfield wall.

  • The original hexagonal scoreboards above the outfield stands—the world’s largest when they were installed in the ’60s, according to the Dodgers—held 17,000 light bulbs each. Since 2003, though, a giant DodgerVision video board has loomed over left field, and a new scoreboard that mimics the original towers sits in right field.
  • A new group of owners, including Los Angeles basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, bought the team in 2012 and have vowed not to alter the facility’s style.

Originally published

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...